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Bluefield University Theatre to Present Philemon

by | Mar 15, 2022

Bluefield, VA – The Bluefield University Theatre Department will present the musical Philemon in Harman Chapel Auditorium March 24-26 at 7:30 pm and March 27 at 3:00 p.m. Tickets are $10 in advance for adults and $5 for students and senior adults. Tickets are $12 and $7 at the door. Free admission for BU students, faculty, and staff.

Philemon first appeared Off-Broadway in 1975, with words by Tom Jones and music by Harvey Schmitt.  In 1976, the play was presented as a television special. The play also had a brief revival in 1991. Philemon is set in Antioch in the Roman Empire during the third century. The Christian church is on the rise and the empire is desperate to stamp it out. Cockian, a Greek actor and clown is arrested for pandering. While in custody he is approached by the Roman commander, Marcus Gallerius, with an offer: impersonate the Christian leader Philemon to flush out the true leaders of the church in Antioch, and Cockian’s record will be wiped clean. Cockian agrees and enters the prison disguised as Philemon, but as he comes to know the Christians and learns about their creed of love and grace, he realizes how empty his old life has been. In the end, he becomes a Christian and faces a terrible choice as he decides whether he can betray his new friends and fellow believers. Philemon is a moving story of redemption and courage.

The role of Cockian is performed by Bluefield University senior theatre major Brian Fisher.  The role of Roman commander Marcus Gallerius is performed by BU senior theatre student Noah Jennings. Other cast members include BU music senior Staley Lyle as Cockian’s touring partner Kiki. Marsyas, Cockian’s long-dead wife is played by junior theatre major Laura Horton. Other cast members include theatre major General Smith as the Roman centurion Servillus, theatre sophomore Ian Matullo as the young convert Andos, Bluefield theatre alumna Katherine Shumate as the wife of the Christian leader, and theatre sophomore Abigail McComas as a young believer. The production is directed by Bluefield University theatre faculty members Charles M. Reese and Rebecca McCoy-Reese.

“I first saw Philemon in 1976 when it first appeared on television,” said Charles Reese. “It has been a project I have wanted to direct for 46 years. Now just seemed the right time.  We have an excellent cast and this was a story that just seems to speak to what is going on in today’s world.  It’s final message is one of grace and hope. ‘No matter what they do to you, never let them take away your capacity to love.”

Philemon opens on March 24 and runs through March 27 in Harman Chapel Auditorium on the Bluefield University campus.  To make reservations visit the BU theatre ticketing site at



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