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GODSPELL Inspires Sold-Out Audiences With a Timeless Message


When asked what led to the selection of Godspell as this fall’s Upper School show, Producer/Director and Arts Department Chair Megan Bellwoar Hollinger thoughtfully explained, “We always pick our shows with the theatre students in mind—what plays/musicals are best for their strengths and energies as people. And Godspell felt particularly necessary right now, as we return to school after a tumultuous year spent apart from each other. Its central themes of forgiveness, mercy, kindness and community felt essential back in June, and even more essential now.” Godspell is a musical composed by Stephen Schwartz with the book by John-Michael Tebelak. Based on the New Testament gospels, the production uses the parables and passion story of Jesus for a show about the formation of a community.

When AFS brought Godspell to life on the Josephine Muller Auditorium stage in November it was evident that the selection could not have been more fitting for this community at this particular moment in time. With Clay Lewis ’22 (Jesus) and Katie Brady-Gold ’22 (John the Baptist) as leads, the ensemble included 28 cast members from throughout the Upper School. Many students also worked behind-the-scenes on a visually dazzling set, lights and wardrobe. The large majority of the actors dressed in their own clothing for the show, adding a dimension of personal identity and helping to modernize the visual elements of the story. The text also underwent some updates, but the themes and lessons found in the scripture that makes up Godspell were proven timeless by this meaningful performance. Katie, who played John the Baptist/Judas reflected upon its relevance saying:

[The message] to ‘love thy neighbor,’ is relevant in any time period and is extremely important (and often forgotten) in this present moment in time, applying to the injustices and political differences that divide our country. However, the world has evolved significantly since the 70s, so a large amount of the comedic references, language, costumes, and political relevance needed examining. We took steps such as changing “Man” to “People” or “Friends,” making political references to recent presidents rather than outdated comedians, wearing clothes with relevant political messages like the “Green New Deal” instead of 70s hippy clothes, and making the set based on a recent protest.

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