It isn’t often that a play centers on the question “What if God was one of us?” However, Tyler Dean — School of Music, Theatre & Dance sophomore and playwright — brought this idea to fruition in his play, “From Such Great Heights.” Dean places God, named Jamie, as a child who grows up in contemporary society and eventually goes off to college where he meets and falls in love with an atheist.
From Such Great Heights
Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. and Friday at 11 p.m.
Walgreen Drama Center
How does one go about casting God?
“It was very difficult,” said School of MT&D junior and director Elisabeth Frankel. “The character is written very specifically — shy and introverted, nerdy sense of humor. We didn’t have to cast someone that looks like Hercules or has the leadership abilities of Moses, you know? We wanted to cast someone who looks normal, and then you look closer and he is kind of extraordinary.”
School of MT&D sophomore Austin Andres fit the part.
The show asks existentialist questions of its audience and adds a twist to standard religious concepts. For example, the reason some prayers go unanswered is because Jamie feels as if he’s intruding on people’s thoughts.
“He actually thinks he is going nuts because he can hear everyone praying to him,” Frankel said.
Frankel called the concept “striking” and “severe,” but hopes that the touchy subject matter won’t offend any audience members.
“The show certainly gives an image of God that people won’t be very used to, but Austin handles that aspect with such respect and likability,” she said.
Though the subject matter is more serious and dramatic, the show plays up the humorous aspects of being God, showing Andres developing a God complex.
Frankel spent the first two days of rehearsals talking through Dean’s concepts and discussing how these concepts made the cast feel. At 16 people, the cast is larger than the average Basement cast, so managing them on a stage the size of Walgreen’s was a challenge for Frankel.
“Everyone gets along so well, and the rehearsal process is so liberating,” she said. “We’re always laughing and having a great time.”
Dean has put a lot of faith in Frankel to help his vision come to fruition. He is currently a lead in “A Midsummer’s Night Dream,” and Frankel said he had the tendency to take a break from his rehearsal to check in on the cast.
“We love that he is so involved in so many other projects and trusted us with his work,” Frankel said.
More than anything, Frankel is excited to present this piece of work to audiences and showcase Dean’s writing skills.
“There are no walls to his imagination,” Frankel said. “It is just infinite.”