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The tradition continues: Living gallery to unveil 21st production

Jason Waggoner, Living Gallery’s creative director, checks the sets and models at a rehearsal for the upcoming performances of Living Gallery: This Is My Word. Waggoner instructs members of the production’s makeup team about what changes to make to a model. Comparing the model’s costume and makeup to a picture of the original artwork, Waggoner and his team ensure that this year’s sets are as true as possible to the pieces they depict. Photo: Daniel Petersen

Bob Jones University’s Living Gallery combines art, music and theatre in a unique blend of  the historic and the contemporary.

The performance depicting the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ has been an Easter tradition for both BJU students and families from the Greenville area for 21 years.

Living Gallery blends artisic recreations of masterpieces and stage lighting and makeup to create one visual effect. When partnered with the musical accompaniment,  the program is a memorable experience.

The program presents these “living pictures” interwoven with a drama.

The drama this year focuses on a calligrapher who is commissioned by a local church to produce illuminated Bible manuscripts. Meanwhile, the calligrapher also receives a terminal cancer diagnosis and struggles with strained family relationships.

The drama ties into the artwork presented through the calligrapher’s personal exploration of the Gospel for her project and her personal inquiry into whether or not the miraculous healing power proclaimed by Christ could be real and available to her.

According to Anne Nolan, theatre arts faculty and director of the production, the central theme shown in the drama and highlighted through the works of art and music will be overcoming fear and guilt through Christ.

“A lot of these themes are very contemporary and relatable to our audience,” Nolan said.

The cast of the drama is made up of people with history or experience with theater. The cast, crew and models include both faculty and current students.

The music will feature selections from classical and sacred pieces. Nolan said that songs such as Just as I Am with lyrics like “I come broken to be mended,” will further solidify the theme of the restorative power of Christ.

As far as the art is concerned, Living Gallery will, as usual, contain close recreations of biblical scenes from paintings and sculptures.

The works of art presented on stage each use several live actors to portray the subjects in the work; the “painting effect” is created with highly detailed makeup on each model.

The program presents an opportunity for BJU students and faculty from all departments to be involved in a BJU production since virtually everyone can be a model.

Drew Guthrie, a junior accounting major who has modeled in the past two Living Galleries said of his past experience, “For a split-second it really put me in that moment. . . the lighting, the music, all of those coming together; I really felt immersed in this painting that I was in.

In addition to these, this year’s Living Gallery will feature two pages of a gilded illuminated manuscript of the book of John.

All pieces are tied to the on-stage action of the drama. “We tried to make the artwork a natural extension of the drama,” Nolan said.

Nolan encourages students to view Living Gallery not simply as another Concert, Opera & Drama Series or interesting production, but as an opportunity to reach beyond themselves.

She said Living Gallery, often more than any other Concert, Opera & Drama Series, brings in thousands of visitors from the Greenville community and beyond.

“You may probably sit next to someone who would not normally come to a church service or a different event on campus were it not for this kind of ministry.,” Nolan said. “They won’t come to church, but they’ll come to see the drama.”

She said that as a university student, it is very likely you will be around people who are not from a Christian background.

She encourages students to get to know the people around them. “Oftentimes after the program they’re not sure how to respond,” Nolan said.

Living Gallery is BJU’s largest fine arts performance on the yearly schedule with roughly 15,000 audience members attending.

Multiple performances will be offered throughout the course of the week.