Win/Lose/Draw Capstone March 10

By Kendra Johnson, Arts Editor  (Courtesy photo/The Bison)

External friendship hides an inner turmoil of competitive energy in “Little Miss Fresno,” one of three plays by Ara Watson and Mary Gallagher together titled “Win/Lose/Draw.” Elizabeth Grimes and Brenna Bergeron will perform “Win/Lose/Draw” as part of their senior capstone project.

The performance will be held in Sarkeys Black Box Theatre at 7 p.m. March 10. It features excerpts from the other two plays in the compilation, “Final Placement” and “Chocolate King,” as well as a scene from “Little Miss Fresno.”

“Final Placement” tells the story of a social worker (Brenna) who fights with an abusive mother (Grimes). The final scene from “Chocolate King” shows the struggle of body issues and the negative impact of the way society views food.

All graduating theatre majors are required to craft a capstone under the guidance of OBU’s theatre faculty. Students choose a project that allows them to display what they have learned in their concentration area. Bergeron and Grimes both selected acting as their focus and began thinking about the production about a year ago.

“Acting gives me an insight into other peoples’ lives and shows me how to better love those people,” Bergeron said. “It’s made me even more of an empathetic person, and as a Christian artist, that is a strong calling that I feel.”

Originally each of the actors had considered doing a separate performance, but they decided that their work would be stronger together.

“Lizzy and I were talking about it one day, and we both had expressed interest in wanting to do a one-woman show,” Bergeron said. “And we, Lizzie and I, have worked together since freshman year. My very first scene, even though it was in a class, was with Lizzie, and ever since then we’ve played opposite each other a lot and so it was kind of this mutual thing where we were like, yeah, we want to do a one-woman show and then we were like, why don’t we do a two-woman show.”

The decision to perform segments of “Win/Lose/Draw,” was a gradual process.

“I came across ‘Win/Lose/Draw’ and I was like, oh, this is kinda interesting,” Grimes said. “I read through it and I was like, ‘I think this one has potential.’ Brenna read through it and she was like, ‘Yeah I really like it.;’ And so, we kept our feelers out for anything else, but we both were really drawn to ‘Win/Lose/Draw,’ so it just sort of happened.”

If the fascinating attention to detail of Bergeron and Grime’s past work in numerous OBU theatre productions is any indication of what will come on March 10, they will take their audience from laughing to crying, and back again.

OBU Theater at Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival conference

By Kendra Johnson, Arts Editor  (Courtesy Photo/The Bison)

This past week, Feb. 27-Mar. 3, a portion of the students and faculty of Oklahoma Baptist University’s theatre program participated in numerous segments of the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF) Region Six conference.

OBU reprised their rendition of the musical number “Tango de Amor” from “The Addams Family” to rousing applause at the Evening of Invited Scenes performance.

The selection included Caleb Schantz as Gomez Addams, McKenzie Reece as Morticia Addams and Brenna Bergeron, Sarah Smith, Tori Smith, Harmony Dewees, Chase Davis, Grant McGee, Garrett Wheeler, Joel Tetmey-er, Anna Tyler and Hunter Vicars as the Add-am’s Ancestors.

Three of the costumes from the dance reappeared in the festival’s costume pa-rade, modeled by Brenna Bergeron, Tori Smith and Hunter Vicars.

Director of theatre and professor Matthew Caron served the festival as an Irene Ryan responder, attending several segments of the Irene Ryan acting competition and providing feedback to the students who compete.

Some students who participated in KCACTF came for the opportunity to view the numerous theatre performances from across the region and to benefit from the event’s many workshops.

“Regardless of whether or not they compete, attending the conference is beneficial for students,” Caron said. “The festival is home to workshops, competitions and performances highlighting work from all areas of theatre: acting, directing, management, design, dance and journalism. Even though there are competitions, the main point of the festival is to celebrate the work of college students from around the nation.”

KCACTF Region Six offers OBU students the chance to interact with the rest of the theatrical community in Texas, Oklahoma and the surrounding areas.

“I’ve always enjoyed getting to hone my craft and be together with people who have similar interests as me,” junior theatre major and music minor Chase Hendrickson said.

However, some of the workshops and performances offered at the conference may raise ethical questions for students.

