The world premiere of Terror Texts, from the Old Testament, will take the stage in Northwestern College’s England Theatre on Feb. 15, 16, 20, 21 and 23. Curtain time for the original production, adapted and directed by Northwestern professor Jeff Barker, is 7:30 p.m. There is also a 2 p.m. matinee on Saturday, Feb. 23.
"Terror Texts,” an original musical featuring stories taken verbatim from the Old Testament, will be presented at Northwestern College Feb. 15, 16, 20, 21 and 23.
Sweeney Todd has nothing on this new musical. A line in the opening song, “Our story here begins with blood and ends with even more,” introduces six Old Testament stories of misogyny, murder and mayhem that rarely are taught in Sunday school or preached from the pulpit.
Why these stories? Barker, who has been exploring Old Testament stories as plays, says, “I suppose I created this musical because I got cheated in Sunday school. Teachers told me they revered the Bible, but they didn’t teach me all of it.
“Once I read it myself, I felt ripped off. If the Bible is truly a text worthy of our attention—and I believe it is—why not take time to discover all of it? And why not do that together, in a public setting like the theatre?”
Dr. Tom Boogaart, professor at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Mich., who has been working with Barker on adapting ancient Israelite dramas from the Old Testament, will be at Northwestern during the show’s opening weekend. After the musical, audience members are invited to stay while Boogaart comments and answers questions.
The script for Terror Texts was taken verbatim from the King James version of the Old Testament. Audience members who want a preview of the action can read II Kings 6:24-7:20, II Kings 2:23-25, II Samuel 6:1-23, Judges 3:12-30, Joshua 7:2-26, and Judges chapters 19 to 21.
“It’s difficult to understand where these stories fit within the gospel’s message,” says Barker, “especially when a person is reading them. It’s a different effect when you see the stories enacted,” he adds, explaining that while reading the stories can leave one feeling repulsed and confused, seeing the stories of injustice, mistreatment and deep human suffering might foster empathy.
“Once we’ve looked at human suffering that closely, it has the potential to change the way we relate to others. Our lives might be lived with greater humility, care and gratitude,” says Barker.
Musical styles for the production include traditional choir music, jazz, ballads and industrial rock. The original arrangements and compositions are by Joseph Barker, formerly of Orange City, and Heather Josselyn-Cranson, a Northwestern music professor. At the end of Act 1, audience members in the front rows will be invited to a mosh pit onstage. Would-be moshers should request front-row seats when they reserve their tickets.
Tickets for Terror Texts are $5. The DeWitt Theatre box office opens Feb. 4 for Theatre Patrons; it is open Feb. 5 to 23 for the general public.
Tickets can be purchased by visiting the box office between 4 and 9 p.m. Monday through Friday or between noon and 5 p.m. on Saturday. The box office can also be reached by phone, 712-707-7098, or e-mail, email@example.com.