Rosedale Bible College presents ‘Cotton Patch Gospel’

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Rosedale Bible College’s production of “Cotton Patch Gospel” sets the story of Jesus in rural Georgia. Here, Elliot Miller (left), playing the role of Jesus, cheerfully explains his lack of income to William Brimmer, playing Matthew, an IRS agent who is not amused.

(Posted Nov. 5, 2019)

Jesus and his disciples will appear onstage in Rosedale Bible College’s (RBC) production of “Cotton Patch Gospel” Nov. 15-17, wearing denim and flannel and speaking with Southern accents.

The play sets the story of Jesus in rural Georgia and incorporates music with a deeply Southern flavor to give audiences a fresh take on a well-known story. It is based on Clarence Jordan’s book, “The Cotton Patch Version of Matthew and John,” and was written by Tom Key and Russell Treyz, with music and lyrics by Harry Chapin.

“Cotton Patch Gospel” stays close to the account in Matthew, even as it adapts it to a sharecropper setting. John the Baptizer dips people in the Chattahoochee River, not the Jordan. When Joe Davidson (Joseph) finds out his fiancée, Mary, is pregnant, he worries and wonders about how he’ll “get his football jacket back from her.”

After Jesus resists Satan’s temptations three times, the angels minister to him “with a sack of chili cheese dogs.”

Director Christa J. Wolf, who teaches drama at RBC, said, “I’ve been wanting to direct this musical for quite some time. I first saw it staged when I was 15.”

The play requires a lot of depth, especially among the male actors who carry the weight of the solos. When Wolf looked at the men who performed in last year’s show and got an idea of some incoming students, she was confident this was the year to bring out “Cotton Patch Gospel.”

“I have not been disappointed!” she said. “The vocal talent this year among the student body, male and female, is remarkable.”

Wolf and Ken Miller, the musical director, have adapted the musical to accommodate a cast of 18 males and females, all playing multiple roles and singing from scores that are not always in the easiest vocal range.

The band includes an upright bass, mandolin, banjo, fiddle and two guitars.

Wolf has directed 29 full-length productions and most recently appeared as Queen Gertrude in Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” at Piatt Mac-A-cheek Castle in West Liberty in 2018. This summer she was commissioned to write and direct an original play to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Sonnenberg-Kidron community in Wayne County, Ohio.

Performances of “Cotton Patch Gosepl” are at 7 p.m. Nov. 15-16 and at 2 p.m. Nov. 17. For the evening performances, tickets are $8 for adults, $5 for students and senior citizens (65 and older), and $22 for a family (one household). For the matinee performances, tickets are $5 for adults, $3 for students and senior citizens, and $11 for a family. Tickets can be purchased at https://rosedale.edu/forms/drama/tickets.php, by phone, or at the door, if still available. Visit rosedale.edu or call (740) 857-1311, ext. 119, for more information.

Rosedale Bible College, an evangelical Mennonite two-year college, is located at 2270 Rosedale Rd., Irwin.

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