A back room at North Carolina State University is the setting for the production “Church and State”, directed by Kyle Jeanor, senior major in communications and theater, which took place on December 3-4. . The play is written by actor and playwright Jason Odell Williams, and focuses on a Republican U.S. senator from North Carolina three days before his candidacy for re-election. The main focus is on a comment the senator made to a blogger questioning the relevance of God following a shooting at his children’s school, according to UIndy Events.
The show starred Randy Craig, a junior public health major, as Senator Charles Whitmore, the Conservative senator questioning his faith following the shooting at his children’s school. Sarah Whitmore, the devout Christian wife of Charles who is trying to point the senator towards the direction of faith he ran on in the previous election, was played by Audrey Panyard, theater and communications major, Kielynn Tally, played Alex Klein, the liberal The Senator’s Jewish campaign manager who is focused on his re-election after his comment was posted on Twitter.
According to Jeanor, the play discusses the connection between religion, gun violence and politics and what should and should not be said. The play begins with Senator Whitmore telling his wife and campaign manager about a comment he made to a blogger during the funeral of the victims of his children’s school shooting that killed 29 people.
âIt’s kind of a back-and-forth show about what he should say during the speech three days before he’s elected. And finally, there it goes, âJeanor said. “… He tears up the original prepared statement, he gives a very passionate speech about what he thinks should happen.” And the people of North Carolina re-elected him, which is really fantastic.
According to Craig, Jeanor had chosen the play for her main project and had the actors read other options beforehand before everyone landed on “Church and State”. Craig said his character creates a kind of love-hate dynamic with audiences, with Whitmore displaying the qualities of a good person and at times creating frustration with his actions.
âIt’s kind of like you love to hate him, but you hate to love him that sort of thing, because he’s so complex,â Craig said. “But overall, I think Charles has a good heart and is a good person no matter what reporters say on Twitter.”
Tally said that early in the production process, the playwright’s goal was mentioned for the show. Playwrights often write shows to be relevant forever, she said. However, Williams wrote that the play would someday become irrelevant in hopes that society would thrive after the school shootings, according to Tally.
âI think that was one of the most important factors in choosing this piece, which was a good awareness for me. Being able to notice in my mind that this shouldn’t be normal, âTally said. âIt shouldn’t be something we have to deal with every day. Just seeing the shooting in Michigan and saying “another one” to yourself shouldn’t be the reaction we have. So this piece kind of touches on that and how we shouldn’t be so numb to it all because of how often it happens.
According to Jeanor, the show ends with the senator being shot after his re-election when giving his acceptance speech. This leads his wife to assume her post and get elected as a Senator, where a proposed gun control amendment is introduced in Congress called the Whitmore Amendment. At the end of the show, with the vote playing in the background, the Senator is pictured delivering his speech that earned him his re-election.
Jeanor said he dedicated this production to two students in particular; Nick Dworet, who pledged to swim at UIndy with the freshman class of 2022 and died in the Parkland mass shooting, and Koebe Clopton, a UIndy student who died from gun violence earlier this year. According to the program, the play was also dedicated to gun violence victims from Virginia Tech, Tucson, Newtown, Columbine, Aurora, Charleston, Orlando, Las Vegas, Sutherland Springs, Parkland and those who suffer unnamed every day. Whitmore’s speech in the room included the names of the schools listed in the dedication of the program.
âI think it’s very important that we remember when you look at this fictional senator, the wife of this fictional senator, to remind ourselves that this is something that happens in our lives,â Jeanor said. “And that was kind of I think, the reminder for me, if I ever wondered what I was doing, I was just thinking of them.”