Live theater returns to Bethel College

By Kansan Staff
Nathaniel Schmucker, left, and Jaxie Gerk rehearse I and You by Lauren Gunderson, the spring play at Bethel College April 29-May 1.

Bethel College is bringing back live theater after a year off thanks to the pandemic, opening the stage with  a small cast play, "I and You" by Lauren Gunderson.

The play has only two roles, so it is double cast. Jaxie Gerk, senior from Holyoke, Colo., and Hayden Honomichi, freshman from Great Bend, appear as Caroline and Anthony in Thursday’s performance and the Saturday matinee. Charlotte Ehrmann, senior from Augusta, and Nathaniel Schmucker, senior from Moundridge, star on Friday and Saturday evenings.

"[This play] spoke to an interconnectedness of all humanity that I had experienced. After over a year living through a pandemic, that statement is even more true,” said director Karen Robu, Bethel assistant professor of communication arts,

The play will be on the Krehbiel Auditorium stage in Luyken Fine Arts Center April 29-May 1, Thursday-Saturday, including a Saturday afternoon matinee. Evening performances are at 7:30 p.m. and the Saturday matinee is at 2 p.m. There will also be a livestream option.

Face coverings will be required, and physical distancing enforced, for in-person performances.

“I was introduced "I and You": by Lauren Gunderson in the fall of 2019,” said director Karen Robu, Bethel assistant professor of communication arts, “and fell in love with it .. I wish I could elaborate more on why the play was so impactful to me, but if I did, it would be a ‘spoiler alert’ for the audience.

Gunderson, the most produced living playwright in America, sums up I and You this way: “One afternoon, Anthony arrives unexpectedly at classmate Caroline’s door bearing a beat-up copy of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, an urgent assignment from their English teacher.

“Homebound due to illness, Caroline hasn’t been to school in months, but she is as quick and sardonic as Anthony is athletic, sensitive and popular. As these two let down their guards and share their secrets, this seemingly mundane poetry project unlocks a much deeper mystery that has brought them together.

“I and You is an ode to youth, life, love and the strange beauty of human connectedness.”

The play deals with adult themes, including serious illness and death, and contains strong language. Robu said she would probably rate it PG-13 and does not recommend it for children.T

he creative team is Rachel Geyer, Oxford, Iowa, stage manager; DeNaira Hiwalker, Ethete, Wyo., light board operator; Destiny Tollette, Killeen, Texas, sound board operator; and set, lights and sound design by the Theater Practicum class. The stage crew is Marcus, LaBonde, Grand Junction, Colo., Cade Paulin, Stratford, Okla., the Theater Practicum class and the cast.

Ticket prices are $10 for adults and for the livestream, $8 for non-Bethel students and adults age 65 and older, and $2 for Bethel students (unless faculty have paid for the ticket).

Tickets for all performances and the livestream can be purchased during regular business hours in Thresher Shop on campus, or at the door starting one hour before each performance (subject to availability).

Thresher Shop hours are Mon.-Fri., 8 a.m.-5 p.m. You can also purchase tickets by phone with credit card information by calling 316-284-5205.