November 17 is opening night for Anderson High School’s production of the 2012 revival version of GODSPELL, a Broadway classic that the Director, Hannah Linser-Wilder, has chosen to set in the middle of downtown Cincinnati. Each of the thirteen characters is associated with an iconic landmark or local hangout, including Music Hall, Findlay Market, Arnold’s Bar and Grill, and Holtman’s Donuts. This connection infuses everything about the show, from acting choices to costumes to sets to props.
Ms. Linser-Wilder, who also teaches English at AHS, explains her reasoning by saying, GODSPELL is meant to help us understand the world we live in. It is about building community. I wanted to showcase our community.”
“During table work I took the entire cast downtown,” Ms. Linser-Wilder continues. “We spent a lot of time observing and discussing how each different area of downtown has its own unique culture, how these various cultures interact with each other (or don’t), and how that contributes to the overall culture of the city.”
Sophomore Jadyn Riggs plays a character who represents the Downtown Public Library. She says, “The library brings diverse ideas and cultures into the community, and that is what I am trying to reveal throughout my character. It helps bring different people together to enjoy a common appreciation for books and opportunities.”
“The focus in Cincinnati is very exciting for me,” says Assistant Director Emily Weddle. “I grew up here. I remember Over-the-Rhine when it was not quite a welcoming place, and now to go and walk around down there, get ice cream, see a show, it is so great. We want to help the students and hopefully audiences see what an amazing city we live in.”
GODSPELL also showcases the sense of community within the Theatre Department. Ms. Weddle, who has been working as Costume Designer for Anderson Theatre for years, is pleased with the way the students are responding to the feel of the show, coming together to make it happen. “I am so proud of them,” she says.
Actor and Senior Kertu Bell says that the small size of the cast has helped build connections. She says, “The people in the cast have developed such a powerful chemistry and friendship among each other, it will be definitely clear to the audience.”
Senior and Lighting Designer Alex Carroll adds, “The show is about regular people, and how we should all treat each other. The messages are universal, delivered from the mouths of teenage actors and actress who want everyone to love and appreciate each other every day the way we love and appreciate each other on the stage.”
While GODSPELL is is a re-telling of many parables and stories from the Christian Bible, the Directors and students emphasize that it is, as Ms. Linser-Wilder says, “absolutely accessible to a religiously diverse audience. GODSPELL helps us to see that regardless of our own private beliefs, the messages in the bible are still beautiful and can help us to create a better world on earth.”
Performances are at 7:00 pm on November 17, 18, and 19. Tickets cost $10 each, and can be purchased online at www.ShowTix4U.com. For more information about the show and the full Anderson Theatre season, visit www.AndersonTheatre.com.