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Winner announced in Dordt Jubilee play competition

October 7, 2004

Steven Wiersum, a Dordt College alumnus from Elmhurst, Ill., has been named the winning playwright in the Dordt College Jubilee play competition.

Wiersum’s play, Jubilee! A Comedy in Five Acts will be the Dordt College mainstage spring 2005 show, scheduled for Feb. 24, 26, and March 3-5, 2005. Wiersum will receive a $1,500 honorarium for his efforts, along with an all-expense paid trip to the play’s debut.

Nine plays were submitted in the Jubilee competition, with eight of the nine written by alumni and one submitted by a Dordt College senior.

The second place award was presented to Lynn (De Kruyf) Otto, Newberg, Ore., a Class of ’84 alumna who wrote, Jubilee: A Play in Three Acts. Third place went to Jason Vande Brake, Irvine, Calif., a Class of 2000 alumnus who wrote, Superalive. Otto was presented $750 for her effort, while Vande Brake received the third place award of $250.

Honorable mention was given to Celebration, a play written by Clarence Deelstra, Seattle, Wash., Class of ’84; and Jubilee! A Comedy in Five Acts, the play contributed by Jonathan Horlings, a senior English/literature major from Bradford, Ontario.

Wiersum said he and his wife, Sarah, have written eight Christian musicals for their church, with subjects ranging from the fruit of the Spirit to the story of the Good Samaritan. He is also working on several books, both fiction and non-fiction. Wiersum is a high school English teacher who majored in English and Theater Arts while at Dordt College. The Wiersums have three sons, Grant, Max, and Calvin.

When Wiersum received the mailer describing the Jubilee play competition, it almost went into the recycling bin. “I thought ‘there are a lot more qualified people who are going to turn in better scripts’ but I caught myself and thought, ‘What would you say to your sons or one of your students that had that kind of thinking’” So Wiersum decided to write a script, beginning in September of 2003 and completing it this past July. He estimates putting in about 1,000 hours creating the comedy, which is a large cast production that can include community participation, with adult and children’s choirs.

“I knew I wanted to write a comedy,” said Wiersmum. “If you know me, you know I’ll always have a joke or funny story to tell. I just love good humor.” But Wiersum said a comedy in its original theatrical sense means more than a laugh here and there. “Comedy differs from tragedy in that tragedy deals with things that start out rotten and get even worse. Comedy on the other hand might have things in a state of painful chaos, but by the time the curtain falls and people go home, situations are resolved the way we want them to be or wish them to be in real life.”

Wiersum said he came up with the concept of the play by following the advice of his writing teachers at Dordt: write about what you know. He brainstormed about things in his life, and zeroed in on a year spent outside the field of teaching as an associate pastor. From that starting point he chose to write about what happens at a church.

“In Jubilee! A Comedy in Five Acts, I wanted to show how, when people get in the way of the Spirit, things really get ugly. Likewise, Jubilee shows that faithful people can overcome obstacles as daunting as debt, foreclosure, and committee dysfunction.” Wiersum said the tough part was steering clear of sappy endings, shallow one-dimensional characters and “being preachy.”

“This isn’t just a show for Christians,” said Wiersum, though he admits they’ll probably get the biggest chuckle out of the church council scenes. “I wanted a non-believer to be able to watch this show and feel good about God’s grace.”

The show will be directed by Dordt College Theater Professor, April Hubbard. More information will be available about this and other Jubilee celebration events at http://www.dordt.edu/events/jubilee/

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