Unmerited Favor at the Forefront of ‘A New Creation’

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Photograph of Kevin Lowe as Dane Swift speaking in 2010 Living Gallery Rehearsal

Anne Nolan and Kevin Lowe perform in the 2010 production of Living Gallery: “A New Creation.”

Anne Nolan injects a spoiler alert while discussing Living Gallery: The main character in “A New Creation” has a name but doesn’t have an identity.

“The play is his arc — what becomes of him, how does he change? (The underpinning is) the busyness of doing contrasting with the simplicity of grace,” said Nolan, director for BJU’s Easter season tradition. “We’re a busy society. You should read this book, attend this program. We, ourselves, don’t believe that grace is that simple.”

The unique Living Gallery, presented by BJU and the Museum & Gallery, weaves together original drama, stirring music and larger-than-life recreations of classic works of sacred art using live models to depict the Gospel’s impact on individuals on the road to eternity.

Tickets are available for the five performances April 1–3 at Rodeheaver Auditorium on the BJU campus. BJU COVID-19 guidelines will be followed: face coverings will be required, and seating will be physically distanced. Measures will be taken to make the auditorium clean and safe.

Five questions with the director, who is an associate professor in BJU’s Theatre Department:

How have you Previously Been Involved?

“I’ve been in one (2010), was assistant director on several going back to 2005, directed in 2011 and came back in ’18. I really like Living Gallery. This is right up my alley because it is episodic. I teach a staging literature class where the students are adapting literature, they are adding elements to it. It’s how can you take this scene that sits right here and by adding movement or by adding a visual take the audience intellectually and emotionally here, come back in the scene so it’s here instead of ‘here’s a nice, packaged drama, here a nice painting, nice music, and now we go back to the nice drama.’ It’s all together and it builds.

“When you can craft them together, then you’ve got something unlike anything else that can take the audience in the 75 minutes through an emotional, intellectual and spiritual journey that is so powerful.”

How are you Approaching this Production?

“I started doing something in the last few that other directors have done. We need to take the time and the actors need to take the time for exploration, especially with an original play. There’s not a ton of research done on these characters. We sat around and talked about how do you know each other? When did you first meet? So, when they are in scene, these characters have to come to the table with who they are, what their relationships are, how long have they been doing this, what obstacles and struggles they have.

“It’s a unique opportunity to infuse art and ministry and Gospel all together in one. And I tell students that when you sit down there more than likely will be people that you don’t know and there will be people who are not faculty, staff or alumni. I promise you that at the end of any one of the performances they will have questions, they will have a response. They just need somebody to talk to.”

When did you Attend the First Time?

“It was ’98, the first one. We weren’t quite sure what to expect. We heard that it was going to be paintings and people were going to be in them. So, what do you mean? Even when you explain it to them, people don’t know what to expect. It was a biblical drama; (former faculty member) Dave Burke wrote it. And it was with a live choir, so you have that sense added to this drama. It was almost overwhelming. The response and impact of it was astounding.”

What do you Want the Audience to Take Away?

“It’s in the last song. I changed my mind on the last song recently. I said, ‘This has to be it.’ It’s the simplicity of grace. We’re a busy society; you should read this book, attend this class. We, ourselves, don’t believe that grace is that simple. There are a lot of sculptures and moving instrumental music, along with the drama, in this production.

“There are two paintings we’re using for the first time in Living Gallery and I’m really excited that we’ll have a Caravaggio. It’s the Calling of St. Matthew (circa 1600). It sets the scene. What choice are you going to make with the calling that’s presented to you? The new creation is: Are you going to come? To me, that is the main focus. A lot of music that I’m choosing is resonating with guilt, the angst, the tension that the individual is feeling.”

What do you Want the Cast and Crew to Take Away?

“They speak to me. I have learned to get out of the way, and I have shared this year with the cast. I love how God doesn’t stop teaching you things. Even though the Living Gallery is in its 23rd year, I’m still constantly learning things.

“A couple of years ago a couple of cast members who were in separate plays came up to me and said, ‘I needed this. Thank you for casting me. I needed the encouragement of these people; I needed the text. I needed to be involved in this.’ I sat there and shrunk. It never really occurred to me that they needed this. At every performance, there is someone in the audience who has never heard about Christ. This is an opportunity to reach that person. That is motivating.”