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East Texas Baptist University Theatre students bring West of Eden to stage

February 22, 2023

The ETBU School of Communication and Performing Arts took the stage February 16-19 for its production of West of Eden, a pair of student-directed one-act plays.

“The University Interscholastic League (UIL) is a state-run organization that encompasses sports, speech and debate, writing, and fine arts. The festival is the most competitive and prestigious event for high school performers and technicians. Graduates from ETBU’s BSE program are expected to direct and produce UIL shows yearly,” explained Natalie Wilson, Assistant Professor of Theater Arts. “In simulating the UIL experience at ETBU, our student directors gain practical, hands-on experience with all facets of the competition, even down to using the UIL set pieces and lighting plot.”

ETBU junior Koby Hankins directed Elon Garonzik’s Scenes and Revelations, a story about four sisters at pivotal turning points in their lives navigating family, love, and death during American westward expansion.

“Both shows ended up being a massive success in their own ways,” said Hankins. “With Scenes and Revelations, it left the audience wanting to know more and told a wonderful story through such amazing actors. The Diary of Adam and Eve was something the audience could enjoy the entire time, and Amy Hobbs was the best choice for a director.” 

The performances allowed students to experience directing for the first time, and for some, the opportunity to make their debut in the spotlight. That was the case for ETBU senior Rachel House, who has served in backstage roles for ETBU Performing Arts. For Scenes and Revelations, House played the role of Helena Longnecker. 

“It was super cool to impact an audience through acting. I’ve never been able to do that. Acting, for me, is terrifying, but that’s because it’s honest. You are putting your heart out on stage and being empathetic to somebody else’s life and reflecting that in the spotlight,” said House. “Having the opportunity to do that in front of an audience and impact people is really cool. I had an amazing cast, and there was so much support from them.”

The Diary of Adam and Eve, by Mark Bucci and based on the famous works of Mark Twain, was directed by ETBU senior Amy Hobbs. A comedic look at the creation story, the one-act play allowed the audience to experience life through the eyes and diaries of Adam and Eve.

“As a theatre education major, I am learning so much from both my theatre classes and my education classes that will be useful for my future,” said Hobbs. “ETBU is preparing me for my career as a theatre teacher by equipping me with practical knowledge and hands-on experience. I just finished directing my first play, and I will be doing clinical teaching next spring. I love that I am doing things in college that will be essential in the real world.”

The performances allowed Hankins and Hobbs to take leadership roles as first-time directors and prepare them for their future in theatrical education.

“It has been such a gift to see Amy and Koby step into these leadership positions. Our entire theatre program rallied together to bring these shows to life, but what was even more special to me was watching both of our directors strive to glorify God through their shows,” said Wilson. “The way that they led their actors and the way that they crafted these stories was inspiring. I have no doubt that the two of them will succeed in whatever area the Lord calls them.”