Youth Spotlight: Milligan College
A Jazzy Look at the Gospel
By Hannah Potter | June 27, 2007I'll never forget that first company meeting where anxious and nervous looks were exchanged across a room. Most of us greeted friends; the majority had worked together before. None imagined the journey we were about to take, and only one truly had the vision that would take us there. Numerous students had auditioned for Milligan College's production, The Gospel According to Jazz, last year, and 18 were accepted. All we knew was that we were a part of an ensemble that would create a mixture of movement, New Orleans, Jesus, jazz music, and commedia dell'arte.
From there the process was long, six weeks of driving rehearsals, and the outcome would be a God-inspired masterpiece. The musical is loosely based on the Gospel of John and contains very little dialogue. It is set in the recently washed-out remains of New Orleans, shortly after Hurricane Katrina had hit. The show is driven by the upbeat, syncopated tones of jazz music by Milligan's Jazz Band, under the direction of Rick Simerly. Local musical artist, Loretta Bowers, guides you from scene to scene with her incredible voice. With our director's vision, Richard Major, we developed scenes from the cleansing of the temple, the wedding feast at Canaan, the woman at the well, the healing of the blind man, the triumphal entry, and the betrayal, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus.
We entered the production into the local Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF), which presented more than 150 performances in our region. Soon after we received the news that we were one out of 30 recommended to be invited to the regional KCACTF, and then, after months of waiting, we were invited as one out of seven productions to perform. Our excitement soared! It was thrilling to come so far and collaborate together, but to be invited to the regional KCACTF while schools like Florida State and the University of Alabama at Birmingham were also showcasing their own productions was something of which we had only dreamt.
Butterflies in our stomachs accompanied all 60 company members as we traveled from Johnson City, Tennessee to Americus, Georgia. We were to perform in the Rylander Theater, and our performance turned out to be the best yet! We had a sense of peace as we left Americus, knowing that each of us had been blessed with the opportunity to share something eternal with others.
As hard as it is to share with you in words the uniqueness of our show, I hope that on some level you have already connected with something deeper in our message. The Gospel According to Jazz was more than just another story about the life of Jesus set in modern day New Orleans and lived out through a group of college-age students cleaning up after Katrina. It was one of hope. Just like Jesus helped the Romans and Jews, Christians can live out his example by the love and hope we share with those across the world.
— - Editor's Note: Hannah Beth Potter. 21, is from Fayetteville, Georgia, She is a senior music major at Milligan College, pursuing a career in teaching music in public schools.
Milligan College entered "The Gospel According to Jazz" is the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF), and invited to perform at the center.