“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same spirit… For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body…” (1 Corinthians 12:4–13)
This passage of scripture summarizes the beautiful mission of the student-led playwriting group called The Herd. This year, they are working on a musical comedy that will follow a group of fast-food employees as they balance chaotic work shenanigans, relationships, and personal struggles. I had the privilege of interviewing the group’s head writer and director, Gwenyth Stack, who shared the heart of this project and her vision. If you are an undergraduate student at Regent University and have ever wanted to get involved in putting on a drama production, you will definitely want to read on!
Stack recalled a passion for theater since she was a child: “I was the kid who went, ‘Oh, watch me sing, watch me do that,’ all the time. Then I became a Christian.”
While she used to see performing for an audience as the ultimate goal of her art, Stack now recognizes a higher purpose for her talents. Since devoting her life to Christ, she has come to believe that drama is a God-given passion through which she can share compelling Christian stories with others.
“God is a storyteller,” she said, “He has been since the beginning of time. He’s the greatest storyteller! Since we bear His image, I think creatives are [also] called to tell stories.” With a desire to explore her ideas and talents, Stack was inspired to design an opportunity for other undergraduate students to come together and do the same.
When asked about her writers, Stack responded, “In most cases, being a good boss means hiring talented people and getting out of their way.” She said this Tina Fey quote accurately explains the fantastic group she found to work on this project.
She said, ” I feel so blessed to have very talented people coming into this writers group. I had this idea for a musical a year or two ago while I was working at Chick-fil-A. I’m still getting ideas for different shows we can do. I’m a high-concept person, and so for me, it’s so wonderful to have a team to ground these ideas.”
For the fall semester, writers can come from any program as long as they enjoy writing and care about the project. Stack hopes that this project can help prepare undergraduate students for life after college by giving them experience outside the classroom.
“I think a lot of us want to go into some sort of writing,” Stack said about her writing team, “but you don’t just apply to be a writer in a writers’ room. You need some experience, something on your resume where you can say, ‘This is my name on this published script,’ you know? That can really help a person.”
Opportunities to help with this project are not limited to writing. As the spring semester approaches, other responsibilities—including acting, choreography, costume design, casting, and so on—will be administered to any student who expressed interest by the end of the Spring of 2023.
The transition from writing to production will happen soon! Stack laid out the plan for this important step: “Next semester kind of starts this semester. I want to get the ball rolling by November. We have to have our teams assembled for the actual production by December. I want to discuss the vision with the different groups, like the choreographers and the audiovisual department. That way when spring starts, we hit the ground running.”
Stack mentioned that auditions will be held in late November or early December so that rehearsals can begin by January 2024. She also talked about the added pressure of a student-led production: “Everyone has to be responsible for their role. You don’t have as much faculty oversight. It’s going to be driven by students who have a passion for the project and want to do well, and for the project to do well.”
The road ahead is long and challenges may arise, but Stack believes that this project can strengthen the undergraduate theater community—this year and hopefully in the years to come! Keep up with the process by following The Herd on Instagram!