Godspell opened to huge ovations at the Greek Theatre on the campus of Southern Arkansas University.
The concrete amphitheater dates back to 1936 when the graduating class of the then Magnolia A&M constructed the stage and columns, followed the next two years with the seating being completed by Columbia County National Youth Administration participants.
The outdoor theatre looks like new again thanks to a $119,000 grant from the Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council (ANCRC) Grant Program under the Department of Arkansas Heritage. Included in the makeover was concrete cleaning and repair; installation of electrical wiring and the addition of enhanced lighting; and the addition of dirt, sod, landscaping and drainage pipes. Michael Davis, now a graduate from the SAU Masters of Public Administration program, secured the grant funds as a project in association with his coursework.
“Godspell” has a cast of ten SAU students, and is directed and choreographed by Michael Susko. This play opened Off-Broadway in New York on May 17, 1971, and was an instant success. Its imaginative retelling of the Gospel of St. Matthew was meant to offer a fresh and fun way of hearing these teachings.
“Turn on the TV or your computer for five minutes and you are accosted with opinions from the right, left and everywhere in between. Told through a series of biblical parables, ‘Godspell’ is telling us to slow down and listen,” said Susko. “If we are able to hear each other, we will find the joy and love in our world. There is beauty all around us if we only take the chance to actually see it.”
Organizers hope to fill the theatre with 400 people Thursday night and for every performance of the play. Guests are encouraged to bring a blanket and a picnic to the show, as well, as seating will be available both on the concrete amphitheater and in the newly sodded grass.
Susko’s invitation is for everyone to experience the play on every level, to have fun, participate, and rejoice. Similarly, the play’s musical director, Dr. David DeSeguirant, says that the music in the show “will be less something that is heard and more a part of the entire experience for everyone.”
This play will be the first performance since SAU established its new B.F.A. in Musical Theatre, which launched this fall. It comes, however, on the heels of a series of successful play seasons that each featured large musicals including “Seussical the Musical” and “Beauty and the Beast.”