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It’s the Gospel, y’all

Bible story with a Southern twist will benefit community programs

It’s the Gospel, y’all

It’s the Gospel, y’all

Jesus, portrayed by David Hopkins, le...

A classic story with a unique — and Southern — twist will be brought to life this weekend at the Averitt Center for the Arts.

And, in keeping with its message of goodwill, two local charities will benefit.

The Emma Kelly Theater will host three performances (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) of a musical titled “Cotton Patch Gospel,” a comical and colloquial retelling of the life of Jesus, set in 1960s-era rural Georgia.

The comedy-musical, written in 1982 by Atlanta-based actor Tom Key, is based on the work of Southern Baptist minister Clarence Jordan, who translated — in four volumes — most of the New Testament in the idiom of the South, so that “plain folks” could better understand it.

In the musical, places like Bethlehem, Jerusalem and Galilee are swapped for Gainesville, Valdosta and Atlanta; and Bible characters speak with a Southern twang.

“Thous” have been turned to “y’alls,” and Bible verses made completely “Southern,” for characters who sound more like a Statesboro neighbor than legendary figure of antiquity.

Even details of famous stories in the Bible are changed to apply to the new locale, while lessons and principles remain the same.

“We are really looking forward to putting it out on the stage,” said first-time director Lee Walker. “Rehearsals are going well and we’re getting psyched up. There have been a lot of challenges, but it has been a great opportunity to meet and work with a lot of great people.”

Walker and members of Statesboro First United Methodist Church are putting on the show with help from local actors and musicians. The church plans to donate all proceeds of the event to area charities Open Hearts Community Mission and the Saturday Soup Kitchen, which is hosted by First UMC.

“I thought this would be something great we could do as a way to raise money for the missions (Statesboro First United Methodist) supports. We’re just so happy and glad to have an opportunity to raise money for these two causes,” Walker said. “It is going to a great time, with great performances, and I wish everyone from Statesboro and surrounding communities will come to see a little live theater and support these great missions.”

Open Hearts is a faith-based ministry that serves the region’s homeless. The organization aims to provide temporary relief for the those in need by offering food and a place to stay, and promote self-sufficiency by providing life-skills and job-skills classes.

“I thought (the plan to put on a play and raise money) was a fantastic idea,” said Delia Mobley, the director of Open Hearts. “Certainly, we can use all the money we can get, right now. We are in the phase of raising money to build a new shelter. All of the money we receive from this event will go into that building.”

The Saturday Soup Kitchen is more than 15 years old and serves more than 400 meals to every week. The kitchen also delivers food to the needy and conducts other community service projects.

“We can always use the help. We are very grateful,” said Sara Melford, who heads the kitchen. “(This money) means we can serve a better, more balanced meal to people. We can also do more extras — like provide school supplies to students at the beginning of the school year.”

Performances of “Cotton Patch Gospel” will be held Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m.; and another show is scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday.

Tickets to the musical are $15. People interested in purchasing tickets can do so at the ticket office on the day of performances, or by calling the Averitt Center at (912) 212-2787 and asking for the box office.

Jeff Harrison may be reached at (912) 489-9454.

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