The stage is set, the curtain opens and a sold out crowd waits to see for themselves what all the hype is about. In August 2009, Anderson University’s Wisdom Tooth Theatre Productions, a three-year-old student-run company, put on a play entitled, "Waiting With M. Godot." The play was written and directed by AU’s Ronn Johnstone, producing artistic director for the production company. The play debuted at the 2009 International Indianapolis Fringe Festival, a festival where independent artists showcase hundreds of original plays. "Waiting on M. Godot" performed numerous sold out shows and was awarded the 2009 Best Show Award at the festival, highlighting Wisdom Tooth Theatre Productions in the Indianapolis theater scene.
Wisdom Tooth produces multiple shows on campus every year but performs off campus, as well. Wisdom Tooth is set apart from regular campus organizations because it is financially independent from AU. The company serves as an opportunity for undiscovered students to perform outside of the campus community. The company joins emerging artists with established artists. [Photo on left: Nick Foreman and Kurt Owens act out a scene from "Waiting With M. Godot" at the Theatre on the Square on Aug. 30, 2009. Owens, who plays Godot, is explaining to Foreman's character, Jaxton, what his definition of love truly is. (Wisdom Tooth Productions photo/ Ronn Johnstone)]
"What I love about Wisdom Tooth is that it is an amazing opportunity for us to work on our acting skill, as well as giving us an opportunity to become known in the theater community," said senior Lisa Ermel, member of the company and actress in "Waiting on M. Godot."
The company performs by a standard they call "theater in a box."
"A lot of times theater has fallen into spectacle," Johnstone said. "Theater in a box is about presence, a relationship between the actors and the audience." The mission of Wisdom Tooth is to perform shows that mix social awareness and imagination.
"Waiting With M. Godot" addressed the complexities and depth of love. The main character is Jaxton, played by Nick Foreman, who plans to propose to his girlfriend that night. The only setting is an elegant French restaurant. As John’s girlfriend Dani, played by Lisa Ermel, goes to the bathroom, Jaxton and the waiter start getting to know each other. The waiter’s name is Monsieur Godot, the title role. Godot was played by professional actor Kurt Owens. While Dani is in the bathroom, Godot realizes that Jaxton plans on popping the question. A dialogue between the two of them ensues, centered around love. Godot helps Jaxton understand the depth of true love, beyond the crass expensive restaurant and flashy diamond ring.
The play received the highest review of any show at the festival. "Magical" was the common word used to describe the play by audience online reviews. Hope Baugh, critic for the Indy Theatre Habitat, writes on her blog that the play was well done in all aspects of performance.
"I think the audience used the word ‘magical’ to describe the play because there is so much more than meets the eye to this simplistic play," said Johnstone. "I think the audience picked up on the message, which was Godot’s presence and wisdom being divine, almost God-like. Even if you’re not Christian, the idea of a divine being is evident."
Since the play, doors have been opening for Wisdom Tooth and its actors. The company is using their acclaim in Indianapolis by continuing to showcase their work in the city. They are taking, "Waiting With M. Godot," on the road to Cincinnati next year to compete at their Fringe Awards. [Photo on right: Nick Foreman and Lisa Ermel act out a pivotal scene in "Waiting With M. Godot" on Aug. 30, 2009, at the Theatre on the Square. Foreman plays Jaxton who is proposing to his girlfriend Dani, played Ermel. (Wisdom Tooth Productions photo/ Ronn Johnstone)]
Wisdom Tooth has no plans of slowing down and is currently working on numerous plays. One play that will be performed next semester, "The Stories We Tell," will be shown at hospitals, libraries and elementary schools. Johnstone plans on taking the show on the road and giving back to the community, while promoting Wisdom Tooth Productions. Johnstone ultimately envisions hiring a fulltime professional actor to take the company to new heights. Until then, he is focusing on promoting Wisdom Tooth around the community and making an impression on the Indianapolis art community.
- Joseph Matas is a junior from Anderson, Ind., majoring in communication arts. Matas is an associate with Fifth Street Communications writing on behalf of the Anderson University Office of University Communications.
Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,700 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson continues to be recognized as a top Christian college: in 2008, U.S. News and World Report ranked Anderson University among the best colleges and universities in the Midwest for the fourth consecutive year. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, education, music, nursing and theology.