“The biggest challenge for OBU students is the content of many of the works,” Caron said. “OBU students are exposed to plays that deal with many contemporary, liberal issues. This can often times be shocking to students, yet, in my opinion, it serves a greater purpose.”

“It is important for students to know what kinds of works are out there. It is important for them to know the kind of world theatre is. Once they are armed with this knowledge, they can better serve as lights for Christ.”

“Theatre, like so many other secular realms of society, is essentially one big mission field. I think that [those] witnessing the ‘bad’ things about KCACTF are better equipped to not only minister to people, but it also helps them to better understand and strengthen their personal relationship with Jesus.”

Seeing troubling themes and subject matter in the workshops invites OBU students to wrestle with reconciling their profession as theatre artists with their calling as Christians.

“It highlights the need for Christians in the theatre world–there is a lot of spiritual darkness in the theatre world,” Caron said. “Attending a festival like this makes the darkness evident. I think that students can then make two choices: to NOT pursue a career in theatre based on what the world is ‘really like,’ or they can actively seek to be a light for Christ in a world that shuns and dismisses him.”

Although students face the challenge of reconciling differing viewpoints that might be presented in the workshop, they gain the benefit of learning about areas of theatre that they may not have been able to study otherwise.

“While I have been at KCACTF this week, I have learned several new styles of directing. I also have had the pleasure to meet very many talented individuals that competed alongside in the Design, Tech and Management Program,” senior theatre major Scott Roberts said.

KCACTF Roberts' Design presentation
(Courtesy Photo/The Bison) Roberts presents his award-winning design work at KCACTF

Two of OBU’s students, theatre majors Schantz and Reece, received the nomination to compete in the Irene Ryan competition and performed prepared scenes alongside non-competing scene partners, fellow theatre majors Caleb Frank and Brenna Bergeron, for the panel of judges at the festival.

Theatre majors Chase Hendrickson, Shantz and Reece competed in the Musical Theatre Initiative.

Reece also participated in KCACTF’s Musical Theatre Initiative Dance competition, alongside fellow students Bergeron and Tori Smith. All three dancers advanced to the final round of Region 6.

Scot Roberts and Grace Wohlschlegel exhibited their design, worked and competed in KCACTF’s Design, Tech, and Management Program. Roberts was awarded a Stagecraft Institute of Las Vegas Award for Excellence in Technology and Design, and the Excellence in Non-Realized Scenic Design Award for his non-realized scenic design for the “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo.”

Attending KCATF gave students the chance to show what they had learned to the larger theatre community, compete in their areas of specialization, and study under multiple theatre industry experts.

Passion releases 2018 “Whole Heart” record

By Payton Clark, Social Media Editor  (Courtesy photo/The Bison)

After a month of anticipation, Passion has released another live album from their sold-out student conference. In what may seem like very troubled times for our world, this album’s message provides some hope and advice for Christians.

“Whole Heart” was released digitally on Feb. 23, and will be released physically on Mar. 23. Recorded live in January at the 2018 Passion conference, in three arenas in Atlanta and Washington D.C., “Whole Heart” features the voices of 32,000 students from colleges and countries across the globe. It includes hits from the Passion band with artists including Kristian Stanfi ll, Melodie Malone and Brett Yonker, as well as Crowder, Matt Redman, Jimi Kravity, KB, Brooke Ligertwood, Andy Mineo and Tedashii.

Beginning with the title song, “Whole Heart,” Passion creates a heartbeat that flows throughout the entire album. Not only is this heart-beat literal, through the constant pounding drumbeat, but figurative as lead singer Kristian Stanfi ll declares, “You gave us your whole heart, my hope is in the blood of Jesus, I know who I am because of who you are.” Praising God’s love for us is the first declaration of this album, and the main focus as thousands of students sing along together.

Songs like “Almighty God” and “God, You’re So Good” share the characteristics of God such as His power and goodness, but time and time again the album reveals His love, reminding listeners of its importance.

“Reckless Love,” a cover of Cory Asbury’s original song, shares the story of God’s unending and inconsequential love. While some may debate the use of the term “reckless” to describe God, here it means that God loves us without caring what will happen, something that we could all do well to imitate in our own lives.

As part of the chorus states, “I couldn’t earn it, I don’t deserve it, still, you give yourself away.” It is our duty as Christians to love others no matter the consequences. No matter the person or the circumstance, God’s love knows no bounds, so why should ours?

