Living Gallery reflects original production during 25th anniversary

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Living Gallery reflects original production during 25th anniversary

The final work of art portrayed at Living Gallery was The Ascension by Benjamin West, P.RA., an oil painting that hangs in BJU’s War Memorial Chapel.
Photo: Jordyn Britton

Bob Jones University’s Living Gallery production celebrated its 25th anniversary on April 14-16 with throwbacks to its first production in 1998.

The play accompanying the works of art told the story of Jesus’ followers after his crucifixion.
Photo: Jordyn Britton

Jeff Stegall, an associate professor in the theatre arts department and the director of this year’s Living Gallery, said that the production’s theme was the power of the cross. “This year’s program looks back on some of the earlier works of art used in Living Gallery,” Stegall said. He also said that of the 11 works of art that were displayed during the production, four were newer pieces and the other seven were the originals that were displayed at the first Living Gallery production. Including this production, Stegall has now directed seven of the 25 Living Gallery productions at BJU.

Stegall said that when choosing which works of art to use in a Living Gallery production, he works with the music director and dramatist to choose artwork that make the audience think. “I look for pieces of art that lead the audience to think about what they have seen in the play scenes,” Stegall said.

Dr. Kenneth Renfrow, the program director of piano pedagogy, was the music director for this production. Renfrow produces recordings and oversaw some of the music recording aspects of the production himself. He said he actually mixed some of the music in the Rodeheaver building.

Renfrow said he spent significant time reading through the drama and looking at the paintings, as well as reading through the biblical accounts they reference to help him choose fitting music to use. “We’re doing new things to raise the bar, as well as old things in memoriam,” he said.

John, played by Nathan Ball; Cleopas, played by David Burke and Marcus, played by Jonathan Swaffer, listen to a reminder to cling to Jesus’ teachings from Mary Magdelene, portrayed by Arianna Gardner.
Photo: Jordyn Britton

This year’s playwright was also involved with the history of Living Gallery. “When I realized that this was a big anniversary year, I asked the playwright for the inaugural production, Dr. David Burke, a BJU alumnus and former faculty member, to take the first play and reimagine it for a current audience,” Stegall said. Burke wrote some new scenes, rearranged existing scenes and focused on some new ideas for this year’s production. As well as reimagining the drama, Burke also played the part of Cleopas in the production. Burke also participated in the first Living Gallery, originating the role of John, the disciple.

Timothy Hulbert, a sophomore theatre major playing the role of James, the brother of John, said that as someone who has only participated in Living Gallery as a model and not as a viewer, he can only imagine the conviction and beauty of the show from the perspective of the audience. Hulbert said he is glad Living Gallery takes place at BJU each year because it is familiar yet also different each year. “It’s Bible-centered, which is something really powerful,” Hulbert said.

Renfrow also commented on the impact of Living Gallery. “More people come to Living Gallery than to any other production we do,” Renfrow said. “This allows us to get the Gospel out into the community.” Living Gallery continues to draw crowds and share the Gospel through each performance.