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The value of genius and talent: Harris to make directing debut with Steve Martin play

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Bethel College senior Clint Harris, Manhattan, has spent the last three-and-a-half years singing, dancing and acting at every opportunity.

For his final project, Harris has placed himself on the other side, as he directs Steve Martin’s (yes, that Steve Martin) comedy Picasso at the Lapin Agile.

In the play, which premiered in 1993, Albert Einstein and Pablo Picasso, age 25 and 23, respectively, meet at a bar called the Lapin Agile (Nimble Rabbit) in Paris. The date is Oct. 8, 1904, when both men are on the verge of amazing ideas (Einstein will publish the special theory of relativity in 1905 and Picasso will paint Les Demoiselles d’Avignon in 1907). When they find themselves at the Lapin Agile, they have a long debate on the value of genius and talent.

Though Harris has directed one-acts at Bethel, this is his first time leading a full-length production. “It’s been interesting trying to direct a cast composed of my classmates and friends,” he says. “I’m fortunate to have a cast I have a great deal of respect for as people and performers, and whom I’m able to work with not so much as a dictator of their performances, but as a guide.”

The cast of Picasso at the Lapin Agile, in order of appearance, is: Micah Smith, freshman from Topeka, as Freddy; Cody Claassen, freshman from Whitewater, as Gaston; Audra Miller, sophomore from Hesston, as Germaine; Seth Dunn, junior from Fresno, Calif., as Einstein; Sarah Pohl, junior from Moundridge, as Suzanne; Jacob Brubaker, freshman from Miami, Ariz., as Sagot; Creigh Bartel, sophomore from Newton, as Picasso; Aaron Tschetter, freshman from Freeman, S.D., as Schmendiman; Megan Siebert, sophomore from Topeka, as the Countess and Female Admirer; and Joshua Powell, senior from Basehor, as A Visitor.

In addition to Harris as director, the crew consists of April Kabagambe, junior from Newton, stage manager; Jocelyn Wilkinson, freshman from San Antonio, Texas, lighting design; Gregory Crane, an Emmy®-winning professional scenic designer from Oklahoma City, set design; Julia Miller, sophomore from Hesston, costumes; and Allison Yoder, sophomore from Kalona, Iowa, hair and makeup.

“I’ve discovered that being a director is not so much telling each actor how to play their character, but coming in every day as an audience member with a critical eye and leading an exploration of how best to perform the script we started with, on the stage we have, before the audience we will have,” Harris says. “That said, this is my first experience directing a full-length piece, and I expect that, should I ever be so lucky as to have another opportunity to do so, I will find myself continuing to grow. Everything here might change.

Describing himself as “a graduating senior with professional theatrical aspirations,” Harris continues, “[Picasso at the Lapin Agile] has been a captivating script to work with. As Picasso and Einstein deal with the tension and harmony between science and art that guides each of them into the creation of truly world-altering ideas, I find myself reminded that to create something that moves people, I must be aware of everything that goes into the human experience of searching for meaning in a world rich with it.

“The play is about the birth of the modern world, one in which ‘no movement will be as beautiful as the movement of the line across the paper, the note across the staff, or the idea across the mind,’” he says.

Picasso at the Lapin Agile will be on the Krehbiel Auditorium stage in the Fine Arts Center at Bethel College Thursday, Friday and Saturday, March 3, 4 and 5, starting at 7:30 each evening.

Ticket prices are: adults, $10; non-Bethel students and adults age 65 and older, $8; Bethel students, $5. Due to adult themes, the play is not recommended for young children. Tickets are available at Thresher Bookstore in Schultz Student Center on campus, open Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m., 316-284-5205 (credit card required to reserve tickets over the phone), or at the door.

Bethel College is the only private, liberal arts college in Kansas listed in the 2010-11 analysis of top colleges and universities in the United States and is in the first tier in its category in the U.S. News & World Report annual ranking of “America’s Top Colleges” for 2011. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see

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