Bringing the Gospel of Matthew to the theatre

The University of Findlay Theatre faculty and students prepare to perform Godspell this spring

From the UF Theatre website.

By Krissy Johnson


The magical world of theatre peeked the interest of Robbie Riffle, senior University of Findlay Theatre Performance and Production double major, when he was in high school. His desire to build those magical stories landed him the role of Judas in this spring’s theatrical performance of Godspell.        

The University of Findlay theatre program is performing the classic on March 25-27 at the Marathon Center for the Performing Arts.

            Godspell is a musical conceived by John-Michael Tebelak with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz. It was structured as a series of Biblical parables primarily from the Gospel of Matthew.

            Riffle has been involved in multiple performances at UF with his favorite being The Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare this past fall.

            “The thing I am most excited for about Godspell is really about the message that it has,” Riffle said. “It is all about community and coming together to build a beautiful city together.”

            Cynthia Stroud, Visiting Assistant Professor of Theatre, has been participating in theatre since 1989.     “The rehearsal process here at UF is usually in the six week range, because we’re only rehearsing in the evenings so we don’t have hours and hours a day,” Stroud said.

Riffle adds that, for Godspell, they rehearse every Monday through Friday night and Saturday mornings.

            “Our rehearsals are broken down day by day. One day we will be working on our music, then our acting and character building, then dance. Usually all in the same week,” Riffle said. “Right now, as we approach ‘tech week,’ we are starting to add all of those together.”

            “Actors spend a lot of time on research. It’s really important to understand the world of the play so actors spend a lot of time looking up all the references to things they don’t know, looking up what life was like in the period in which the play takes place,” Stroud stated. “So actors do a lot of research into sort of appropriate manners for a particular period, how formally or informally people spoke or stood, how they dressed, and how they move.”

            Stroud finds acting very beneficial even if those who participate never go on to be actors. She adds that benefits include learning how to present yourself at your best, learning how to speak with confidence, and even learning how to read other peoples’ voice and body.

            “There’s also something really, really valuable about a class [Acting I] that forces you to get into your body and out of your head for a little while because as college students you spend so much of your time reading, writing, sitting,” Stroud added. “The work that we do is just as rigorous but it’s very physical. It’s very much linking mind and body together, and college students don’t always have the opportunity to do that during their day to day studying lives.”

            “Theatre gave me that escape where if I were to mess up in some way, it wasn’t the end of the world,” Riffle said. “It lets me be myself and brings joy to others who may be having a rough time and entertains them for a night.”

            Stroud adds that anyone can participate in theatre productions at UF and do not have to be a theatre major or minor to audition for shows. Open auditions for the shows occur every semester. Sometimes faculty, staff, and community members get involved with shows. Godspell auditions were open to any community members who wanted to participate in the show.

            “You can also work backstage. There’s no audition for that, so if you want to get involved but you’re not quite ready to stick your neck out, you can volunteer to help us paint scenery, or hang lights, or sew costumes,” Stroud said. “Just contact theatre faculty and we will point you in the right direction.”

            The theatre program also provides scholarships to students for being in shows and for helping out backstage. Like auditions, students do not have to be a theatre major or minor to receive a theatre scholarship but the scholarships for majors and minors are slightly larger.

            “Our scholarship students are expected to put in four hours a week,” Stroud stated. “But if you’re in the show, that counts as three of those four hours so you just have one additional hour and most students use that painting scenery or things like that.”

            Riffle adds that he finds joy in both the acting and technical side of theatre.

“When I was in high school I wanted to be a game world designer but then I went and saw a production of Grease,” Riffle stated. “I saw the set and how it had all these moving parts with the band up at the top of the set, and I thought I could build this stuff.”

            Tickets for Godspell are required through but are free to students, faculty, and staff using the discount code found in their emails. The showtimes are 7:30 p.m. on March 25-26 and 2 p.m. on March 27 with doors opening one hour prior to showtimes.

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