Above, the set for the theatre depart­ment’s pro­duction of “J.B.,” which has been post­poned to January.
Courtesy | Michael Beyer

The Hillsdale College Theatre Department’s pro­duction of “J.B.” will now open on Jan. 20.

Written in 1958 by Archibald MacLeish, “J.B.” is a modern adap­tation of the Bib­lical story of Job. Although the play was slated to open Nov. 18, the theatre department decided to postpone the pro­duction until next semester due to a limited number of staff.

“We were entering into our tech week and about a third of our cast was either in quar­antine or in iso­lation,” Chairman and Pro­fessor of Theatre James M. Brandon said. 

The theatre department members were not antic­i­pating new health guide­lines from the state, Brandon said, but they were not sur­prised by the shutdown.

“It’s upsetting. It’s a dif­ficult decision,” Brandon said. “No one feels like we made the wrong decision, though. Everyone under­stands why we did what we did, but nobody likes it.”

 Brandon said the cost of keeping a high-quality pro­duction out­weigh keeping the original opening date. 

 “We don’t feel like we could have done it to the standard we were trying to achieve,” Brandon said. “We can replace one or two people in a pro­duction on the fly, but when you have five or six out of 14 out, you can’t do it.”

Brandon said the theatre department will not move the pro­duction again to prevent any further sched­uling con­flicts with already planned pro­duc­tions later in the semester. Brandon said the theatre department will con­sider a Zoom-for­matted viewing option of “J.B.” if unable to host a live production.


There will be the­atrical masks and a masked element in the play, which will help the actors abide by state health guidelines.

“The play requires that some char­acters wear masks,” Michael Beyer, director and lighting designer and pro­duction manager for the Fine Arts Building said. “The need for masking is already built into the play.”

Over winter break, the cast will hold Zoom rehearsals and brain­storming ses­sions, senior theatre major Johannes Olson said. The cast will also come back early from winter break for in-person rehearsals.

Olson, who is playing the lead char­acter, Job, said he will be looking at lines daily, studying the play, and jour­naling about his char­acter over the break.

“I am seeing this delay as a blessing in dis­guise,” Olson said. “It allows me to do more study and char­acter work for the show, specif­i­cally the nature of suf­fering and evil.”

The delay, however, has created some logis­tical issues, Olson said.

“It’s very dif­ficult to feel cama­raderie over Zoom,” Olson said. “The inability to come together in person dis­tracts from the energy.”

While it will take time for all to get used to the adjust­ments, the program remains optimistic. 

“We will try to do theatre until we can’t, and right now, we can’t,” Brandon said. “I think this wave will pass. I think we will have live theatre next semester. I am banking on live theatre next semester. It’s frus­trating, but I do have hope.”

For his part, Beyer said stu­dents should be grateful that the prospect of live theatre is still on the table for next semester.

“With Broadway theater closed until May, the very fact that we have this oppor­tunity to even talk about doing a per­for­mance in these times is some­thing that these stu­dents are very lucky to have,” Beyer said. “The campus com­munity should not take that lightly.”