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Play examines the struggle to grow up, take charge and move on

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – A comedy with more than one gut-twist, emphasizing language dexterity and character relationships over plot, is coming to the Bethel College stage.

The Bethel theater department presents [sic], a play by Melissa James Gibson, April 27-28 in Krehbiel Auditorium in the Fine Arts Center.

The main characters in [sic] are three 30-somethings who met through a mutual friend and now live in the same urban apartment building. Theo is a composer with a commission for a theme to accompany an amusement park’s “Thrill-O-Rama” ride. Babette is Theo’s unrequited love interest and next-door neighbor, a writer working on a book positing that the history of the world can be told as a sequence of consequential temper tantrums. Frank is a gay man who lives on the other side of Babette and spends his time practicing tongue twisters in preparation for attending an auctioneering workshop.

The story follows the three in their endeavors and interactions, as they learn about life. “Sic” is a Latin word used in print to show that the writer did not intentionally include an error but that it was in the original quotation.

“It’s about [the characters’] connections, relationships and desire to move to the next level of life’s successes,” said John McCabe-Juhnke, professor of communication arts and director of Bethel’s production of [sic]. “Gibson says the title suggests a central theme of the play, which shows how these characters tend to distance themselves from responsibility. So their inability to achieve the level of success they desire in life is somehow not their fault.

“It explores in mostly humorous, sometimes poignant, ways that frustration or that struggle to figure out ‘Why am I stuck where I am?’” McCabe-Juhnke added. “And the characters have difficulty acknowledging that their own choices may have something to do with their being stuck.”

He chose the play for the humorous way it portrays these young adults’ stage of development, he said, and because he thinks college students will resonate with the story.

“I felt like it was a script that students could relate to well,” McCabe-Juhnke said. “It’s very entertaining. It’s cleverly written. Gibson has a gift for making informal conversation really sparkle on stage. I think the stage of life these characters are in is something young adults can identify with – ‘I’m between the great years of my college experience and hopefully these great years of professional successes that are to come.’”

McCabe-Juhnke said the play reminds him of the TV show Seinfeld in that the story focuses not so much on plot line but more on the humor in the characters’ interactions and how they work through the topic of the moment.

Part of that humor comes from the fact that the actors have to come up with their own punctuation, as Gibson’s script has none, only line breaks and random capitalization for emphasis.

This makes the play difficult but also entertaining, said Megan Siebert, senior from Topeka, who added that she enjoys the play for the scenes and the small cast.

“I enjoy so much about the play,” said Siebert, who plays Babette. “I like how non-traditional it is. It’s a challenge to read it, to understand it and definitely to convey the correct meaning to the audience. I love how all of our characters are basically complete failures, but in a very endearing way.

“And I obviously love rehearsing with such a great, small cast,” she added.

The cast consists of three leads with two supporting roles and three outside speakers who are never seen. In addition to Siebert as Babette, the other leads are Creigh Bartel, junior from Newton, as Theo, and Jacob Brubaker, sophomore from Top-of-the-World, Ariz., as Frank.

Supporting roles are the Airshaft Couple, played by Katie Schmidt, freshman from Newton, and Christopher Riesen, junior from Beatrice, Neb. Rounding out the cast are the voice talents of Audra Miller, senior from Hesston, as Dr. Greenspan, Julia Miller, senior from Hesston, as Mrs. Jorgensen, and Luke Loganbill, freshman from Moundridge, as Chinese Food Delivery Man.

Megan Upton-Tyner, instructor of theater, is serving as the technical director for [sic] as well as costume designer. Stage manager is Riley King, freshman from Lawrence. Scenic design is by Jocelyn Wilkinson, junior from San Antonio, Texas, lights by Justin Beth, junior from Newton, props by Allison Molitor, freshman from Kingman, and sound by Alex Wine, freshman from Sandia Park, N.M.

Although the play is “different,” Siebert said, there are things for the audience to take away and good reasons to see the production.

“As funny as the script is, I think there’s also a lot of knowledge to be found in the lines and the way these three people, plus the couple living below them, interact with each other,” Siebert said. “There are a lot of here’s-the-wrong-way-to-do-it-type scenes, which are very educational. Performing it on stage makes you see the situation from a different vantage point, and that’s always beneficial.

“I think there are some lessons about humility, priorities, love and friendship,” she added. “But it’s definitely open to interpretation.”

Gibson wrote [sic] as a commission for Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre. It won an Obie in 2002.

Bethel performances of [sic] are Friday, April 27, and Saturday, April 28, at 7:30 p.m. in Krehbiel Auditorium in the Fine Arts Center. Friday night’s performance will include a talk-back session with cast and directors as part of the 2012 URICA Symposium program. (URICA stands for Undergraduate Research, Internships and Creative Activity; the symposium is an annual event at the end of April.)

Tickets are available at Thresher Bookstore in Schultz Student Center, open 8 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays, phone 316-284-5205, or at the Fine Arts Center ticket booth starting one hour before each performance, subject to availability. Ticket prices are: $10 adults; $8 non-Bethel students and adults age 65 and older; and $5 Bethel students. [sic] is rated PG-13 so it is not suitable for young children.

Bethel College is the only private college in Kansas listed in the 2011-12 Forbes.com analysis of top colleges and universities in the United States and is the highest-ranked Kansas college in the Washington Monthly annual college guide for 2011-12. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see www.bethelks.edu.

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