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Bethel spring drama "Here" asks deep questions with a comic twist

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – If life is a chain of events, what happens when one link is altered? In short, what is the impact of a single decision? These are the questions that the Bethel College spring drama examines.

Bethel students, under the direction of John McCabe-Juhnke, will perform Michael Frayn’s Here April 23, 24 and 25 in Krehbiel Auditorium of the Fine Arts Center.

In Here, Frayn, a British playwright most famous for his farce Noises Off, explores the dynamics of young couple moving into their first apartment.

“It’s just essentially about two people figuring out how to live together, how to share the same space and how they define their ‘here,’” said cast member Clint Harris, sophomore from Manhattan.

McCabe-Juhnke, Bethel professor of communication arts, said, “The philosophical statement behind this drama [is that] this moment – here, now – is what counts.”

Frayn takes young newlyweds, mixes in a nosy, elderly landlady with past regrets, and sets the stage for a challenging yet comical drama.

“I do think that the dramatic writing is a tour de force and that the life that the actors will bring to this is going to make for a very entertaining evening of theater,” said McCabe-Juhnke.

“There are lots of laughs,” he added.

Lacey Parker, sophomore from Lone Tree, Iowa, plays Cath, the indecisive wife. Watching the young couple interact is entertaining, since they have no communication skills and their conversations about nothing often turn into arguments about nothing, says Parker.

“[The play] is hilarious,” said Parker. “It’s really dry humor and it’s hilarious, but it’s also very representative of our daily lives.

“Like sometimes how we fail to communicate what we're really feeling or thinking and it becomes a problem,” she continued. “I see that with real people in real life.”

The play certainly caused cast member Sara Volweider, freshman from Haven, to stop and think, she said.

“When I first read the play, I laughed a lot, but some of it was kind of a reality check and a mind twist,” she said. “If I would have made one decision differently, my life could have been completely different.”

Volweider plays Pat, whom she described as the “annoying, bitter, but lovable” landlady who always seems to interrupt the young couple at the most inopportune times.

Harris plays Phil, the young husband and final member of the three-person cast. He said he appreciates the small cast and the “vibrant and vivacious” nature of the script.

“It’s a much more intimate show than has been put on at Bethel since I’ve been here,” he said. “The dialogue jumps out at you. It’s quick and sharp and clever.”

Although the script suits cast members and director alike, Here was not the original choice for Bethel’s spring drama. The theater department was unable to stage Edward Albee’s A Delicate Balance due to lack of sufficient actors.

However, the change seemed apt to McCabe-Juhnke.

“Maybe in a time of economic strife and all the depressing things we hear about currently, it might be a nice relief to come to a drama that has a lighthearted feel to it as opposed to something as heavy as the Albee piece would have been,” he said.

Crew members for Here include Tim Buller, Bethel instructor of communication arts, technical director; Cory Buchta, senior from Newton, stage manager and assistant to the director; Eric Goering, freshman from McPherson, set construction; and Andrea Kaufman, senior from Harrisburg, S.D., lighting.

Performances of Here will be at 7:30 p.m., April 23-25. Tickets are $5 for adults and $4 for seniors, non-Bethel students and children 12 and under. Tickets are available at Thresher Bookstore in Schultz Student Center on campus (8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday, phone 316-284-5205) or at the door.

Bethel College is a four-year liberal arts college affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. Founded in 1887, it is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Bethel is known for its academic excellence and was the only Kansas private college to be ranked in Forbes.com’s listing of “America’s Best Colleges” for 2008 and one of only two Kansas colleges listed in Colleges of Distinction 2008-09. For more information, see the Bethel Web site at www.bethelks.edu.

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