Theatre to present “J.B.” for the Messiah Festival of the Arts

Bethany College Theatre will present “J.B” by Archibald MacLeish during the 132nd Messiah Festival of the Arts in Burnett Center on Friday, March 22, at 7:30 p.m. and on Saturday, March 23, at 2 p.m.

The performances, directed by Professor of Communication Carl Isaacson, Ph.D., are free and open to the public.

“J.B.,” published in 1958, is an adaptation of the biblical book of Job set in post-war America. But like the book of Job, the play explores the thorny question of divine responsibility for human suffering, called by theologians the question of theodicy. The play is set in the context of a circus with two barkers—the balloon salesman and the popcorn salesperson, who are two down-on-their-luck actors—assuming the roles of God and Satan. The change of context leads Zuss, MacLeish’s “God” figure, to urge Nickles, the “Satan” of the play, to begin the show because Job will always show up to play his part.

 

Isaacson explains, “On MacLeish’s mind were the tragedies of World War II: death camps, Dresden, Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We might add the senseless killings of Aurora and Newtown and Chicago and Detroit. How can a good God allow such things to happen?”

The old question is raised in new contexts, and MacLeish is not willing to accept the answer of the book of Job. Instead, he allows J.B. to assert his will to be human and if human to love—and it is that which makes him go on despite the unsatisfactory nature of all the answers.

The cast includes Bethany students Phoenix Hutchinson, Atchison, Kan., Katia Matter, Jewell, Kan., Julee Freeman, Thornton, Colo., Jedidiah Duarte, Pueblo, Colo., Dayna Mannebach, Oakley, Kan., Elizabeth Ford, Effingham, Kan.; Bethany faculty members Isaacson and Associate Professor of Theatre Greg LeGault; and community members Joel Weide, Katy Tioni, Peyton Truitt, Katie Mannebach, and Tina Beasley. The production team includes Isaacson, LeGault, Hutchison, Matter, student Wyatt Buckridge, Topeka, Kan., and community member Scott James.

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