Aleasha Hintz– Staff Writer
For the past several weeks, the Dordt University Theatre Arts Department has been blocking scenes and memorizing lines in preparation for their upcoming spring mainstage show: The Diviners. It’s a production process that is unique for a couple of reasons: a larger cast size, a student lighting designer, original music scored by a student, and design elements that draw heavily from themes in the script.
The Diviners takes place during the Great Depression in a rural town from Illinois . In this town of Zion, its inhabitants are mostly religious and together form a tight-knit community. The story centers around a 13-year-old boy named Buddy who has a special ability for “divining” water.
This is a central theme in the play—water. It informs the design of the posters, set, lighting, costumes, and even the music.
Although the show focuses primarily on the character of Buddy throughout, the larger cast size allows for the introduction of new students. Many new actors will take the stage in the 4th Avenue Theatre for the first time, along with some more familiar faces.
The Diviners’ script leans on light in its aesthetic design. In addition to its water theme, the sky and earth are also prevalent elemental symbols in the script. But most often, the presence of water is portrayed through the use of light.
In theatre, it is important for designers to communicate in order to stay on the same page. This reality is even more apparent in The Diviners. Laurel Koerner, set designer and associate professor of theatre arts, needed to collaborate extensively with Daria Griffis, the senior student lighting designer. in order to create unified imaging.
The set itself remains simple. The literal biggest aspect of the set design is the slanting platform that takes up the center and upstage parts of the theatre. This structure is not intricate, but still purposeful. It is meant to inform the actor’s movement and act as a canvas for the lighting design, according to Koerner.
In addition to the platform. the set design serves as a canvas for light in several other ways. For example, a large hanging piece of fabric can be portrayed as water or storm clouds, depending on how it is lit.
“There is a juxtaposition between organic forms and really rigid, geometrical forms,” said Koerner, in reference to the show’s design.
The intentionality behind the light, shadows, and simple geometric shapes featured in the set and lighting design portray this tension well and are hallmarks of the show’s design.
These factors make Dordt’s production of The Diviners worthy of an audience, but the script also carries some heavy themes.
Teresa Ter Haar, the director for The Diviners and theatre arts professor, said of the show, “It is a really powerful story about relationships—relationships between people, people and God, between people and the environment.”
The show challenges the perspectives others may hold of some people.
“I think it brings some questions to any small community, and especially a Christian one,” Koerner said.
This show is available to anyone who would like to see it, so long as they purchase a ticket on dordttickers.com. Performances will be held between March 17 through 20, with two productions held on the March 20 date.