Theater production draws attention from the Kennedy Center

By Joel Sams
Senior News Writer

For the first time in the history of Asbury’s Theatre and Cinema Performance Program, a theater production has been selected for competition at the Region IV festival of the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF). 

The selected production is “The Beams are Creaking,” a play based on the life of German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, written by Douglas Anderson and directed by Jeff Day. “The Beams are Creaking” will take the stage of the Hollins University Theater in Roanoke, Va. on Friday, Feb. 7 from 12-2 p.m. Additionally, there will be a final dress rehearsal, free and open to the public, in Asbury’s Greathouse Theater on Sat., Feb. 1 at 2:30 p.m. 

Three cast members, junior Alex Heath, junior Rebeca Robles and senior Matt Winters, were also selected to perform in the Irene Ryan Awards. According to the Kennedy Center website, the Irene Ryan Awards “provide recognition, honor and financial assistance to outstanding student performers wishing to pursue further education.”

Director Jeff Day says that more than 300 shows every year are submitted for the Region IV festival, out of which 30 are nominated for further review. Of those 30, only “six to nine” are selected to compete at the regional festival. Though Asbury has had five shows in the top 30, this is the first time an Asbury production has been selected for competition, and the first time since 2002 that a school from Kentucky has competed at the festival. 

“This is our Super Bowl as far as university theatre is concerned,” Day said.

A combination of factors brought this show special attention from the KCACTF adjudicators, including “a unique piece of work, quality acting, wonderful sound design by Marcus Rixon and a minimalistic set design that just came together,” Day said. 

Day said that staffing issues have made it difficult for Asbury to compete against larger schools in the past, but extra attention to technical details carried this show through.

“Our lack of a technical director and the quality technical aspects of the shows have been the thing that has kept us from being invited until now,” Day said. “Every university in our region has a leg up on us because they all have technical directors who make certain the technical aspects of each show-lighting, sound, set design and costumes-are handled in a professional manner. With this show, we were able to put the technical aspects together just enough to get in.”

Asbury junior Alex Heath, who plays the role of Bonhoeffer, says the show will stand out at the KCACTF, partly because it is not performed often but also because it presents a thoughtful message in a way that doesn’t come across as “preachy.”

“The show doesn’t preach at you, but at the same time it shows a man with very strong Christian convictions wrestle with very tough decisions,” he said. “There are so many layers to the show — moral ambiguity, when is it right to take a life, and questions like that.”

Heath says that though much of the play is focused on his character, the rest of the cast, including actors who play double characters, tie everything together.

“As much as I talk in this show, and I do a lot of talking, it really is an ensemble cast,” he said. “Everybody has come together in a really cool way, and I feel really honored to be part of this group.”

According to Asbury’s website, the following students make up the cast of “The Beams are Creaking:” Alex Heath, Rebeca Robles, Jake Theriault, Chandler Vance, Nathanael Taylor, Grace Oliver, Ryan Sommers, Zack Remme, Josh Kelly, Kellen Ayers, Jake McCoy and Josh Heinlein.