OBU Theatre to Stage “Eleemosynary” April 27-30

April 12, 2017

OBU Theatre is proud to present Lee Blessing’s “Eleemosynary,” the final installment of the 2016-2017 Theatre Season, “A Season for All.” The play will open Thursday, April 27, at 7:30 p.m. The production will continue through April 30, with evening performances April 28 and 29 at 7:30 p.m. and matinees April 29 and 30 at 2:30 p.m. Performances will take place at Craig-Dorland Theatre inside Shawnee Hall on the OBU campus in Shawnee.

Thursday, April 27, is OBU Student Night, when all current OBU students are buy-one-get-one free. The following performance, on Friday, April 28, is Ladies' Night. Any woman bringing a friend may also buy-one-get-one-free on admission.

Tickets are $11 for adults and $5 for students. Tickets may be purchased online or by phone at (405) 585-4350. Tickets for the buy-one-get-one free promotions may not be purchased online and must be purchased by phone, in person at Sarkeys main office, or at the door the day of the show. It is recommended to arrive early, as seating is limited.

“Eleemosynary” is a play about three women in the Westbrook matriarchy – Echo, Artie and Dorothea – and how they have impacted each other’s lives, for better and for worse. Through narration and flashbacks, these women take the audience on a 27-year journey of pain, loss, identity and love.

Senior theatre major Conner Gilbert is directing the play as his senior capstone presentation.

“It's a story about three women on a quest for identity and fulfillment,” he said. “It's a story about mothers and daughters living their desires while being bound within expectations. It's a story about loving one another despite pain they've experienced. While the struggles and journeys these women undergo may seem to be unique to women, they stretch beyond the bounds of gender and speak to that great universal human need for family. Audiences will empathize as they, too, follow the journeys of the Westbrook women.”

Gilbert chose the play as his final project because he desired to incorporate a heavily female-influenced play into OBU Theatre’s repertoire.

“I started off looking for shows that had more women characters in it because the OBU Theatre department has more women than men, and so many plays have multiple well-written male roles while the female roles were few,” he said. “I read a couple of women-heavy plays, but all their messages paled to ‘Eleemosynary's’ message of love and identity. The characters struggle to find identity within their family and love each other despite the pain they've been through. These struggles are challenges, for both the actors and for me as the director, to portray honestly and realistically. These challenges are great opportunities for growth, which is what college is all about.”

Gilbert hopes the audience walks away feeling connected to the characters in the play.

“I hope the audience will find empathy for these characters, that in some way or another, they will relate to moments of all three women. Overall, this is a play about finding your identity and struggling to overcome the painful times of life in the hopes of finding happiness and love. That is a journey that I feel everyone is on, and it is universal.”

The three women will be portrayed in two aspects, past and present. Junior theatre major Elizabeth Grimes, from Midwest City, Oklahoma, will portray Present Echo, while Tori Smith, junior theatre major from Poteau, Oklahoma, will portray Past Echo. Present and Past Artie will be played by junior theatre major Brenna Bergeron, from Goddard, Kansas, and freshman theatre major, Kira Bridges, from Oklahoma City. Taylor Lasseigne, senior theatre major from Dallas, Texas, will portray Present Dorothea, and Cherish Parker, senior theatre major from Tahlequah, Oklahoma, will portray Past Dorothea.

Gilbert researched the word “eleemosynary,” which means “charity,” in order to truly grasp and portray the entire meaning behind the play.

“When I first read the play, I didn't get a sense that these women were being charitable to one another. It was strange for me to think of using the term ‘charity’ with family. Then, I did some research and many Christian scholars have found that the word ‘charity’ is interchangeable with ‘love.’ The reason being, both are derivatives of the word ‘agape,’ which is the love that man has for God and vice versa. In today's society, we have given a broader meaning to the term ‘love’ than the Greek language did, which is why to me ‘Eleemosynary’ translates to love.”

Gilbert continued, “A line from the show talking about the Westbrook women says, ‘We're all three of us, in our own way, completely...Eleemosynary.’ I like to think that means they’re all about love. Love for themselves, love for each other and love for family. Through all the good and bad times, the love these three women have for each other surpasses everything else."