Pasted Graphic 1
Waterville Playshop Member John Oster Directs Comedy In Iraq
The first time John Oster read playwright John Culbertson’s script for Messiah on the Frigidaire, he laughed hard and looked forward to directing the comedy for Waterville Playshop’s spring performance.
Then Oster learned he was being deployed to Iraq with the 300th Military Police Brigade from Inkster, Mich. So instead of directing a cast of Northwest Ohio actors, Oster just finished up auditions for a performance of Messiah on the Frigidaire in Iraq.
“As far as I know this is the first community theater production being done here,” Oster said via e-mail.
Pasted Graphic 2
“Most of the entertainment programs offered are usually sports-oriented. This is different. It will be a breath of fresh air and maybe attract some soldiers to community theater who hadn’t been exposed to it before.”
Oster contacted Culbertson to ask for permission to perform the show in southern Iraq. Culbertson told Oster, “You just made my day, if not my whole year,” granted enthusiastic permission and provided Oster with a CD of music and sound effects for the show. The show is simple to produce because it has a single set and needs few props.
The small town of Elroy, S.C., is the setting for Messiah on the Frigidaire. When what seems to be the image of Jesus appears on a refrigerator in a trailer park, Elroy is suddenly thrust into the evangelical spotlight, and a frenzy of conflict, communion and good old-fashioned commerce. The comedy is irreverent enough to be hilarious, the head chaplain told Oster after reading the script.
The rehearsal schedule is similar to that in Ohio, Oster said, including two nights a week after normal 12-hour work days.
“Doing our assigned mission is always the first priority, but I feel producing/directing the play was important enough to devote a significant portion of my free time,” he said.
Oster will direct four performances of the comedy at Camp Bucca, Iraq’s largest detention facility, which holds 20,000 persons determined under United Nations resolutions to be imminent security threats, Oster said.
Under the command of the 300
th Military Police Brigade, the facility provides detainees with food, housing and health care, as well as educational and vocational training for the more moderate population, Oster said.
“We look at this as an opportunity to expose the detainees to alternatives to rejoining the insurgency,” he said.
During his 20 years with Waterville Playshop, Oster has been involved producing, directing, lighting, sound, set construction and costuming.
“Not only have I worked with many fine actors and crews, but I have had the privilege of directing my own children and my wife on stage in productions,” he said of his years with the Playshop.