Another standout song, “More Like Jesus,” asks just that – to make us more like Jesus. With this of course comes God’s love and seeing others as he does, but having a desire to be more like Jesus is all we really need. Like the lyrics state, “Change me like only you can, here with my heart in your hands, Father I pray make me more like Jesus.” Surrender to God’s plan and a longing to look like Jesus is what we need, and this will allow us to serve others in love for God’s glory.

While most of the songs provide continuity in the tone and theme of “Whole Heart,” Matt Redman’s “Great Are You Lord” seems out of place. Although it in itself is a great song, its release in 2013 makes the song seem like more of a throwback than a piece of the narrative in “Whole Heart.” If the cover had been revamped with a newer and different sound than the original, it would have fit with the rest of the album, but this version was just a little out of place.

The version of “All My Hope Is In Jesus” with the Passion band, Crowder and Tauren Wells, jazzes up the sound of the album, although it too seems off from the tone of the Passion led songs. However, these covers show how diverse and inclusive the Passion Conference is with the artists and speakers brought to lead the students.

Because this album is live rather than a studio album, its purpose is more to share the Passion experience, and moreover the experience of praising God with thousands of others, rather than highlighting the talent of the band. But, Stanfi ll, Malone and Yonker, and the rest of the Passion band totally rock this album. “Hallelujah, Our God Reigns” does just that, declaring “All that has breath come praise the Lord.”

At the heart of this album is a desire to praise God for His love he gives to us, and for all that he is. “Whole Heart” not only remembers the unity of the 32,000 Passion Conference attendees but it unifies those who listen and sing these songs.

More than anything, this album is meant to praise and worship God, and these songs serve as an anthem for young Christians that are passionate about the Lord and living for His kingdom.

The Passion 2018 conference strove to glorify God by shining a light on His love, and “Whole Heart” encourages students to love others boldly, fully and passionately like Him.

Guest artist Marc Webster to visit Feb. 15-16

By Kendra Johnson, Arts Editor  (Courtesy Photo)

Marc Webster will give a free vocal performance with Oklahoma Baptist University associate professor of voice and coordinator of voice studies Dr. Louima Lilite on piano. The performance will be Wednesday, Feb. 15 at 7:30 p.m. in Raley Chapel’s Yarborough Auditorium.

Webster will offer a masterclass in Yarborough Auditorium Feb. 16  from 3:00-5:00 p.m.

The masterclass, like the performance, is free and open to the public.

Webster is an assistant professor of performance studies at Ithaca College in New York.

According to Ithaca College’s website, he has studied music at Eastman School of Music,  Julliard School and Ithaca College.

“He is a kind soul I was privileged to meet and befriend during our grad school days at the prestigious Eastman School of Music,” Lilite said. “Marc has since sung celebrated performances in various places.”

Webster has performed with the Syracuse Opera multiple times, and has also performed with Seattle Opera Studio, Julliard Opera Center and Florida Grand Opera Studio.

The concert will offer various pieces for bass in multiple European languages.

“We will be presenting great works for the bass voice by Mozart, Wolf, Santoliquido, and Ibert but also some crowd pleasers in the English language,” Lilite said.

The pieces of music to be performed were chosen for their imaginative and delightful qualities.

“In crafting this program, we wanted to offer to the concert-goers the gift of joy as Marc’s voice touches their souls and transports them to imaginary lands,” Lilite said. “He is a masterful artist and a captivating performer; we wanted pieces that would readily convey those traits to the audience.”

The performance is part of OBU’s Vocal Studies Area’s efforts to bring an annual guest artist to campus.

“Every year, the Voice Studies Area seeks to bring one artist/teacher to OBU for a two-day campus stay—performing for the community the first night, then teaching selected students of ours the next day in a masterclass setting and/or in one-on-one sessions,” Lilite said.

Webster and Lilite will have a limited time available to rehearse the music together before performing together on Thursday night.

“Marc and I will have but one rehearsal (Wednesday night) once his plane lands, one rehearsal amidst myriad other rehearsals for the upcoming Concerto-Aria event the College of Fine Arts is putting on this same week,” Lilite said. “To put it in context, our students spend long months preparing to present something like this. It’s nothing short of a miracle.”

However, the performance offers Lilite the opportunity to collaborate with a friend and to share their music with OBU’s students.

