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BWW Blog: Coming Full Circle

Or, the Time COVID-19 Got My Show Cancelled

If you've been living under a rock for the last eight months, first I'd just like to ask: what is that like? Is it nice under there? Second, that means you probably aren't aware that right now we are in the midst of a pandemic. Remember when we hoped this would all be over by August? Well, August is approaching fast, and I'm sitting here in quarantine.

If you're a theatre fan who likes to keep up with the latest news, you'll know that Broadway is currently shut down until 2021. However, this pandemic hasn't just affected Broadway. It's postponed and even cancelled performances nationwide. Community theaters had to close their doors. Young performers graduating this year gave their final bows without knowing they were giving their final bows. And me?

I didn't get to run around onstage banging two empty halves of a coconut together.

Back in March, we at State Fair Community College were just beginning to block our production of Monty Python's Spamalot. For several of us, it was going to be our last show at SFCC. For director Eric Yazell, it was his retirement show. We had one last rehearsal on the Friday before spring break, which had recently been extended due to growing concerns surrounding COVID-19. Near the end of that two-week break, the school decided to nix the idea of coming back to the campus altogether, cancelling all on-ground activities, which included Spamalot.

Instead of playing the role of Patsy in Eric Idle's hilarious musical adaptation of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, I gave my final bow at SFCC as Basil Bennett in Jim Leonard Jr.'s drama The Diviners. While having to cancel a show was a major bummer, I'm not upset about it. It wasn't how I expected things to play out, but I'm actually glad that The Diviners ended up being my last show at SFCC. It's a very powerful and moving play, so we definitely finished strong.

BWW Blog: Coming Full Circle
Cast & Crew of The Diviners.
(Pictured: Ben Brewer, Joshua Barner, Quinn Frerking, Faith Ehlers, Taylor Winfrey, Torrie Shelly, Tessa Luechtefeld, Cody Jones, Alyce Wilson, Denver Montgomery, Tehya Robinson, Holden Childress, Aren Goodwin, Garrett Hight, Kimberly Ransdell, Taylor Ireland, Emily Gray, Sara Stansbury, Walker Schotte)

Set in the fictional town of Zion, Indiana during the Great Depression, The Diviners tells the story of a troubled young man named Buddy, who is left terrified of water after nearly drowning as a child. When C.C. Showers, a preacher seeking an escape from the church, arrives in town, he and Buddy develop a close friendship. Showers takes it upon himself to help Buddy overcome his fear, while also avoiding the townspeople who want him to fill the empty pulpit in their church.

When we started rehearsing for this show, we had just gotten back from a week-long trip in South Dakota. If you've read my previous blog posts, you might remember me talking about the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF) and how we put on our production of Be More Chill in front of 1,500 people. The festival-and the fact that we had just gotten back from winter break-really ate into our rehearsal time for The Diviners, giving us only a few short weeks to get the show together.

BWW Blog: Coming Full Circle
The Diviners rehearsal photo,
captured by Taylor Ireland.
(Pictured: Cody Jones, Holden Childress)

We'd been working almost non-stop for the last month or so, and you'd think we'd be ready for a break, but no.

Alright, maybe a little bit. But we pressed on. Those few weeks we had to rehearse went by so fast that by show week, we were all in shock at how fast we put it all together. The Diviners isn't the easiest show to tackle in terms of subject matter, and a character like Buddy is definitely an acting challenge, but we pulled it off. We told a beautifully tragic story, and our leading man Joshua Barner gave a captivating yet heartbreaking performance as Buddy.

Not only was his performance so intense and emotional, the man had to refer to himself in the third person for the whole show, and he didn't have a single slip-up during the entire run. His was easily the best performance I had seen all year.

BWW Blog: Coming Full Circle
The Diviners rehearsal photo.
(Pictured: Torrie Shelly,
Joshua Barner, Ben Brewer)

As I reflect on The Diviners, I can't help but think about the cast and crew, and how proud I am of everyone involved. I also can't help but think about how my time doing theatre at SFCC really came full circle when this show unexpectedly became my last at the school.

We staged The Diviners in SFCC's black box theatre, with Tim Wells directing. A year and a half earlier, I gave my first performance as a college theatre major in that same space. The play was an adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula, and the director was Tim Wells. In fact, that production of Dracula served as the first college performance for several of us acting in The Diviners. Full circle, baby. We went out the way we came in.

To me, that's something special. Of course I'm bummed about Spamalot, but the way things played out in the end was still pretty cool, or it at least makes for an endearing story. Or a mildly interesting story. Or just a story. I think it's neat, nonetheless.

Since this is probably the last blog post I write before heading to the University of Central Missouri in a few weeks, I'd like to take the end of it to once again thank my brilliant directors at SFCC-Eric Yazell, Tim Wells, and Kristen Henning-and all the wonderful people that I got to know and love throughout my experience as an SFCC Roadrunner. I'm blessed to have been in such amazing company during the last couple of years. You have all made such a tremendous impact on my life.

Now then... on to the next chapter!

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