Theatreworks returns to its roots with “Church”

Oct. 30, 2011

April Wefler
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The Dusty Loo Bon Vivant Theater stage in University Hall was not always used for performances. In fact, it was originally an assembly room for a religious organization, an ironic space for Theatreworks’ most recent production, “Church”.

The play features four young ministers played by professional actresses Shannan Steele, Lija Fisher, Mare Trevatha, and UCCS professor Kevin Landis. Throughout this energetic and thought provoking show, each take turns preaching and interacting with the audience through dance, song and monologue.

Murray Ross, artistic director of Theatreworks, and Drew Martorella, executive director of Theatreworks, said “Church” combines the worlds of stage and pulpit into what Martorella described as, “a dramatic interpretation of a service, so it’s affecting a religious service. It has the effect of both service and play.”

The description is accurate. The stage is bare save a pulpit and a couple benches and the 60 minute show mimics a church sermon, worship music included.

It is a show that is different and unexpected said Ross and Martorella who wanted to add something fresh to this year’s season.

“Once a year, we like to do a play that is new and avant-garde. When we’re creating a season, something new contributes to a more rich experience for the subscribers and the audience,” said Martorella.

Landis spoke of playwright Young Jean Lee as a significant reason for bringing the show to Theatreworks. As a part of Theatreworks’ prologue series, Lee engaged in a conversation with the audience before the show on Oct. 30.

Lee grew up in a Christian environment, raised by Evangelical parents.

Lee, an atheist who shunned the religion through much of her adult life, liked to assign herself a difficult task: to write the worst play possible. She decided that she would write about “Church.”

With no swearing, profanity or sex, “Church” is a G-rated, high energy show that explores issues that left audiences giggling and applauding this past weekend and is sure to continue to do so. “No matter what you’re expecting, you will be turned around. This show requires audience members to soak it up,” Landis said.

Catherine Jensen contributed to this article.