Area home-schoolers bring 'Screwtape, B.C.' to stage
Nearly 30 home-school students will act in a musical written, directed and scored by two of their own this weekend.
Three performances of "Screwtape B.C.," a comedic musical based loosely on C.S. Lewis's Christian novel "The Screwtape Letters," are set for this weekend: 7 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday. Admission to the show, which will be held at the Lee County Arts and Community Center at 507 N. Steele St., is $5 for adults, $3 for children 11 and younger, and $20 for large families.
"You don't have to be familiar with 'The Screwtape Letters' to get it," Joshua Rexford, the 20-year-old writer and director, said before a rehearsal last week. "Obviously if you are, there might be some things you see that others won't, but you definitely don't need to have read it before. It's very accessible, very family-friendly."
The musical is part morality play, part C.S. Lewis and part biblical reenactment. It follows the Old Testament story of Joseph, who was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers, as demons with names like Arrogance and Depravity try to tempt him away from God.
Rexford, a 2011 home-school graduate, teaches drama at the FAITH (Families Advancing In Teaching Homes) homeschooling co-op for students from Lee, Harnett and Cumberland counties. He said he wrote it after discovering that buying performance rights to an existing play for his students to perform was prohibitively expensive. So he began writing and soon decided it would work well as a musical, enlisting the help of his 17-year-old brother, Peter. It was rocky in the beginning, they said, but after months of work on the script and score, and multiple practices a week since January, the two said they're proud of what they'll be showcasing this weekend.
"[Joshua] comes in and says, "Hey, can you write me a song?'" Peter said. "I said sure. But I didn't know how to write a song. It was a lot to learn about."
The younger Rexford chose to cover a variety of musical styles to match each scene's particular mood. First is a ballad as some demons sit around drinking and bragging at a bar in Hell; later there's a salsa-style piece during a temptation scene, an epic overture during a battle, and a celebratory Yiddish folk song to wrap it all up.
Their mother, Ame Rexford, said she's in awe of his ability to switch between genres, noting that she can't even read music. But then again, just about everything about watching her two oldest children take the production from start to finish has her beaming.
"It floors me every time," she said of watching them bring the show closer to reality, day by day.
And while she's acting as a jack of all trades for the show — helping with production, scenery, makeup, advertising and more — she said Joshua and Peter have done most of the heavy lifting. Joshua has especially put himself into the show, playing four parts (including the titular demon Screwtape) in addition to his writing and directing. But he said that once the curtain goes up, he doesn't think he'll feel much pressure.
"The director sort of has all the nerves beforehand," said Joshua, who has directed films but never a musical. "Once it starts, everything's out of my hands."
But those nerves haven't been enough to derail him from dreaming up more work for his class, known as the FAITH Players. He said he plans to do a show every semester and is now considering a sequel called "Screwtape, A.D.," among other possibilities.
If he does, he said he knows it'll be fun, regardless of the stress that comes with it. As Peter described their creative process: "We basically just sit around and laugh."
WHAT: "Screwtape, B.C.," a musical featuring area home-schoolers
WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday; 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Lee County Arts and Community Center, located at 507 N. Steele St. in Sanford
ADMISSION: $5 for adults, $3 for children 11 and younger, and $20 for large families.