Rich Mullins Musical at Friends University

"Canticle of the Plains," Friends University Campus Ministry and Tapestry Performing Arts

Diane Samms Rush

October 11, 1997

The sacredness of life. The unique gifts of all creatures. The need to connect to God, the ground of all being.

These are some of the themes of "Canticle of the Plains," the musical left behind by Rich Mullins, contemporary Christian singer and Friends University graduate who died Sept. 19 in a car accident in Illinois.

In two weeks, his friends at Friends produced the play that he had seen only in rough form, bringing to life his story of St. Francis of Assisi set in 1880s Kansas.

In many ways, the story was autobiographical, the actor friends said, reflecting the theology of its author and calling to the fore some of his most fervent concerns about the church and the life of faith.

"Too many buildings and not enough churches," says Ms. Johnson, portrayed by Laketta Corner, early in the play. She had just explained that the burned-out church she was sweeping was where she worked as custodian but was not welcome as a worshiper.

"Sometimes God works through hurts, through wounds," is the message for Lefty, who lost an arm to a cougar. Lefty ponders whether his resistance to the cougar's nature was to blame for his loss.

As Franklin "Frank", the main character, portrayed by Kevin Brocksieck, takes his friends on a pilgrimage to a place between the four sacred mountains, we hear, in word and song, a theology of hope and gratitude, pulled through the struggle of faith.

Brocksieck stepped in for Mitchell McVicker, 24, a co-writer of the play and Mullins' companion in the fatal accident. McVicker suffered head injuries and was released from a Peoria, Ill., hospital only a few days ago.

It was clearly a labor of love for the 22 actors, singers and dancers who made sure that "Canticle" was staged on schedule.

Under the direction of Nicole-Capri Brocksieck, the production was smooth, well-paced and compelling.

The sparse sets gave the play an uncluttered feel, and the use of video and light images were exclamation marks for some of the more powerful lines.

Singing was superb, especially that by Corner, Robert Barnes as "Buzz" and Jared Brown as "Ivory."

Dancers in the background set a texture without drawing away from the actors downstage.

Mullins would have been proud of how his friends completed his work.

Additional performances are at 2 and 7:30 p.m. today at Alexander Auditorium, Whittier Fine Arts Building on the Friends University campus. Tickets range from $6 to $8; call 295-5746.

Copyright 1997 by The Wichita Eagle

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