Theatre Arts students at State Fair Community College will present the two-act play “The Diviners” next week.
Information provided by SFCC states the play was written by Jim Leonard Jr. and produced in 1980. The play is described as “a luminous story of religion and magic, faith and doubt, love and grief.” It is rated PG13 for mature themes and mild language.
SFCC Technical Director and instructor Tim Wells is directing the play. Wells said “The Diviners” takes place during the Great Depression and is about the young character Buddy, who is troubled. Buddy forms a friendship with C.C. Showers, a “disenchanted” preacher who tries to help him overcome fear.
“When he was 2 or 3 years old, he fell into the river and he almost drowned,” Wells said of Buddy. “His mother saved him, literally at the last moment but in the process, she dies.”
Due to nearly drowning, Buddy suffered brain damage and developed a phobia of water. Throughout his young life, he wouldn’t bathe or go near water. Although the town’s folk look out for Buddy they don’t help him overcome his fear.
A former preacher, C.C. Showers comes to town and begins working for Buddy’s dad. Showers becomes friends with Buddy and soon tries to help him overcome his fear of water.
“(C.C. Showers) really works to get him into the river and get him cleaned up,” Wells noted. “There’s actually a eulogy at the beginning, you see Buddy dies in the end. So, at the very beginning, they tell you he dies. But you don’t know how.”
Wells said the show is compelling, but it also includes lighter moments provided by the character of Buddy.
Josh Barner, of Lee’s Summit, plays Buddy, Ben Brewer, of Strafford, plays C.C. Showers, and Holden Childress, of Urbana, plays Basil Bennet. All three students spoke to the Democrat Thursday about their roles.
“I think so far in my whole acting career, this is probably like the hardest role I’ve ever had,” Barner said. “Making it be more realistic and more believable, it’s been a process.”
Brewer added the play is very challenging.
“It’s a pretty tough script to tackle,” he noted. “It’s not like a role I’ve ever played before. (C.C. Showers), he came from a family of preachers. He was raised to be a preacher then he decides that’s not his calling.
“And, he sort of finds a new calling through Buddy,” he continued. “Then it’s definitely a huge conflict to get Buddy in the water.”
Childress said his character Basil is a local farmer who is also somewhat like a doctor.
“He’s able to give medical advice to everybody,” he said. “And he really cares about helping everybody around the town.”
Basil tries to give Buddy’s father advice on keeping him clean and is there to be a “helping hand with Buddy and his family.”
“The story of the play is really challenging to tell,” Childress added. “It poses a lot of challenges for all of us. But just seeing the way that everybody just jumps right into their characters and seeing the growth in everybody throughout this entire process … has been really big.”
He added due to students diving into their roles, the audience will believe the characters are factual.
“Especially given this small town setting during the Great Depression,” Childress said. “You would just look at these people and believe these people are real.”
Wells noted rehearsals for the show are going well.
“I think we have a really good cast,” he added. “These kids are really talented and they work real hard. It’s a really powerful show, a really good show.”
Regular performances of “The Diviners” will be at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 27-29 and March 6-7 at SFCC. A matinée will be presented at 2 p.m. March 8. Admission for the Feb. 27 performance is a donation and thereafter is $8 per person. Tickets are $18 for the March 7 dinner theatre in the Yeater lobby; dinner begins at 6:30 p.m. The dinner theatre menu is available by calling the Box Office at 660-530-5814 from noon to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Anyone 60 or older may reserve free tickets for the matinée.