January 28, 2011

Courtroom Drama Takes Center Stage

Andy Geffken as Father Rivard and Ashley Manning as Sister Rita
 By Rachel Judy
Regent University Theatre's latest offering—The Runner Stumbles—is inspired by a 1919 murder trial in Michigan. As Father Rivard stands accused of murdering a nun in his parish, this suspenseful courtroom drama explores faith and forbidden love in the play The New York Times describes as "absolutely fascinating."

The Runner Stumbles runs Jan. 28-30 and Feb. 3-6.

Playwright Milan Stitt—himself a Michigander—grew up hearing with talk about the "tragedy" at the Holy Rosary Church in Isadore, Mich. "He took one part history and combined it with two parts imagination, and the result was The Runner Stumbles," explained the play's director, Dr. Michael Kirkland, MFA in theatre department head and professor in the School of Communication & the Arts.

Audiences will certainly see the quality that is a trademark of Regent's theatre productions as The Runner Stumbles explores a crisis of faith in two church leaders. "It tackles the issues of faith and passion head on," Kirkland said. "In this particular instance, we have a nun and priest who are both totally devoted to maintaining their vows of chastity. Nevertheless, they find themselves drawn inexorably toward each other. This precipitates a crisis of faith in both parties and, tragically, a subsequent act of violence."

Also, adds Kirkland, "the play puts strong themes front and center: faith, love, chastity, commitment, devotion to the law—both secular and religious. The play examines such thorny issues as the tension between rigid, dogmatic rules and the all too human needs of the sinner. Under what conditions can, or should, the rules of the church bend to administer compassion?

"As always, I have sought to highlight what is redemptive in the piece, and there is little doubt in my mind that ... what is revealed in the final moments of The Runner Stumbles will not only touch upon the truth, it will reinforce one of the greatest truths of all: Though we be great sinners, Jesus is a greater Savior."

MFA in Acting students Andy Geffken, Gene Gray and Sharon Eyster perform their thesis roles in this production.

Purchase tickets through the Regent University Box Office.

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