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Theater company’s “A Night of Comedy” raises money for local arts institute

Oklahoma Christian University’s theater company presented its spring festival, “A Night of Comedy,” on Saturday, April 13th. The festival showcased three plays and six monologues.

Although the event was free to attend, the theater company accepted donations for the performing arts at the Edmond Fine Arts Institute. Monologues were performed by performing arts students between plays.

Senior Cooper Copelin directed “Fourteen,” a comedy about a mother hosting a dinner party gone wrong to introduce her daughter to the city’s most eligible bachelor. Anna Wilcox, assistant stage producer for the theater company, directed a Western melodrama— “A Sure Bet or Marryin’ a Librarian”— written by Oklahoma Christian alumna Patricia Middleton. Freshman nursing major Melissa Gibson played the female lead, who is a character named Paige Turner.

“In the small town of Echo, TX, Mr. Moore dies and leaves his fortune to the town for the purpose of building a library,” Gibson said. “However, a known outlaw comes to the town, steals the will and sets forth a plot to rake in money for himself while leaving the citizens of Echo out to dry. Then a brave Texas Ranger—Darren Deeds—comes to the town in search of the known outlaw. Mystery, mayhem, comedy and romance ensue as the citizens decide if they want a library or a casino while the heroine searches for the will.”

Gibson said in addition to acting in the play, she also helped paint props and set pieces and assisted in hair and makeup for the cast of both plays.

“I love acting, and theater has always been a passion of mine,” Gibson said. “I love being able to explore different characters and express emotions to tell a story and bring said story to life.”

Graduate student Jake Doberenz won the faith-based play writing competition earlier this semester and was able to take his play, “Prophetic Theater,” to the stage during the spring festival. Doberenz said he did not expect the play would be performed, but it was a nice surprise.

“I’ve always loved writing,” Doberenz said. “Specifically, I like writing plays because I’m most skilled at writing dialogue over descriptions. When I saw the opportunity to submit a faith-based play, it was a no-brainer to submit. I especially love to write things that contribute to faith, so this was a good chance to showcase something meaningful I created.”

According to Doberenz, “Prophetic Theater” is the story of Ezekiel’s first day as an actor in the acting company Prophetic Theater. As a priest by day and actor by night, the newly minted prophet is hesitant about the insane tasks the director has in store for him.

“A year or so ago, I took one of Dr. Testut’s Old Testament prophets courses,” Doberenz said. “He introduced the concept of prophetic theater, where prophets act out scenes meant to communicate messages from God to the audience. I thought it would be so fun to write a play imagining prophets rehearsing for their very crazy roles—it was just a perfect recipe for comedy. Ezekiel has some of the craziest stories, so I decided to focus on him. When I decided to enter the contest, I knew this was the idea I wanted to run with.”

Doberenz said he has written several plays for Leadership Training for Christ and for a youth retreat in Oregon. He has had two short plays published with Off the Wall Plays and has directed around five of his plays. Although Doberenz is from the Bible department, he said theater allows him a new outlet.

“All over campus, people do amazing academic and professional work,” Doberenz said. “But theater has the amazing ability to bring people of diverse disciplines together. This art form allows people to express themselves uniquely. Also, theater can be used as a way to express the ideas learned from your own discipline—like how I’ve been able to teach lessons from the Bible in a fun way through the stage.”

Gibson said theater builds community and helps students explore emotions and scenarios, as well as meet people they would not normally know in their major classes.

“While it’s fun to pretend, theater helps you learn a lot about yourself, and it teaches you how you might react in different scenarios and helps to build confidence,” Gibson said. “I used to be very shy, but because of theater, I am able to confidently perform on stage, and I am also able to interact more confidently with my peers. The confidence from the stage spills over into everyday life. Theater also provides a safe place where you can completely be yourself and no one will judge you.”

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