Thursday, April 25, 2013

SBU Theatre's spring play offers a new take on life, death and all the stories in between

Southwest Baptist University News Release
Contacts: Charlotte Marsch, Director of Marketing and Communications
(417) 328-1803 /

Dr. Elissa Sartwell, SBU Theatre Director
(417) 328-1688

Note to media: A media preview performance is at 8 p.m. Monday, April 29, in Davis-Newport Theatre. This is after the Barnett-Padgett Literary Artist Series meeting with Christian author Robin Jones Gunn, which begins at 6 p.m. in the same location.

SBU Theatre's spring play offers a new take on life, death and all the stories in between

BOLIVAR, Mo. If you read yourself to death, would he be impressed? SBU alumnus Zachary McCoy addresses this question in his quirky new play, “Down the Ladder,” which will receive its world premiere May 2-4 at the Davis-Newport Theatre on Southwest Baptist University’s Bolivar campus. The production will be staged by SBU Theatre faculty and students.

“We selected Zach’s play to be a part of our theatre season because we fell in love with the metaphor that he has brought to life on the stage,” said Associate Professor of Theatre Dr. Elissa Sartwell, director of the production. “We literally see a man read himself to death, and his choices have implications on the stories of the other characters, as well. It’s a comedy, a romance, a poetic drama and a Greek tragedy, mixed with a quirkiness that is all Zach’s.”

McCoy stated that “even in something as fantastical and allegorical as ‘Down the Ladder,’ the themes are incredibly personal, and those personal elements create the strength of the story.” 

Freshman Amelia Hicks portrays a dead woman in the production. Hicks maintains that although the play addresses heavy issues, it does so in a way that is filled with laughter and comedy.

“This play teaches you about life, love, and death, in a way that makes you reconsider what it means to live forever,” Hicks said.

The SBU Theatre performers are thrilled to be the first actors ever to embody these particular roles.

“It is an honor to be the first to breathe life into this role,” said Roger Abbott, an SBU employee who portrays the Old Man in the story. 

McCoy, a 2012 graduate of the university (B.A. English), has been on campus since February as an Artist-in-Residence. His presence in the rehearsal process has been a positive one.

“I’ve enjoyed watching the director and the actors create their own visions and interpretations of the story and its characters,” McCoy said. “The rehearsal process has increased my understanding and appreciation for playwriting and storytelling.

The production features a set and lights designed by Jonathan Wehmeyer, Instructor of Theatre, and costumes designed by Sartwell.

In addition to Hicks and Abbott, the cast includes four seniors: Jeff Young as Death, Samantha Phinney as Life, Lauren Schriver as the Young Woman and Jacob Carver as the Young Man. Freshman Hannah Rogg and sophomore Alexandra Phillips complete the chorus of dead women. 

Performances are at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 2, through Saturday, May 4. Ticket prices are as $5 for adults; $3 for SBU alumni, senior citizens and students of other schools; $2 for SBU students; and complimentary for SBU faculty and staff.  For more information, call 328-1691 or visit

Southwest Baptist University is a leader among private universities in truly integrating Christ-centered academic pursuits with comprehensive professional programs at an affordable price. At SBU, the faculty and staff create a caring, academic community to prepare students to be servant leaders in a global society. For more information, visit