The Parables ready to share the gospel with the Phoenix community

Grace Cox, Anthony Piunno and Thomas Heggem (from left) perform a scene from "The Bible in 40 Minutes” during The Parables' season kickoff in December at Ethington Theatre.

Photos by Ralph Freso / Slideshow

Lights. Camera. Action.

The Parables theatre troupe is ready to take the stage for yet another highly anticipated acting season.

Made up of Grand Canyon University students, most of them theatre arts majors, The Parables tours around the Valley, performing for Christian elementary and high schools, churches, life groups and sometimes even faculty events on the GCU campus. From January through April, The Parables will visit about 15 locations. Its mission: share the gospel and do it in an entertaining, but truthful, way.

“We have been gifted a wonderful talent, being able to put theatre out in the world,” said Kaylee Williams, tour manager. “Parables is an opportunity to put Christian theatre out there.”

Director and writer Michael Kary (right) with Gretchen Carpenter (left) and Anna Mettes.

Theatre instructors Claude Pensis and Michael Kary, initiated the formation of the group. What started out as a small team of five has turned into two full teams with a stage crew and new scripts.

“We were getting a lot of students from Christian schools, but not as theatre majors,” said Kary, director of The Parables. “It occurred to Pensis that it might have been because these high school students weren’t seeing people doing Christian theatre as a job. We thought about what we could do. We thought they already know the gospel, but then it occurred to me that we don’t need the gospel just once. Everyone needs it all the time.”

The Parables is working on two different plays, both written by Kary. “The Bible in 40 Minutes,” like its title says, sums up the Bible in just 40 minutes. It is lighthearted and comedic but also teaches the message of God’s love.

Thomas Heggem and Emme Nichols are just two of the student performers in The Parables, a community outreach theatre troupe in the College of Arts and Media.

“God With Us” takes on a more serious tone. It modernizes the events of the New Testament, such as when Mary has a conversation with the angel Gabriel, but it is simplified so the audience easily can understand and connect.

Through a lot of prayer, Kary has written and prepared these plays, focusing on highlighting the truth and making it light and easy to comprehend. Though the intended audience was high school students initially, The Parables has performed in front of all audiences.

“Coming in as a freshman, I really wanted to get involved as much as possible,” said Emme Nichols, a freshman theatre major. “When director Kary reached out to me, I said yes immediately. I really enjoy the community of it. It has helped with the transition of going from high school to college.”

When GCU students join the group, they remain in their roles until they graduate. Working and traveling with the same team consistently over a period of time, the cast quickly becomes a tight-knit family.

Senior psychology major Jasmine Coxey (right) said she loves blending the arts with spirituality.

“It is a faith-based group. We have really built our own little circle,” said Christian Shepherd, senior theatre major. “We pray for each other when we encounter hard times and are supportive of one another in our roles.

“I wanted to share the testimony of the Bible through what I love to do. Going around to different schools and showing that has been really awesome.”

The Parables performs with very minimum props and stage sets. Wearing minimalistic costumes and using only black boxes to shift around the stage to create seating contribute to the simple telling of the gospel story.

“I love the Christian aspect, blending the arts with spirituality,” said Jasmine Coxey, senior psychology major. “The whole purpose is that we travel to local schools, bring them Bible stories and make them come alive.”

The Parables performers Grace Cox, Thomas Heggem and Anthony Piunno (from left) let their comedic timing shine in "The Bible in 40 Minutes."

Receiving positive feedback and seeing kids get excited is a testament to how much of a gift it is to perform and how important it is to spread the gospel in any way possible.

“We are known throughout the Valley and Christian schools, but ironically, not so much here on the GCU campus,” added Williams. The goal is to grow more on campus and spread the word within the GCU community.

“Theatre is often mistaken for being solely promiscuous and that actors have to sacrifice a lot of personal values. This case is not true. You can remain Christian and pursue the arts.”

For the cast and director, The Parables shows how you can seek God through your passions and place a Christian aspect on your work, even if others may view it differently.

GCU’s staff writer Izabela Fogarasi can be reached at [email protected]

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Bible Verse

"(Jesus) was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put Him to death by nailing Him to the cross." (Acts 2:23)

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