‘Cotton Patch Gospel’ opens this week

Commentary by Cait Buckalew, Campus Carrier Entertainment Editor

The Berry College Theatre Company’s production of ‘Cotton Patch Gospel’ opens this Thursday. 

The play takes the “Cotton Patch” versions of the Gospel, written by Clarence Jordan and turns them into a more comedic performance of a story that is typically portrayed with a much more serious tone. 

“It’s about religion, but at the same time it doesn’t take religion too seriously,” junior cast member Taylor Moore said. “The writers of the play had a lot of fun with kind of making fun of certain stereotypes of religion…and make it comedic so a lot of people feel connected with it because it’s not this big serious show.” 

                                                                                     Jason Huynh, Photojournalism Editor
Junior Austin Hamilton and freshman Nicci Corley rehearse for opening night. 

Clarence wanted to make the scripture a more interactive for modern audiences. His goal was to provide an experience of the Gospel for modern audiences that felt more like what he believed early Christians would have had. 

The play, written by Tom Key and Russell Treyz, aims to make the story of Jesus more accessible to modern audiences. Key and Treyz took the ‘Cotton Patch’ translations of the Bible written by Clarence Jordan in the 1970s and made them into a blue-grass musical. 

The cast did a wonderful job of capturing that down-home bluegrass sound and spinning it to tell a story usually told with more classical music. There were a few out of tune moments here and there, but from the solos to the choral pieces, the music was catchy and enjoyable. 

The music combined with the staging, which was made entirely of rustic looking wood panels, to truly sell the old-timey Southern atmosphere of the show. 

The cast had great chemistry and played off of each other well. Their comedic timing was impeccable and kept the audience engaged and laughing throughout the show. The jokes and overall light tone of the show make it a much more entertaining telling of a story many people know, and makes it much more accessible to audience members who may be more closed off to the heavily religious tale. This is one of the things the shows director, Richard Bristow, Visiting Assistant Professor of Theatre, likes most about the show. 

“I fell in love with this show 30 years ago…I just love it because (Cotton Patch) makes it so relatable and accessible,” Bristow said. 

In addition to the cast playing well off of one another, it’s a very unique cast for this kind of show. Because it’s the story of Jesus, playgoers would expect a very male heavy cast, whereas this production is very female heavy. It makes for an interesting dynamic. None of the character’s pronouns have been changed, but many of the male roles have filled by women. Berry’s student demographics played a large part in the casting. 

“We have a love of females in the cast,” junior cast member Sophia Veser said. “That’s mainly because we’re really female heavy at this school.” 

Overall, the show succeeded in making an old story more relatable and it was moving in ways I hadn’t anticipated.  

The show opens Thursday at 7:30 p.m. Nightly performances will be held on Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 pm with Sunday matinees at 2pm from Feb. 19 to March 1.

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