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Oklahoma City University opens book, fall season with 'Children of Eden'



community and church theaters. Audiences love it and it has some of the most beautiful songs and in musical theater," Herendeen said.           

The decision to perform "Children of Eden" was in part influenced by its popularity among Herendeen's students, who have been asking him to consider it for some time. He said his approach to the material was simple and sincere "? an effort to let the many thought-provoking sentiments of the piece come to the surface. But in adapting the piece, Herendeen was put his own stamp on the material.    

"I have established a 'play-within-a-play' environment intended to soften the sense of watching a performance and edge more toward witnessing a ceremony," he said.   

As one of 15 OCU productions this semester, "Eden" was produced on a tight schedule and has to serve both as entertainment and education.  

"I have a job of giving equal value to my audience and my students," Herendeen said. "One of the ways this balance is achieved is mingling student designers (mentored by our faculty) with our faculty designers."          

To that end, the set design, props and sound are all driven by students.         

"My colleague Jan McDaniel (conductor) and I have smiles on our faces all the time. We are surrounded by good souls with exquisite talent," Herendeen said.           

"Children of Eden" was produced as part of the school's "Love, Don't Hate" program, which includes two other upcoming OCU shows: "Laramie: Epilogue" and "Bat Boy." The program was created in the aftermath of protests about the university's production of "The Laramie Project" last year, a play about Matthew Shepard, the gay University of Wyoming student who was murdered in 1998.      

"That galvanized our campus, spurring a unified noble response in the form of a silent protest," Herendeen said.    

In continuing support of tolerance and forgiveness, OCU is one of 100 performance groups and theaters across the country that will stage live readings of "The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later" in October. Herendeen said that theater can be more than just entertainment and impart valuable lessons and that each of the three shows does so in its own way.          

"Eden" does so with age-old stories, "Laramie" with overt heartache, and "Bat Boy" with camp and humor.

Children of Eden stages at 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday at Kirkpatrick Fine Arts Center at Oklahoma City University, OCU Music Theatre, 2501 N. Blackwelder.

"?Eric Webb


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