“I feel privileged to be able to make music with a friend I have known for a long while,” Lilite said. “But more importantly, I am overjoyed to know what a great treat this performance will be for those who come—especially the students. There will be nothing quite like it.”

The performance will be on Thursday, Feb. 15 at 7:30 p.m., and the masterclass will be the following day, Friday, Feb. 16  from 3:00-5:00 p.m. Both events are free and open to all.

“I hope it will teach students and non-students alike to be more vulnerable and genuine in their approach to life,” Lilite said. “I also hope it will rekindle the light of hope in their hearts.”

Concerto Aria to feature student soloists

By Kendra Johnson, Arts Editor 
(Courtesy Photo/Jeremy Scott)

By Kendra Johnson, Arts Editor   (Courtesy Photo/Jeremy Scott)

Oklahoma Baptist University’s Division of Music will host its annual Concerto-Aria Concert Feb. 18, 7:30 p.m. in Raley Chapel’s Potter Auditorium.

The concert provides an opportunity for OBU students to audition for the chance to perform as a soloist alongside the OBU/Shawnee Community Orchestra.

“The Concerto-Aria concert is a showcase of OBU students who are selected by audition to perform as soloists in a concerto movement (in the case of instrumentalists) or an aria (in the case of vocalists), accompanied by an orchestra consisting not only of OBU faculty and students but also some of the finest freelance professional musicians in the region,” said assistant professor of music and director of preparatory epartment, Dr. Benjamin Shute.

Shute handles a large portion of the orchestration and organization of the concert and is highly involved in many of the necessary preparations for the performance.

“Like many things in the arts, there is a fantastic amount of coordination and preparation that culminates in a fairly brief experience,” he said.

“In this case, my responsibilities included participating in the adjudication of preliminary auditions, coordinating final-round auditions, recruiting students and faculty for the orchestra, obtaining or creating parts for the orchestra by various means, marking up those parts with bowings and articulations, soliciting publicity materials, some advertising activities, overseeing stage setup and audio-visual contracts, preparing the material for the concert program (including freshly translating foreign-language texts to avoid copyright infringement), and trying to keep all of these activities within budget. Oh yes, and learning and conducting the music!”

Several aspects of the performance will give the audience the opportunity to hear some arrangements and instruments that they may have had the opportunity to hear before.

“We’ll be arranging the orchestra on the stage in a way that is today unconventional today but which has roots in pre-twentieth-century practice and should bring out some interesting details of the music.” Shute wrote.

“And for the literature written before 1800, I’ll be directing from the violin (as would have been done back then), and the orchestra will include harpsichord basso continuo. That’s actually not something that’s done much these days in post-Baroque music (at least not in the USA).”

Putting on the performance and doing all of the necessary preparation work to make this opportunity available for OBU’s students, like putting on any other major production, takes a whole team of people.

“Thresa Swadley took on the heavy task of contracting all of our outside players and is providing food for the orchestra,” Shute wrote.

“Isaac Reel typeset a number of orchestral parts; Kenny Day and Chele Marker-Cash were responsible for publicity and print materials; Facilities Management and our audio-visual team, led by Steve Law, provide indispensable services, which Cynthia Gates oversees; Deanna Spruiell is a force of nature dealing with countless tasks behind the scenes; and my colleagues in the Music Division have advised and assisted me in more ways than I can list here. I’m sure there are others who deserve mention; but that is all to say, this is definitely a community effort!”

Students go through an audition process to be chosen for the performance.

The audition process includes evaluation by an auditor from outside the OBU community, to provide an impartial opinion.

“So keeping in time with the orchestra and not rushing but being with them and being on time, cause the director kind of stands behind you a little bit, like to the side and behind you,” Shute said. “And so, making sure that I’m in time with them and that I hear them and, yeah, it’ll just be a challenge. Like the whole performance I think will be, especially cause I’m going at the end. And so, all the nerves are building up and so I’m the last one, so that’s very intimidating but super exciting and a really big honor.”

The rehearsal process for students like Reece begins months ahead of the big night.

“I started rehearsing with my voice teacher at the time, which was Rebecca Ballinger, Prof. Ballinger and she chose the aria for me actually last year, my sophomore year, but I was giving a recital at the time so we didn’t work on it a whole lot so we saved it for the fall semester,” Reece said.

