When Kern Clark was a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, she had worked on the production of “God’s Man in Texas.”
Now working at the Springer Opera House as the education coordinator, Clark recommended that David Rambo’s play be put on the schedule. She made the suggestion two years ago.
Earlier this year, the Springer board decided to take on not just “God’s Man in Texas,” but also Rambo’s “The Lady with All the Answers,” which is about newspaper advice columnist Ann Landers.
Clark is directing “God’s Man in Texas.”
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It opens tonight at Foley Hall in the Springer Opera House.
It stars just three actors — Casey Ross as Jeremiah Mears, Ray Paolino as Phillip Gottschall and Ben Reed as Hugo Taney.
In the play, Gottschall is the pastor of a huge mega-church in Houston, and at the eve of his retirement, several “replacement” pastors are brought in to audition for the job. Mears is one of the young preachers. Taney is Gottshall’s right-hand man.
Clark says it’s about the “graceful transition in positions of power.” But she says most of the time, the transitions are far from graceful.
“He’s trying to hold on to” his church and his position, Paolino said. Paolino received a Master of Fine Arts acting degree from the University of Georgia and is director of theater.
Ross said Gottschall finds out the hard way that finding a like-minded person to take over is not an easy task.
It’s all about the relationship between the two men, Paolino said.
“My character doesn’t have a son, and he’s lost his father,” Paolino said.
Reed said he plays one character, but that he has “many, many jobs. I’m his right-hand man; his go-fer, cheerleader and the eyes and ears on the campus.”
In the play, Rock Baptist Church, is the largest church in Texas.
Ross says it is not Gottschall’s “swan song.”
“It is about a transfer of power and succession,” Ross said. “It is about the three men. God is the setting, but it’s the relationship between the three men.”
Three men and a play
Because the play features just three actors, Ross said it is a challenge. Having performed in many musicals, he’s used to having lots of other actors around him.
Clark said there is no “bad” guy in the play.
In fact, Ross thinks many people in the audience will side with Paolino’s character. But ultimately, most will be on Hugo’s side; the guy in the middle of the power struggle.
“Being a performer in a play with three characters and two of them are ‘stars,’ I’m the guy in the background,” Reed said. “I’m watching the two stars to see how they collide.”
Gottschall lives in a limelight that is fading, and Mears is stepping into the light, Ross said.
Having to be the “man with all the answers” and the transfer of power can be linked to other jobs, he said. CEOs change jobs all the time and he thinks the situations are very similar for pastors moving from church to church, especially those who have been in the position a long time.
“These people are guilty of sins — pride, ego, lack of patience — the audience will relate to these people,” Paolino said. “They’ll see it in others and see it in themselves.”