On Wednesday October 16th, a group of students from the Theater department led the student body in the most dramatic chapel of the year. From what was originally planned to be sophomore Kristina Leopold’s senior project, came this year’s theater chapel, a heart-felt orchestration of contemporary music, acting, dancing, and some of Leopold’s original poetry.
The piece focuses on the silent struggle of a young woman named Julie, played by freshman Kayla Jackson, as she tries to recover her tainted identity from a broken relationship with a hateful man, played by junior Vincent Catalina. The story takes form through monologues spoken by a handful of actors, punctuated by musical renditions of songs by Green Day and Hillsong United. Senior Micah Stratton accompanied the entire piece on the piano with junior Christopher Lucas playing the cajon.
As opposed to a typical chapel service, Wednesday’s theatrical take on worship created a different atmosphere in the NMC. As senior Preston Butler recognized, students not formerly familiar with theater were unexpectedly exposed to the issues raised during the service in a dynamic and powerful way.
In addition to the piece’s tasteful use of a variety of different arts (such as acting, singing, and dancing), the piece is unique to the Christian community for its bold approach to confronting important issues. The script was very honest in its depiction of the world, using tabooed words such as “slut” in the dialogue. The cast agreed that these decisions gave the performance greater depth, making it more life-like and relatable to the audience. “Thats our job as actors,” junior Christopher Orta said, “to portray reality.”
Perhaps the greatest reason for the show’s courageous honesty is that it is a brainchild of Leopold’s poetry. For 3 weeks last May, while working on summer school at Vanguard, Leopold found herself as 1 of 3 other residents in Laguna Hall. During this quiet time, she found herself pouring through her old poems and discovered a common theme around the word “tainted.” This idea then became the foundation for what was to become her senior project. However, when the fall semester began, she felt God calling her to use it for the theater chapel. This challenged Leopold, having never heard her words read aloud before. However, she came to embrace the opportunity as the date edged closer, trusting God to use it for His glory.
Leopold’s piece had a great impact on the Vanguard community, in many ways that only God might know. The audience for one, was moved, ending the performance with a standing ovation. The cast was blessed, not expecting such an excited response.
From day one, they knew the project was not going to be easy. In early September, the project was thrown onto the shoulders of senior Dekontee Tucrkile who already had her hands full between classes and taking care of 5th floor Laguna as a Resident Assistant. Many of the cast members joined the project last minute, while others dropped out. Despite these fluctuations, the team found chemistry which was made apparent by their stunning performance.
Jackson, in playing the part of Julie, found personal fulfillment in the completion of the project. Having gone through a similar situation before in her own life, Jackson immediately related with her character. Her acting then became a catalyst for the emotional healing of her past wounds.
The result, Tucrkile felt, was “God-breathed.” Despite the cast’s anxieties of a lack of unity, when the day of the performance arrived, one thing was certain, that it was not about any of the performers, it was a moment for God to shine.
When asked by the Theater department to put the act into the Lyceum commercially, the cast humbly declined, not wanting the message to be misconstrued with the business. Leopold, in the meantime, is unsure of what she will do for her senior project now that it has already been done, but she certain of God’s continued provision in the future.
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