“So, we started working on it more and perfecting it and of course I had to learn how to say the French words, ‘cause French is really hard, that was a challenge in itself.”

Reece has been practicing with an accompanist and will have two rehearsals with the orchestra prior to the performance.

Her and the other students will perform Feb. 18, at 7:30 p.m. in Raley Chapel’s Potter Auditorium and the performance is free and open to the public.

“All coordination and logistics and historical performance practices aside, I hope that the performance changes people,” Shute said.

“I hope something about it provides even just a piercing glimpse of a beauty so deep and stirring and pure that we hardly dare to hope it could be “true” in any sense; a beauty that, it would seem, must have come from another world. And what is more, I hope our listeners will sense that this otherworldly beauty does not sidestep the brokenness of our world but takes it on fully, not sweeping its pain under the carpet but redemptively transforming it into something greater and deeper and stronger than if the brokenness had never been. And I hope this stirs in our listeners a longing, in the words of C. S. Lewis, ‘to break into a world where such things [are] true.’”


Senior Emma Williams presents graphic design art exhibit

Emma Williams debuted her award-winning art at her senior exhibit this week. The exhibit includes a suicide awareness campaign and many photography-based pieces.

Photo by Alena Blakley. 

By Abigail MeredithAssistant Arts Editor

Good art comes with a story, and Emma Williams’ senior art exhibit is chock-full of stories. Her show opened Monday, May 8th at 7 pm, and will stay open throughout the week.

From neon light to photography, viewers are invited to come appreciate the stories behind each piece.

“What makes it unique is probably the amount of photography I incorporate into my designs,” Williams said. “I came in with a pretty strong photography background, and I’ve learned how to incorporate that into my design style.”

Sarah Gilstad, a senior art major who was in several photographs on exhibit, said there are difficulties graphic designers can face with their exhibits.

“A really strong show can be difficult to accomplish for graphic designers since studio art is usually more appealing in the context of an art show,” she said.

Despite these difficulties, Gilstad said she had several favorite pieces for Williams’ show.

“I really like her “to write love on her arms” series because it’s for a good cause,” she said. “Also, I like the ‘keep living’ shirt which is a part of the series because it’s a reminder to keep going even when things get tough,” Gilstad said.

Williams also shared some of the stories behind her favorite works.

“My favorite pieces are a shoe campaign I did called “Daphne’s Shoes” and a suicide awareness campaign for the organization To Write Love on Her Arms. The shoe ads are heavily influenced by Roy Lichtenstein, who is one of my favorites. Plus I just love shoes! The other campaign is really important to me because I love the organization To Write Love on Her Arms. I also won an ADDY this year for it, which was super exciting and I didn’t expect it at all.” Williams said.

She also discussed one of her successful projects which played only during the opening night.

“My “Demanding Joy” project went really well. I built a slideshow to play throughout the opening and I’m excited about it. It looks nice and there are a lot of people who were able to be part of it.”

Gilstad explained how much work Williams put into the show.

“Emma prepared by coming up with a theme, actually making the working, figuring out where it’s going to hang, printing labels, business cards, setting up stands, picking out music, planning the food, actually making the food, framing… the list goes on and on.”

Williams offered details.

“A lot of preparation was creating a visual identity for myself, making a playlist because I’m heavily influenced by music, and also my project “Demanding Joy” started last semester and there was a lot of time that went into that.”

Gilstad made it clear the Williams was, luckily, not alone.

“Her mom was coming down and she helped a lot. And just about everyone in the art department has pitched in whether it’s critiquing a project, offering Inspiring ideas or help to accomplish those goals.” Gilstad said.

Gilstad also supported Willaims.

“We always help each other out whether it’s posing for a picture or gluing things together or just helping to clean up the mess.” Gilstad said.

Williams said the art show didn’t come without its difficulties.

“I had trouble printing at first because the nozzles needed to be cleaned. I also had an awkward run in with the guy in the mailroom,” she said.

“I ordered fake blood for a photo and the bottle opened up in the box, so there was a ton of realistic looking blood dripping all over the mail room. The guy looked really concerned and asked if I knew what was in the box. I felt so bad, he must have been horrified,” Williams said.

To see the art behind the stories, check out Williams’ exhibit in the art building any time this week.