UA Theatre and Dance continues to feature national pieces


CW/ Austin Bigoney

Desi Gillespie, Staff Reporter

The play opened on a set uncannily similar to the scene that greets many churchgoers each Sunday morning in Tuscaloosa. Contemporary geometric patterns made up the wooden proscenium, with projector screens and modern worship music playing as the audience entered.

Beginning with a praise and worship team’s musical set, the action of the play truly begins when head pastor Paul, played by Christian Tripp a Master of Fine Arts student, delivers his sermon. He ultimately arrives at the conclusion that there can be no hell, and his church will no longer believe in it.

This radical statement divides his church, resulting in the departure of associate pastor Joshua and many members. There is no one character who is depicted as right. Characters are only depicted as troubled, yet convicted.

“This play premiered in Louisville, Kentucky in 2015, so it’s been in national canon a few years,” said Ates. “We wanted to expose our students and our community to it, have them be part of the dialogue.”

Controversial theatre is no stranger to the UA Theatre and Dance department this season. The off-Broadway race relations play “Separate and Equal” previewed in the Marian Gallaway Theatre last month, and Tennessee Williams’ “Suddenly Last Summer” begins its run Oct. 2.

“[‘Suddenly Last Summer’ is] really a Greek tragedy about a character with a major flaw who loses everything,” Ates said. “It can be provoking for a community like Tuscaloosa. We have a lot of community members who deal with things every day.”

Jade Teel, a junior majoring in computer science, attended a dress rehearsal of “The Christians.” Teel was raised in a conservative Christian household. Teel said they had drifted away from religion, but was compelled to minor in religious studies at the University.

“I loved the play and I’m so glad I got to see it,” Teel said. “I appreciated how well church politics were portrayed. This situation played out similarly in the Methodist church a few years ago over gay marriage, and my church left the denomination entirely.”

Kyra Davis, a junior double majoring in theatre and news media, auditioned for her role at the beginning of the semester and has been rehearsing every day since.

“When I get a role I try to get in the same headspace as the character, to get into their circumstances,” Davis said. “I talk to people with similar experiences to my character and make it my own. I make a playlist of what I think my character would listen to and then I say a prayer before I go onstage.”

Ates touches on the tragic story of “The Christians,” which aims to provoke complex feelings from its viewers. It is not intentionally cynical about the nature of Christianity. Instead, it uses a common concept and setting to ask the audience deep questions about themselves.

“The show is about what it means to believe in something even if it means losing everything,” Ates said. “Today we see that everywhere in professional sports, politics, or even in our daily lives about what we do and how we associate with people. It’s about why we believe what we believe, and what are you willing to lose in defense of that belief.”

“The Christians” concludes its run Friday, Sept. 28. For tickets and more information, visit