For those who’ve asked, “What Would Lloyd Do?”, some possible answers to this not-so-rhetorical question are provided in a new play with music written by and starring Ted Swartz and Trent Wagler, that will premiere at Eastern Mennonite University’s fall homecoming and parents weekend.
In the two-act, 90-minute play, a struggling inner-city church recruits a new pastor, Mike (Swartz), and music director, Jeff (Wagler). Coming from different generations, the two discover conflict and commonality – well, some commonality.
As their relationship grows, they wrestle with issues of doubt, disappointment and hope. On top of all this, they take over a tired radio show that must be broadcast each Sunday morning.
The cast includes special guest artist Jay Lapp from Goshen, Ind., and Wagler’s band, The Steel Wheels, along with local acappella groups Shekinah and Sons of the Day.
“The play has great original music and lots of humor as it examines important themes for life and the church,” Swartz noted. The director is Ingrid De Sanctis, who has worked previously with Swartz and the late Lee Eshleman (Ted & Lee). She has rejoined the theater department at EMU and also teaches part time at James Madison University.
Swartz has been experimenting with the intersection of humor and faith ever since his seminary days – when he thought his search would lead to a pastorate. Instead, his journey led him to creating and performing dramatic plays that tell the biblical story for more than one quarter million people across the U.S. and into Canada, Kenya and Japan. The first 20 years of this work included the creation of Ted & Lee TheaterWorks with Lee Eshleman and development of plays such as “Armadillo Shorts,” “Fish-Eyes,” “Creation Chronicles,” “Live at Jacob’s Ladder” and “DoveTale” (with Ingrid De Sanctis).
De Sanctis is a freelance director, actor and playwright. She spent four years as an associate director of drama at Willow Creek Community Church, creating, performing and directing. In 2006-07, she served with AmeriCorps in Apopka, Fla., using the arts to empower young Hispanic students and their families. De Sanctis has created edgy, challenging plays on such topics as refugees in the Balkans (“Torba”), survivors of violent crime (“A Body in Motion”) and stories of faith created with inner-city youth (“WhaChaGonnaDu?”).
Wagler, a freelance actor and musician, has recorded three full-length albums and a DVD and has toured extensively with his band, Trent Wagler and the Steel Wheels or in duo performances with Jay Lapp. His studies in theater and justice, peace and conflict studies took him to Palestine where he taught English, theater and music in a secondary school in the Gaza Strip. Wagler currently works at a Sexual Assault Crisis Center in Harrisonburg, where he integrates theater and music into the education and prevention programming of The Collins Center.
Swartz, Wagler and De Sanctis are all theater graduates of EMU.
“What Would Lloyd Do?” will be presented 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Oct. 10-11, in EMU’s Lehman Auditorium. Persons do not have to attend homecoming weekend activities to see the play.
Tickets are $7.50 for adults and $5 for students and are available in advance at Red Front Super Market and at the door.