Bob Jones University’s theatre department will perform Alas (And Other Remedies) from April 25-29 in Performance Hall for their final production of the semester.
Alas differs from other University performances with only five cast members and a colloquial dialogue. Written by BJU alumnus and former faculty member David Schwingle, this play displays the progression of a family searching for peace after experiencing deep tragedy.
Erin Naler, head of the theatre department, said she considers producing plays like Alas to be relevant to today’s culture.
“‘Alas is not as well-known,” Naler said. “It’s a new play, and new plays are important because they typically deal with contemporary issues. This play is about family trauma, and I think it’s something that a lot of people will see themselves in.”
The family members experience a glimpse of hope toward the end of the play, however, revealing to the audience the author’s intended theme: “Forgiveness means eating the knife.”
Senior theatre major Katelin Orr enjoys playing Lizzy in Alas finding it easy to relate to some of the struggles the family in the play experiences. “[Alas] is very personal for me,” Orr said. “It has turned out to be a very cathartic experience, and I am glad to have a safe environment to explore emotions I had not explored until this point in my life. So I think it’s a really important story.”
This catharsis, Naler said, describes the release of emotion the audience also experiences during a theatre performance, and Alas stimulates these feelings in a very direct way.
Though this play features few cast members, women act in many of the roles. This aspect of Alas is noteworthy, Naler said, since men usually appear take up the majority of the cast. “We have a lot of women theatre majors in our department, so we’re always looking for scripts that have really compelling female roles,” Naler said. “It’s always good for us to have access to a playwright who writes interesting female characters.”
Working with a small cast and a large, conversational script presents a challenge to everyone involved in the production. Naturalism, a tactic used in theatre to create an illusion of everyday reality, appears in the play’s family setting and influences the flow of the performance.
“The text is really challenging,” Naler said. “[For example], Shakespeare is well–versed, has rhythm and has a pulsating drive, making memorization really easy. But when you’re working with naturalism, that is, the way we talk everyday, it’s hard to memorize.”
Sarah Estelle, a BJU Press Digital staff member, decided in February 2021 thatshe wanted to start taking theatre classes and was scheduled to perform in Alas as she works on prerequisites for a master’s degree in theatre, but Estelle will be unable to perform in Alas due to unforeseen medical issues. Karie Jensen, a senior theatre major, will serve as her replacement.
However, Estelle is still invested in the play, which she believes will be very applicable for those who attend. “It’s a very intense play in an intimate setting,” Estelle said. “Relationships are the things that we’re talking through, and I think a lot of people will be able to relate to that.”
Alas communicates the importance of forgiveness within relationships, according to Naler. “Most of us have dysfunction in our homes, but this play shows that there is hope even in the midst of suffering,” she said. “That is what theatre does for us. It reflects those feelings back to us.”
Estelle agrees and notes that this play reveals a bigger picture of how we are to handle relationships. “I’m hoping that [guests] will see how broken we are, but also how Christ offers forgiveness to us no matter what we do,” Estelle said. “He loves us through our simpleness.”