MARSHALL - Sixteen seventh- and eighth-grade students at Marshall Area Christian School have been working hard together for the past few months in order to present the 11th annual dinner theater today and Friday.
This year's play is called "The Gatekeepers" and is about a group of end-time disciples and their mission to bring people to "the Gate" and to freedom from the evil "World Kingdom."
"The group called the Gatekeepers, who are Christians, are trying to convince members of society, called the World Kingdom, which is a one-world system, to give up their loyalty to World Kingdom and give their loyalty to the Everlasting Kingdom," said director Russ Oglesby, MACS principal and junior high teacher. "Everyone in the World Kingdom wears a debt collar. The idea is that everyone in World Kingdom is controlled by their debt. They think if they work hard enough, they can get out of debt."
Photo by Jenny Kirk
In preparation of the Marshall Area Christian School’s 11th annual dinner theater today and Friday, seventh- and eighth-grade students, including Olivia Knochenmus, left, Amy Harrison and Claire Boersma, rehearse the scenes in the play “The Gatekeepers.”
The followers (Gatekeepers) are played by Amy Harrison (Sarah), Jett Skrien (Paul), Theresa Hanson (Sami), Jasmine McDonald (Nicole) and Claire Boersma (Lindsay).
"I think it is a great play, for maybe a futuristic look that in the future this might be how it is, that Jesus would return and all who aren't saved, of course, would not go to heaven," Skrien said. "All who are saved then, go to heaven and live eternally with Jesus."
Olivia Knochenmus portrays Natalie, a curious high school student who is considering joining the followers.
"I heard that the gate will be closing soon," Knochenmus said during rehearsal Monday.
With her family in mind, Knochenmus goes on to question what will happen to the people who don't make it through the gate. Johanna Christensen portrays Natalie's mom, who is strongly opposed to the Gatekeepers, while Josh Gross plays Ricky, who is caught in between.
"Just make sure you're not one of those people," Harrison said.
Harrison also revealed what was waiting ahead for those who entered the gate.
"The True King will be more than your provider," she said. "He'll be your friend, your strength and your shield."
Oglesby pointed out that students began the preparation for the play many months ago.
"First, each of the students wrote a short story," he said. "Then we chose one of the short stories to use for the play. The whole class took parts of the story and scripted it as a play. After that, we edited it. One of our helpers, Ted Stamp, edited the play and kind of added little parts here and there to tie it together."
Then auditions took place and rehearsals began.
"The writing process was really good because we all broke into small groups and went over the lines with our small groups," Skrien said. "We learned pretty much all the cues individually, so that was good. For me, the cues are the most difficult, remembering when to come on stage because I have quite a few, and it's sometimes hard to remember which scene is which."
William Metheny, who is cast as a vendor in the play, agreed with Skrien.
"It's hard remembering when to come off and on stage and remembering the lines in their sequence," Metheny said. "The biggest challenge for me, though, is to stay in character the whole time and not get distracted with the little things."
For the most part, Metheny said, the play is ready to be presented to the rest of the MACS students and the community.
"I think the play has been going really good," he said. "I think it portrays a really good message about the future and what kind of distress the world is in now."
Oglesby expressed appreciation toward MACS teacher Angie Kesteloot, for working with the kids to develop the set, and the Marshall Area Stage Company for assisting with the flats for the scenery. Oglesby said the students also helped with costume design and makeup concepts.
"There's a contrast," he said. "The Gatekeepers are in bright colors, and those in the World Kingdom wear dull colors, like gray and black. The kids submitted ideas for the Gatekeepers and for individual characters."
Aaron Moat portrays a policeman, while Lee Anderson is cast as the False Prophet. World Kingdom society members include Hannah Meier and Marah Hart (scoffers) and Jonah Bader and Jacob Graupmann (mockers). Mary Sundquist portrays an elderly woman and is in charge of the lights. Hart also assists with the lighting.
"Those with smaller parts will help usher and with lights," Oglesby said. "This is the first play, I think, that we needed everybody, and some had to double up. We have lots of characters. We had to consolidate some of them into a single character."
Beginning at 6 p.m. today and Friday, the seventh- and eighth-grade students will serve chicken breasts, baked potatoes, green beans, salads and desserts to those in attendance, followed by the presentation of the play at 7:30 p.m.
"The students prepare the meal as well as serve it," Oglesby said. "Some of their parents also help in the kitchen with dishing the food up."
Looking at the ticket sales early this week, Oglesby said he believes the play will sell out.
"We can only handle about 120, and we're real close to that for both nights," he said. "They can just come to the play, too, and we've sold 40 tickets for just the play, besides the dinner."
Proceeds for the event are used to support MACS Compassion International Child as well as youth mission trips. For the past three years or so, a donation has also been made to Food for Kids, which the students also provide hands-on help.