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Like so many things in its first 150 years, Lakeland College Theatre's fall play, "Soli Deo Gloria," has been a group project.
Lakeland Theatre Director Charlie Krebs wrote the play to honor Lakeland's 150th anniversary, which the college is celebrating this year. In the four years from conception to reality, Krebs has welcomed and incorporated suggestions for revisions that poured in from Lakeland students and alumni.
"Writing this play has been my life for the past four years, but since the start of this school year, students have contributed so many good ideas for revisions," Krebs said. "My assistant director (Emma Drake) has written considerable dialogue, as well as Michelle Fromm, a writing major and a member of our cast. It has been an extraordinary effort, and everyone feels tremendous ownership."
"Soli Deo Gloria" centers around a group of nine Lakeland students working on a senior class project that requires them to find letters from the battlefield from every war starting with the Civil War. Each time they find a letter, the recipient comes on stage and reads it, followed by the letter's author, who appears post-mortem.
Students in Lakeland's history club found and edited authentic letters, some of which were written by students who attended Mission House, the college's named before it was changed to Lakeland in 1956.
The students in the play are determined to eliminate the library, which they feel is rendered unnecessary because of the internet. With the help of theatrical convention, Lakeland's founding fathers and their wives intervene and try to convince the students of the value of history, but everyone discovers a deeper personal struggle facing one of the play's main characters.
The characters are a mix of real names from Lakeland's past, as well as characters invented by Krebs. "One of the enjoyable things about working on an original play is that we could adapt the characters to the actors playing them, capitalizing on their strengths and idiosyncrasies," Krebs said. "Once the plot and characters were in place, it was a matter of arranging scenes to create a logical flow.
"As I got to know the characters, the play started to write itself and I just tried to get out of the way. Those scenes seem the most organic to me. I wrote many scenes and then discarded some when the action seemed contrived."
Krebs videotaped cast members performing improvisations based on scenarios and extracted some dialogue from them during the work's development.
The play's first public unveiling came during Lakeland's Sesquicentennial All-College Reunion this past June when Krebs teamed with Lakeland graduates Karl and Brenda Schleunes to read a scene. Following the reunion, Krebs continued to get advice from Brenda, who founded The Touring Theatre of North Carolina and has spent three decades adapting, producing and directing literature and history to the stage.
Krebs, who has previous written three full-length plays and several one-act pieces, said one of his goals was to write a play that did more than just tell the college's history.
"I wanted there to be relevance for contemporary students and audiences," Krebs said. "I found that the play is much funnier than I ever intended, and I'm glad since much of the play has a serious tone. The end product is a good balance.
'We have fun with the college's founders learning about modern technology and pop culture. We are willing to poke fun at ourselves throughout the play. There are many genuinely touching moments in the show as members of these very different generations struggle with finding themselves in a world of change."
Lakeland College Theatre Presents "Soli Deo Gloria"
By Charlie Krebs
Director: Charlie Krebs
Assistant director: Emma Drake
November 8, 9, 10 at 7:30 p.m. and Nov 11 at 2 p.m.
Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for seniors (60+) for the Sunday matinee and $5 for non-Lakeland students.
Bradley Theatre, Lakeland College
For tickets call 565-1536 or visit http://Lakeland.edu/theatre.
Cast Hanna - Rachael Siehs
Alexis - Sara Pfile
Jess - Becca Elliott
Siri - Xia Yang
Olivia - Madeline Pearson
Adam - Patrick Johnson
Kane - Eddie Terres
Hawk - Russell Carle
Danny - Logan Massey
Dr. John Bossard - Allan Fett
Katherine Bossard - Michelle Fromm
Rev. August Winter - Thomas Gerleman
Clara Winter - Miranda Miller
Dr. Hermann Muehlmeier - David Neese
Lydia Muehlmeier - Elizabeth Plotka
Soldiers and Letter Recipients