When the World was Wild and Waste


Genesis comes alive onstage




When the World was Wild and Waste: is not only a fantastic alliteration but also a show that tells the story of Genesis chapters one and two, diving deeper into the meaning of creation.

According to playwright and Augustana religion professor Richard Swanson, the play began 20 years ago when the origin stories of Genesis one and two caught Swanson’s imagination.

“The best way to understand biblical stories is through performance,” Swanson said.

So Swanson began thinking and writing about possible ways to divulge the stories and meanings of Genesis.

“About one year ago, members of the Augustana Theatre Department caught wind of my show and felt that it should be the year’s opener,” Swanson said.

Soon after, the collaborative effort commenced. Both Swanson and the show’s music composer,  professor John Pennington, agreed that while Bible stories are fun to tell, the play had to be about more than just telling Bible stories. The stories must be brought to life.

“I wanted to create something that caught the audience’s ear but also something that the actors would enjoy singing,” he said. “The text translated so beautifully that it just gave itself to the music.”

The music score was created with the audience in mind, as well. Audience members are encouraged to participate in the music from their seats.

“Portions of the music were written as basic chants and melodies, with the hope that, at certain parts, people will join in chanting or singing along,” Pennington said.

Each biblical text in the show is of Swanson’s own translation, but the show’s title is inspired by something else.

When the World was Wild and Waste is a modified version of the opening line of Genesis that I love,” Swanson said. “It describes the starting point for the telling of stories.”

Students are excited to work with Swanson and Pennington to tell those stories. Sophomore actresses Alyssa Volmer-Johnson and Joscelyn Schipper both agreed that the script and music come together to make the show beautiful.

“Digging into the scripture and its deeper meanings is one of my favorite parts of the show,” Volmer-Johnson said. “With such a broad spectrum of actresses, it’s been fun to work conjointly to figure out how to do these beautiful stories justice.”

Other cast and crew members include junior Sage Backer, junior set creator Alex Meyer, senior Kaitlin Fleet and director Jayna Fitzsimmons.

If there’s one thing they all can agree on, it’s for this message to be translated to the audience.

“Creation is a product of inspiration and love,” Swanson said. “Nothing can be hated into existence, and violence only creates more violence. So we must use mutuality, love and some inspiration to create beautiful things.”

The show will be performed on the Edith Mortenson Center’s main stage. The production premieres on Thursday, Sept. 29, at 7:30 p.m., continues with a show on Friday Sept. 30 at 7:30 p.m. and ends with a performance on Saturday, Oct. 1, at 7:30 p.m. Ticket information can be found on the Augustana Theatre website.

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