March 26, 2009

From the Cast of Spinning Into Butter

Check out some pictures and cast reflections from our latest production, Spinning Into Butter.

“It was great to get to work on an intimate, realistic show. So often we get caught up in the ‘TA-DA!’ of broad comedies and musicals. Working with the close group of dedicated peers was rewarding personally and educationally.” Ryan Clemens (Burton Strauss)

“As my first attempt at realism on the Regent mainstage, Spinning Into Butter was an exhilarating experience. I was able to sink my teeth into material that was not only challenging for me as an actor, but challenging for me as a person, as it made me examine my own heart. It was also a wonderful experience working with such small cast on a meaningful show, the bonds made in the production will not soon be broken. Spinning forced me relax, breath and just be.” Rob Arbaugh (Ross Collins)

“I didn't expect the moment [in the show] that moves me the most, which came at the very end—the stumbling Sarah trying to get to know Simon. It inspires me to do the same. I often feel like withdrawing when facing people I don't know as well due to lack of words. Since I've been involved in this play I have started to step out more, try to ‘dialogue’ and communicate more. Actually, I can sense this happening in the entire cast. If we're to imitate Christ in how he cares for people, the first step is getting to know people, with a desire of really wanting to know them.” Shinn-Rong Chung (Mr. Meyers)

“This experience really proved to me how much the faculty cares about putting on challenging work as well as work that forces actors to really stay true to their characters. I felt I explored a side of my craft that had been sitting way back in the closet that needed some dusting off only to be worn new again. I was truly appreciative as an artist to go on stage night after night and simply given the opportunity to just be in the moment!” Anna Koehler (Catherine Kenny)

“As a first year MFA in Acting candidate, Spinning Into Butter was the perfect show for me to be able to apply what I’m presently learning. Even though the journey was a challenge at times, it was ultimately fulfilling to see the work that I’ve invested in my classes being applied practically in a production.” Joseph Martinez (Patrick Chibas)

March 24, 2009

Notes from the Director

The Language of Beholding
By Eric Harrell, Director of Spinning Into Butter and Chair of the Theatre Department

I hope you had a chance to see our December production of The Glory Man. This inspiring new play told the true story of Clarence Jordan, a little-known hero of the civil rights movement. Utilizing a biblical model of community, he established an interracial farming commune where blacks and whites worked alongside each other in rural Georgia. Their existence was anything but idyllic. The images of burning crosses and Klansmen from the production still linger in my mind. During the run of the show, we hosted some founding members of the commune, now advanced in years, and heard firsthand their accounts of life inside this small enclave of equality in the turbulent, racist South of the 1960s.

Flash forward. It’s 2009. The Civil Rights Act has governed our country for the past forty-five years. The U.S. Census Bureau recently reported that one in three Americans are from an ethnic minority. In January, we inaugurated our first African-American president. So, where does that leave the “race debate”? Case closed? Or do our more recent efforts to atone for a racist past now allow us to probe more deeply beneath the surface? Christ tells us that outward behaviors are one consideration; matters of the heart are quite another. My mom explained it like this. When you’re weeding a garden you must be sure to pluck out the root, otherwise the weed will just grow back.

I believe the theatre is an ideal environment in which to wrestle with such issues. Through well-crafted storytelling we can be entertained and simultaneously challenged to examine the private feelings and public behaviors which influence the world around us. An unassuming play quietly slips its hand under the chin of its audience and asks us to look squarely in the eye of something worthy of our consideration – a cultural value, a complex relationship or a social injustice. I call this the “language of beholding.” And the theatre speaks it quite eloquently.

Perhaps with Spinning Into Butter, the force with which we find our chins grasped and our gaze re-directed is not so gentle: what happens when we remove the gag of politically correct speech? Do the rules of communication that govern a sensitive discussion of race ultimately foster unity? Or do they conceal harsh truths that must first be unearthed before they can be honestly confronted? How is racism defined in contemporary culture? Where has our continued use of ethnic and racial categorization ultimately brought us? How does the apostle Paul‘s assertion that in Christ “there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised…slave or free person” impact our understanding of ethnicity?

Of these questions, Spinning Into Butter asks us to “behold.”

March 17, 2009

Spotlight on. . . Shinn-Rong Chung!

Shinn-Rong Chung is second-year MFA in Acting student who is currently playing Mr. Meyers in Spinning Into Butter. Some of his recent roles include the cab driver in Harvey and Firs in The Cherry Orchard. He grew up in Kaohsiung, the second largest city in Taiwan. Shinn-Rong moved to Ontario to study when he was a teenager, and he received a BFA in interdisciplinary studies from York University. His initial goal was to become a children’s storyteller, but after his college introductory dance class, he felt led to be a dancer. He went on to complete a training program in modern dance, and spend a few years working with renowned Canadian choreographers such as Karen Jamieson and Cornelius Fisher-Credo. During a short-term mission trip to Taiwan, he experienced a spiritual renewal through the works of Ya Tong Theatre Company. Sensing a clear calling, Shinn-Rong joined Ya Tong in 1998, and for the past seven years he has served as the artistic director of the company.

