Eli Kamplain has always wanted to be like Jesus, but on March 5 he will have to “become” Jesus.
Kamplain, a freshman mass communication major from Nampa, has been cast as the lead role in Northwest Nazarene University’s annual spring musical, Godspell: Jesus Christ.
“At first I thought it was really weird to hear people call me ‘Lord’ and ‘Savior’ on stage,” said Kamplain.
Although his divinity is still in doubt, Kamplain noticed a change in the way he does everyday tasks.
“If I am supposed to portray Jesus on stage, I am trying to be more like him off the stage,” commented Kamplain.
In reminiscing about his history as an actor, Kamplain noted that the very first role he ever played was the boy Jesus. Now, however, his role will be much more meaningful.
While developing previous characters, Kamplain has often relied on experiences or has watched other people to inform his attitude and delivery of lines. This time, however, experience would not suffice and as much as there are people with Christ-like attitudes around him, they all seemed to fall short of achieving a true representation of Jesus. Thus, the development of this character had to take on a new dimension.
To get a better sense of how to portray Christ, Kamplain turned to Dave Mangum of Melba who has played Jesus for a number of years in Nampa First Church of the Nazarene’s annual Easter presentation, No Greater Love.
“Dave is one of the few people I know who understands how difficult it is to really become the person of Jesus,” Kamplain said. “Getting his perspective has been a real help to my character development.”
Godspell (which is an ancient spelling of the word Gospel) tells the story of the ministry of Jesus according to the Gospel of St. Matthew. The show follows a group of ragtag ‘disciples’ as they journey through life gaining wisdom and growing in relationship along the way.
“The story is funny at times,” says Kamplain.
But it is not all fun and games. There is a noticeable shift in tone after the first act.
“There is the potential for the audience to become very emotionally involved in the story,” notes Kamplain. “I would not be surprised if there were some tears shed at certain points in the play.”
Kamplain recalls a particular rehearsal where the cast was reenacting the Last Supper. As he was going about to the different cast members speaking words of encouragement to each one, some of the cast became emotional.
“We just realized the gravity of what we were portraying.”
“This production is all about the audience,” Kamplain says. “We aren’t doing this for ourselves, but for the people who are going to come and experience the show with us.”
Godspell runs March 5-7 and will be performed in NNU’s Brandt Center, located at 707 Fern. All shows begin at 7:30. Tickets are $10 for adults or $8 for students/seniors and may be purchased at the door or by calling the Brandt Center at 467-8790.