by Brian Pearson '08
After acting in nine shows during college, I thought I’d seen my last of the Northwestern stage and would forever miss that elusive tenth show (my goal since freshman year). Then last spring Doc Rainbow asked me if I’d be interested in being part of Cotton Patch Gospel, a retelling of the Gospel set in modern-day Georgia, written by singer-songwriter Harry Chapin. You might say I was just a little bit excited.
Familiar yet different
Rehearsals were something special. Everyone was tuned in at a level I had never known. It was the kind of focus that comes with more than just experience. When we would practice together, it was like a worship service. I felt safe to sing my lungs out, knowing that there was no one to impress, no one to show up. I was free to simply worship God with my voice, to blend with the singers and the band. I was free to be creative, make goofy voices and sing with no holds barred. (Oh, I belt it out in the shower and I can put on a dramatic show for the mirror, but it is not often I am given this unique level of freedom.)
Highlights in the bright lights
I smile as I write, still wondering how I got to be in this show. I praise God for giving me the best seat in the house. I got to act alongside this cast—whom I love and highly admire—with this director, on this stage, for this audience’s experience. What a privilege to be a part of creatively sharing this story: the glory of this God, who loved the world and sent His Son that we may besaved and know Him for everlasting jubilation! (I literally pinched myself one night. Silly, I know, but I was just that jazzed!)
The real star of the show
Northwestern Theatre cultivates the kind of ethos that only comes when lovers of Jesus wholly dedicate themselves to making art. The hard work, words of encouragement, laughter, listening, willingness to put others first, helpful correction, sweet times of prayer together and dependence upon God and one another made it a refreshing part of my life—both as a student and now as an alum.
Cotton Patch reminded me of how very sweet it is to have the Holy Spirit in our lives right now! Just sitting there, pretending that I was really looking at Jesus, made my heart so excited for the reality that He really is with me! Jesus came—a real person—and He brings us real hope for eternal life with God! As good ol’ Brett Witter ’08, playing John the Baptizer said, “Can I get an Amen?”
Cotton Patch Gospel was the first ever Alumni Theatre Production for University of Northwestern. Directed by Professor Donald "Doc" Rainbow, the show's alumni cast featured Nathan Cousins ’08, Stephanie (Anderson ’08) Cousins, Mike Hadley ’02, Brian Pearson ’08, Stephanie (Zwald ’08) Wipf, and Brett Witter ’08. The bluegrass band also included Micah Patchin ’10 and Zak Stelter ’09. Lydia O'Brien served as stage manager and Michael Pearce Donley served as both cast member and musical director.