A Passion for Plays: Spring means plays at Heritage Christian School

Ellie Goldberg (left) and MAX KLOPP rehearsing for the play “Fisher of Men.” The play will be performed Friday, April 13 at the Heritage Christian School. The background was painted by local artist Nick Reitzel.          (Photo Submitted)

By Linda Andersen
     It’s springtime, which means that, at Heritage Christian School in Karlstad, sets and costumes are being created, lines are being learned, and rehearsals are running regularly.
     A number of plays are in the works, several of which will be presented by students at a competition in St. Cloud this spring. The public is invited to attend three plays at the school in coming weeks. “The Thief,” which is, in part, supported financially by the Gospel Tabernacle Church of Karlstad and includes participants from many parts of Kittson County and neighboring counties, will be performed on Friday, March 30 and Saturday, March 31.
     Heritage students will perform “Give It to Jesus” and “Fisher of Men” at the pie auction/fellowship supper Friday, April 13.
The Enterprise spoke with several of people who are involved in putting the plays together to learn more about them, their passion for this creative endeavor, and the plays themselves.
     Pastor Mark Hanson, administrator at Heritage, has provided much of the enthusiasm and direction for plays at the school for a number of years. Five plays, which Heritage students will perform at the spring competition, are Hanson’s creations.
“I started writing little skits as a child for our family’s own private Christmas plays. I was involved in drama in high school and began writing plays and skits as a young youth pastor after Bible College. I enjoy the creative journey of taking a play from an idea through script development, casting, practices, set design and then watching the actual performance and seeing the enjoyment of moms and dads watching their children do well in the play,” stated Hanson.
     Speaking of the two plays which students will perform at Heritage, he said, “‘Give It to Jesus” is a humorous play about two disciples learning a valuable life lesson in trusting Jesus based on the feeding of the 5000.”
     “‘Fisher of Men’ is a comedy/one-act play where two cousins go fishing together with the one trying to lead the other to faith in God.”
     The play includes “comical visits from a substitute game warden usually assigned to elementary school educational visits and the U.S. Coast Guard with an inept junior officer in training asking the questions. Three prop boats and a beautiful background painting by area artist Nick Reitzel help bring the story to life. Spoiler: Watch out for sharks!”
     Barb Geer, in her third year as choir director at Heritage and who is also publisher of The Middle River Honker, is directing “Fisher of Men.” Although the latter is the first play she has directed at Heritage, she has extensive experience with plays. “I am no stranger to theater, having worked extensively with the Thief River Falls Area Arts Council and the Middle River Community Theater, as well as directing plays and musicals during my other teaching stints. I will be directing the Goose Festival production this fall.”
     Geer explained further about her interest in plays. “Theater is a wonderful way to take yourself out of your everyday life and, for just a moment, be someone else. It gives actors the ability to step into someone else’s shoes, try on another life, so to speak. Why do I enjoy theater so much? Maybe I just never grew up. We should all remember those wonder-years when we could indulge in dress-up with the clothes from Grandma’s attic, the idyllic world of make believe at our fingertips. Remember when you could be anyone you wanted to be? Who didn’t play tea party or pretend wedding or pageant or movie star?”
     “As a teacher, I especially enjoy theater because I can see the growth potential in each and every student actor. From the first read-through to the performance, it is a constant process of attempting to improve every time and making the play look like ‘real life’ even when it is farfetched. We learn to put our emotions on display through facial and body language, we learn better diction, we learn to project our voices and, in general, become better speakers. Theater teaches performance skills and confidence; giving even kids who are shy the opportunity to break the confidence barrier because, for the time that they are on the stage, they are someone else. They can carry the poise and self-assurance that they gain back to their own lives and use it over and over again.”
     She said “Fisher of Men” is “a comedy that has a solid message told in a fun way.”
     Although Nick Reitzel has done a significant amount of artwork for Heritage plays over the past years and is doing a variety of projects this year, he said that the seascape he painted for “Fisher of Men” has been his favorite project so far at the school as he particularly enjoys doing landscapes and seascapes. He said that before his work at Heritage, he’d only done a minimal amount of work with plays. Some self-education, however, came in handy for this work. “Years before I had been studying dioramas in museums which are similar to play backgrounds,” he stated.
     Explaining about his beginnings as an artist, he stated, “I started drawing when I was about four years old. The first time I got paid was when I was about ten years old. I just did a drawing of raccoons for a neighbor. My parents controlled the forty dollars I got because they were afraid I was going to spend it on candy.”
Later, in high school, he “started picking up odd art jobs.”
He has since made art his life’s work. “I never really found anything else that I really wanted to do,” he said.
Jonathan Eerkes wrote the play, “The Thief” and is co-directing it with Mark Hanson. “This play tries to tell a story about the thieves who were hung on the cross with Jesus. It is about how the law cannot save people, only faith in Jesus can,” explained Eerkes.
     Of his start in writing plays and acting in them, Eerkes commented, “Mark Hanson has a way of getting a wide variety of people involved in his plays. He got me started as an actor with a small part in one of his plays about ten years ago. My involvement gradually grew to where I wrote and helped direct last year’s Easter play, ‘Loving the Least.’ When I was in school, English was consistently my worst subject. If I got a C, I was doing well. This just shows how God can take someone and use them in unexpected ways.”
     He admits that putting on a play is not all fun and games. “These plays are a lot of work and come with a lot of pressure and frustration. However, getting together with a lot of different believers and doing something as miraculous as putting on a play in a month’s time is very rewarding. You get to see God work in many ways.”
     He said anywhere between 400 and 600 people have attended the Easter play each year in the recent past.
     “This play is really not about one church or school or person. This is about an exceptionally diverse group of Christians coming together to try to tell the gospel of Jesus in a way anyone can understand,” he added.
Dawn Kofstad of Roseau is regularly is in charge of costumes for the Easter plays and is in charge of that aspect of the play again this year.
     Main characters in “The Thief” are Brian Lorenson (Jesus), Sander Dagen and Isaac Lorenson (thieves), Guy Strandberg (Pilate), Justin Dagen, Tom Vig, Lyndon Johnson, and R.C. Corcoran (Pharisees), Duane Rutz (Barabbas), and Matt Vig (centurion).
     Enjoy the spring weather by making a trip to Heritage Christian School on Friday and Saturday, March 30 or 31, and Friday, April 13 to view the creative efforts of many area individuals.

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