BY SOPHIE BIRD
Although Jason Odell Williams’ 2017 play Church & State is a comedy, its message addresses the timely issues of gun control, religion, and the influence of social media on politics. Church & State will be presented by the Jewish Theatre of Bloomington at the Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center in May.
The show follows the re-election campaign of fictional North Carolina Senator Charles Whitmore. His conservative political platform, particularly his stance on gun control, is challenged after a shooting at his children’s school. In the aftermath of the tragedy, Whitmore is faced with serious decisions about his personal beliefs, campaign platform, and future in politics.
“The play makes the point that there is, or should be, a place in our national politics for individuals to take a stand for what they believe, whether it toes their party line or not,” Liam Castellan, the play’s director, says. “That loyalty to your own values has a cost, but so does the alternative.”
The show is impressive because of the well-written script, its delivery, and humor, says producing artistic director Audrey Heller.
“I was particularly struck by how adept Williams is at presenting serious, thought-provoking topics insightfully and without a heavy hand,” she says.
The other main characters in the play are Sara Whitmore, the senator’s wife, and Alex Klein, his liberal, female campaign manager. “These are characters that we end up rooting for as they make tough decisions,” Castellan says.
In addition to Castellan, the creative team includes sound designer Macy Kloville, lighting designer Tony Stoeri, and stage manager and managing director Cassie Hakken. All are students with IU Theatre.
Castellan hopes audiences will feel a call to action after seeing Church & State.
“I hope they look at our actual politicians and compare them to the characters they got to know onstage,” he says. “I also hope some of them get more involved. Theater can contribute to the conversation, but plays rarely create change on their own.”
Tickets for Church & State are available at jewishtheatrebloomington.com.