Ya Tong (lit: “Asia East”) Theatre Company grew out of the Ya Tong Technical College Christian Fellowship. Founded by playwright Joy Chu in 1980 as a drama ministry to reach out the college students, the company later gained a national reputation after winning ten theatre awards from Taiwan’s council for cultural affairs. Since then, Ya Tong has performed all over Taiwan and toured 28 countries. Throughout the years, Ya Tong has sought to maintain its mission to address the social and spiritual needs of the contemporary era by presenting programs from a Christian worldview. In pursuit of the highest standards of truth and aesthetic, Joy started to pray about the possibility of coming to Regent’s theatre program in 1998. But when she passed away in 2002, Ya Tong underwent a period of turmoil. It wasn’t until a few years later that the company regained its vision and continued to pursue this possibility.

Shinn-Rong is grateful to be in the MFA acting program. About his experience in the program so far, he says: “I feel the program provides exactly what I need – building the skill and craft to do the best work I can. I came to Regent with the belief that Regent places great emphasis on artistic excellence, moral integrity and faith-art integration, and what I have experienced confirms that. It’s just such a wonderful privilege to study with highly professional artists who care about doing excellent work and presenting truth.”

Last summer, Ya Tong hosted drama workshops in four different cities in Taiwan for over 100 theatre artists. Shinn-Rong and his fellow MFA classmate Kaja Dunn taught many workshops based on the teaching and techniques they have learned during their training at Regent. The overwhelming response that these participants had was how much these techniques really made sense to them and how practical they were. Shinn-Rong commented, “It’s so wonderful to be able to share with those you love, and this is part of the Regent blessings.”

This summer the Ya Tong team will be joining Shinn-Rong, his wife Amana, and their daughter Isabella for a tour in the U.S. and Canada. They have been invited by the Chinese churches and communities in over a dozen cities to present theatre programs and conduct workshops. The next few years will be a crucial time for Ya Tong as it takes bold steps to fulfill the dream of producing Chinese Broadway musicals and plays and making an impact among the Chinese speaking population. For Shinn-Rong, in spite of the economic hardship and constant challenges, God has provided Regent as a place of revitalization, equipping and waiting upon the Lord. God has been so good, and Shinn-Rong thanks all of the faculty and staff who give of themselves to make Regent such an amazing place.

March 13, 2009

A Glimpse into the Design Process. . .

. . .of Singin in the Rain, our spring musical, in rehearsals now. Check out the following sketches by resident scene designer and professor Mike Burnett!

Now Playing!

Last night, Regent University Theatre opened Rebecca Gilman’s Spinning Into Butter. Named one of Time Magazine's best plays of the year, Spinning into Butter is a contemporary comic-drama that has theatre audiences across the country talking. The tranquil campus of a small Vermont college erupts with controversy when an African-American student receives racially motivated hate mail. The new Dean of Students struggles to defuse the whirlwind of emotions that spread like wildfire across the campus. In the process, she makes more than one startling revelation.

Says director Eric Harrell, chair of the theatre department, "Spinning Into Butter has sparked many important conversations about issues of race in communities across the country. It will be a thought-provoking catalyst for conversation among our own Regent community and patrons. The play probes beneath the surface, asking some particularly candid questions about how we view those different from ourselves, and investigates the root causes of why we ascribe general traits to groups of people on the basis of race. The set is filled with hidden metaphors and a particularly creative conceptual approach. As a highly realistic, contemporary play, we have worked hard to ensure the world of the play looks and feels like the world we live in—right down to the smell of coffee being brewed onstage."

Don't miss this challenging, suspenseful, and humorous new work presented by Regent Theatre.
STUDIO THEATRE Performances are:
March 12-14 & 19-21 @ 8 p.m.
March 14, 15, 21 & 22 @ 3 p.m.

To purchase tickets, call 757.352.4245 or visit the Box Office during office hours, Monday-Friday from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. For further information or to purchase tickets online, visit us at

Parental Advisory: Spinning Into Butter offers a complex and candid perspective on racism in contemporary culture. As such, it is recommended for mature audiences. Please call the box office for more specific information. 757.352.4245.

All Spinning Into Butter ticket holders are also invited to attend a special talkback with members of the cast and Director Eric Harrell. Talkbacks will be held:
Friday, March 13th following the 8pm performance,
Saturday, March 14th following the 8pm performance,
Friday, March 20th following the 8pm performance, and
Saturday, March 21st following the 8pm performance.