HPU theatre to premier play by alumnus and staff member Matthew Rutkowski

Salted With Fire poster for webBROWNWOOD – February 24, 2017 – Howard Payne University’s Department of Theatre will open performances next week of “Salted With Fire,” a play by Matthew Rutkowski, alumnus and admission counselor for HPU’s El Paso Center. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 2, through Saturday, March 4, and at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, March 5. The HPU Theatre is located at 202 Whaley Street in Brownwood.

Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for students and free for all HPU faculty, staff and students with university ID. For tickets or more information, call the university box office at 325-649-8516. Additional performances will be held at Wayland Baptist University in Plainview on Tuesday, March 6, at 8:00 p.m. as part of the Christian University Theatre Festival.

Dr. Nancy Jo Humfeld, chair of the Department of Theatre and professor of theatre, directs the play and Nicholas Ewen, assistant professor of theatre, is the scenic and lighting designer. Both are excited about bringing the play to life on the HPU stage.

“It is a first-rate drama filled with great humor and genuine human tragedy,” said Dr. Humfeld. “Most importantly, it is a spellbinding exploration of the Christian soul in the light of personal sin, redemption and community interaction and interdependence.”

“Salted With Fire” is inspired by the book of the same name by George MacDonald, associate of authors such as C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. The play poses the question, “Why does God let bad things happen?”

“My hope is the audience leaves with the perspective of a good and loving God who walks with us through the difficult times,” Rutkowski said.

Ewen said the opportunity to present an excellent Christian drama by an HPU alumnus is a unique experience. Rutkowski was a student in Ewen’s 2010 online playwriting course.

“Matt is a very talented playwright and just reading the script touched my heart,” Ewen said. “I told Matt that I thought his play would be perfect for the HPU Theatre, but that it would help if there were a few more roles for our student actors.”

Rutkowski was thrilled with the prospect of expanding the cast and, after a few edits, both Ewen and Dr. Humfeld agreed the play was ready for production at HPU and as the university’s entry in the Christian University Theatre Festival (CUTF).

“Touring this show for CUTF is exactly the kind of work that we have been longing to do,” Ewen said. “This proves that there are great Christian plays out there and that HPU is committed to bringing performances that not only have quality and depth but also are a beautiful reflection of our faith and values.”

Dr. Adrial Gil, director of HPU’s El Paso Center and associate professor of business, said the faculty, staff and students of the El Paso Center are extremely proud of Rutkowski.

“He is a creative and passionate young man that is sharing his God-given talents with others,” Dr. Gil said. “We are grateful he is a part of our team!”

Matt Rutkowski for webRutkowski, who is involved in theatre in El Paso, shared insight into his experiences in writing “Salted With Fire.”

“Prayer has always been at the heart of every play I’ve written,” he said. “‘Salted With Fire’ began late one night as I asked the Lord if He wanted our El Paso theatre troupe to continue. We had just finished one production as I stumbled upon the works of George MacDonald. I instantly connected with his stories of faithfulness through the storms of life.”

Rutkowski began drafting the material for the play and praying for the Lord’s direction when he felt God leading him in framing the play differently than the book.

“Thus, the final script became less ‘based on’ and more ‘inspired by’ the original source,” he said.

Rutkowski additionally found guidance from his mentors at HPU.

“Professor Ewen and Dr. Humfeld have been such amazing people to work with and I so appreciate their vision,” he said. “They have directions I never would have considered. They see the staging in such a neat way. This is why I love theatre. It is alive and moving and constantly changing with the interpretation of others.”

Above all, Rutkowski said, he feels humbled to know there are people investing their hearts and valuable time in the production.

“The directors are devising the best means of transferring the words to the stage,” he said. “The crew is working out how to technically support the story. The actors are finding personal meaning and voice in the words.”

Dr. Humfeld said the play has sparked positive discussions in class and in rehearsal.

“Our students are really internalizing the play and analyzing in depth the meaning of every scene,” she said. “It is gratifying to see that level of interest and commitment to the production. They are doing an excellent job and I am so proud of them. I truly believe the audience members will be entertained and inspired by this production.”

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Cutline: HPU’s Department of Theatre will open performances next week of “Salted With Fire,” a play by Matthew Rutkowski, alumnus and admission counselor for HPU’s El Paso Center.