‘Joyful Noise’ sounds off tonight at Margetts Thea

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    By PHILIP VAN DIJK

    Speaking to local playwright Tim Slover about his play “Joyful Noise” is a lesson in humility.

    Everyone and everything about his play, which opens tonight in BYU’s Margetts Theatre, speaks of its greatness — except Slover. It doesn’t matter to him that the play sold out every performance shortly after tickets went on sale and has consequently been extended for a week. Nor does it matter to him that the cast consists of eight award-winning, top-notch actors. It doesn’t even really matter to him that the play has already been requested to be performed at professional theaters in San Diego and Ontario, Canada, after it finishes running at BYU. It doesn’t even matter to him that this play is rumored to be the one that finally puts him on the map.

    None of this really matters to Slover. He just keeps quietly going about his business writing plays in a very unassuming manner.

    “As a playwright, you often wonder if this play or that play will be the one that you are remembered for. Is (“Joyful Noise”) the one? I don’t think so. Will it go national? I doubt it. I am from this community and I wrote it for this community and I hope this community likes it,” Slover said with his typical humility. “If it does break out of the ‘Pine Cone Curtain,’ I will be pleasantly surprised.”

    Yet this is not the consensus of the BYU community.

    “I think this play is going to go national. I think this is the play that is going to make Tim a name for himself,” said Janet Swenson, who is in charge of costume design for the play.

    “We’re the beneficiaries of the vast amount of research Tim has done that is ready and available in his mind: history, politics, biography, social elements, even music,” director Robert Nelson said.

    And it is not only faculty that realizes the play’s potential, either.

    “When auditions came for ‘Joyful Noise’ it was sort of like everyone’s goal to be in the play,” said Colleen Baum, who auditioned and is playing Mary Pendarve in the play. “There was more competition than I have ever seen before for a play.”

    The play, written in October 1996, is a dramatic examination of Handel’s life and his creation of “The Messiah.” This play concentrates on a chapter in Handel’s life when he was plagued by artistic failures and financial woes. He feared that his life as a composer may be over.

    “This play is almost 100 percent factual. All the characters are from Handel’s life. In fact, the most unbelievable parts of this play are the most true,” Slover said.

    “The play is about Handel’s life, but more than anything it is about Christianity. It is about treating others the way you want to be treated,” Baum said.

    “The play is an exercise in how not to be judgmental and how to deal productively with having been misjudged,” Nelson said.

    The cast list for “Joyful Noise” reads like a “Who’s Who” in BYU Theater. Jason Tatom, national finalist in the American College Theater Festival in Washington, D.C., plays Handel. Stephanie Foster Breinholt, the national winner of the ACTF Irene Ryan Acting Competition, plays Susana Cibber. (She actually won the competition with a scene from “Joyful Noise.”) Colleen Baum, regional winner and national finalist for the same competition, plays Mary Pendarve.

    Also in the cast are Adam Boulter (an award-winning playwright), Katie Foster and Ben Hoppe, who both are regional finalists in the ACTF competition.

    “This play is dedicated to the late Clyn D. Barrus (director of BYU’s School of Music),” Slover said. “He was an inspiration to everyone and his life was a symphony.”

    “Joyful Noise” is being performed at the Margetts Arena Theater. It opens tonight and will run nightly except Sunday and Monday through March 21. Shows begin at 7:30 p.m. with a matinee at 2 p.m. on March 7. Tickets are $7 for students and $9 for the public. They can be purchased at the Harris Fine Arts ticket office or by calling 378-4322.

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