CCU's World Premiere Production of "I, Witness" a Resounding Success

  • I, Witness Passion Play
April 2011 -- What do smelly fishermen, blazing zealots, and a despised tax collector have in common? The power to share the gospel! Last weekend, the world premiere production of C. McNair Wilson's play I, Witness set Colorado Christian University's campus abuzz with excitement. More than 65 cast members put on six performances over the weekend of April 7-10, proving a near sell-out success with 2,600 tickets sold.

The play, based on the Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins book The Jesus Chronicles: Matthew's Story, kept the audience on the edge of their seats with snapshots of Jesus' ministry from the view of one of the most unlikely disciples -- the tax collector Matthew, called Levi. I, Witness explored the personal, spontaneous moments between Jesus and his disciples.

Most unique about the play, however, was how it provided a fresh treatment of a subject that risks staleness because of its ubiquity. Cast member Amanda Lay shared concerns she had at the beginning of production: "One of my initial worries about this show was that I would get used to the story, and it wouldn't mean as much -- hearing it told so many times." But C. McNair Wilson's quick-witted writing was brought to vibrant life by director Sanne McCarthy, Associate Professor of Theatre at CCU's School of Music, and it wowed the crowd.

"As Christians, we can become so familiar with the story of Jesus that we forget its power," commented Marie Campbell, CCU student playing Mary, the mother of Jesus. "I, Witness reminded me that these people really lived, laughed, and suffered. They had personalities... and water fights."

But the show not only provided the audience with a fresh perspective on Jesus' ministry and relationships; cast and faculty members alike stressed how the show had changed them. "This show brought parts of God's character and story alive for me like never before," said Nicole Vamvakas, the actress who played Mary Magdalene. "My role allowed me to experience the agony of watching my close friend be killed, as well as the absolute joy of finding out He is alive. Feeling those contrasting emotions has deepened the significance of both the sacrifice of the cross and the glory of the resurrection."

Taking the role of Jesus was CCU alum Jonathan Keller, who shared an intense moment of his struggle to portray the Son of God on earth. "In that moment of realization, God showed me that the life of a Christian was nothing if it wasn't in many ways 'playing' Jesus -- in the sense of learning how to think like Him and being a demonstration of Him for the world."

The audience was challenged to be just that -- demonstrations of God -- as in the final moments of the show Matthew (played by David Hein) asked the audience: "You are all eye witnesses .... What will you do?"

Marielle Gurule, customer service specialist at CCU who portrayed the head of Matthew's household, summed her I, Witness experience: "We laughed together, prayed together, struggled together, and together we were able to put forth a production that pointed others to Jesus."

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