January 11, 2012 | Myrna Anderson

A play pulled straight from the Bible highlights some of the antiheroic episodes in the life of the biblical king.

David: A Play with Psalms was at least partly inspired by something that happened to a friend of hers, said co-director Joy-Elizabeth Lawrence: Her friend was up front at a concert of a popular band, when she found herself pulled onstage and kissed by the lead singer. “Rock musicians can get away with stuff because of their charisma,” Lawrence concluded, and that insight was helpful as she and co-writer and director Amanda Ytzen wrote about the biblical icon:

“This summer, when we were working on the script a lot, I was disturbed a lot by the character of David,” she said. He was a military hero, and he obviously had a great relationship with God, but he made a lot of poor choices. And I thought how can we present these choices in a way that makes us sympathetic to him?”

The untold story

The play, created as a companion to the Psalms Bible study and a prelude to advent, will be performed January 26 through 28 and February 2 through 4 at 7:30 PM in the Gezon Auditorium. (There will be a high school matinee on Friday, January 27 at 10 a.m.) David: A Play with Psalms highlights some of the antiheroic episodes in the hero’s life—David’s adultery and his murder of Uriah; the rape of David’s daughter; David’s betrayal by his son.

“These are stories you haven’t often heard,” said theater department chair David Leugs, who designed the lighting for David. “We’re showing the fact that he’s human.”

For Calvin senior Dan Christmann, who plays David, the play has been an opportunity to grow as both an actor and a Christian.

"Playing David is one of the more intimidating tasks that I've undertaken in my life," he said, "and that's not only because he's one of the most influential figures to our culture. Whenever I play a role, I feel like I discover something new about myself, depending on what kind of person that character is. With David, I feel like I've been developing a closeness with God that I've never had before. And for me, that's both exciting and incredibly scary."

The play explores the themes of kingship, covenant and family relationships. “Most of it is about how God keeps his promises,” Lawrence said.

The script of the play is pulled directly from 1st and 2nd Samuel and Psalms. “And there are times we have chiseled scripture in from wisdom literature as dialogue. The entire script is scripture, but it’s highly edited, and it’s not in order,” Lawrence said. Interwoven into David are musical interpretations of Psalms 23, 51 ,133, 45 and 72 created by local composer and Calvin alumnus Matthew Gruppen.

Highs and lows

“When we reach a high point or a low point in his life, we sing Psalms. “It’s a piece that hopefully will be a bit edgy, but worshipful in a way,” Leugs said.

“If the show is great, it’s because the music is great,” Lawrence added.

In addition to writing and directing, Ytzen also designed the costumes for the piece. Communication arts and sciences technical director Steve Haase designed the set. The title character will be played by senior Dan Christmann.

“This is a huge project for an interim play!” Lawrence said. “I’m excited. I’m scared. It’s a huge responsibility.”

Adults, $14–$15; Students, $7. Church groups of 15 or more adults $12. Tickets may be purchased at the Covenant Fine Arts Center Box Office by calling (616) 526-6282 or online here.

(Based on the inclusion of 2 Samuel 11 and 13, this play may not be appropriate for some children.)

Recent stories