RTP Presents CORPUS CHRISTIRichmond Triangle Players celebrates the city's annual Acts Of Faith Festival with a production of Tony Award-winning playwright Terrence McNally's Corpus Christi. A retelling of the New Testament, set in 1950s Texas, the play opens Thursday February 1 at 8:00 pm, following a low-priced preview on Wednesday January 31. The production is sponsored by Richmond furniture retailer LaDiff.

Corpus Christi has as its subject nothing less than the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus. But McNally's Christ figure is a young man named Joshua, a gay young man born and raised in Corpus Christi, Texas, in the early 1950s. He flees his hometown in search of a more accepting environment, gathering along the way a group of disciples who are bound to him by his message of love and tolerance. Joshua delivers his Sermon on the Mount, and officiates at a gay marriage ceremony, but, inevitably, his radical teachings (like Jesus's) will not deliver him from his fate.

In McNally's preface to the play he writes, "Jesus Christ belongs to all of us because He is all of us. Unfortunately, not everyone believes that." The original production of Corpus Christi at Manhattan Theatre Club in 1998 was initially cancelled due to concerns about violent protests, then later reinstated as the New York theatre community rallied around the production and the cause of free speech. But while the production was in previews, Matthew Shepard was murdered in Laramie, Wyoming.

"At the same time that we were all feeling so good about overcoming these forces of ignorance and prejudice," McNally writes, "a young man in Laramie, Wyoming, by the name of Matthew Shepard was losing his life to them. Beaten senseless and tied to a split-rail fence in near-zero weather, arms akimbo in a grotesque crucifixion, he died as agonizing a death as another young man who had been tortured and nailed to a wooden cross at a desolate spot outside Jerusalem known as Golgotha some 1998 years earlier. They died, as they lived, as brothers. Jesus Christ did not die in vain because His disciples lived to spread His story. It is this generation's duty to make certain Matthew Shepard did not die in vain either. We forget his story at the peril of our very lives."

Richmond Triangle Players' production of Corpus Christi features thirteen of the finest actors in the area. Adam Turck will be making his RTP debut as Joshua, with Chandler Hubbard and Matt Bloch returning to the RTP stage as Judas and John, respectively. Joshua's disciples and all the other roles in the play will be portrayed by Andrew Etheredge, Tim Goad, Bartley Mullin, Lucian Restivo, Stevie Rice, Cooper Sved, TeDarryl, Eddie Webster, Ethan Williams, and Trevor Worden.

The production is directed by Dexter Ramey (RTP's Christmas on the Rocks and The Busy World is Hushed) with a set design by T. Ross Aitken, costumes by D. Mark Souza, lighting design by Andrew Bonniwell and sound design by Lucian Restivo. Erinn Perry is the stage manager.

Richmond Triangle Players' performances take place at its home at the Robert B. Moss Theatre at 1300 Altamont Avenue, just northwest of the intersection of the Boulevard and West Broad Street. Reserved seat tickets ($30 for Fridays and Saturdays evenings at 8:00 pm, $28 for Thursday evenings at 8:00 pm and Sunday matinees at 4:00 pm, with discounts for groups and students; $18 for the preview) can be purchased online at RTP's web site at www.rtriangle.org, on RTP's facebook page, or by leaving a message on the RTP Ticket hotline at 804-346-8113. As always with productions in the Acts of Faith Festival, there will be talkbacks with cast and area clergy following each matinee performance.

The Robert B. Moss Theatre is a 4000-square foot performing arts facility accommodating flexible seating arrangements for up to 90 patrons. The building features fully ADA-compliant access and comfortable restrooms, as well as a generous bar, and catering capability, and is also available for cabaret performances and private events.

Photo Caption: Adam Turck stars as Joshua in Richmond Triangle Players' production of Terrence McNally's "Corpus Christi" playing January 31 - February 24 at RTP's Robert B. Moss Theatre in Scott's Addition. Photo by John MacLellan.

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