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Musical a glimpse into the power of living in the present moment

Taking its title from a line in the works of Catholic priest, poet and mystic the Rev. Thomas Merton, the first musical of the 2017-18 season at Creighton University is a meditation on finding one’s purpose in the present moment, choosing to leave the past in the past and not fretting over the future.

Now. Here. This., running Oct. 4 through 8 in the Studio Theatre at the Lied Education Center for the Arts on the Creighton University campus — explores Fr. Merton’s simple rule for living in the moment through the interwoven stories of four friends exploring a natural history museum and ruminating over the course of their lives and the trajectories of their futures.

“It’s not only a coming-of-age story but it’s also a story for all of us in the sense that it’s asking you to think about your purpose — not necessarily for the future, but in the present moment,” said Daena Schweiger, who directs the production. “When you are in the now, the here, the this, that’s when you’re ready to listen and be aware of what you can do. That this is all taking place inside a natural history museum. You’re able to take that and draw the connections in a person’s life through a personal history, but then the question becomes, what will you do now?”

Now. Here. This., with music and lyrics by Jeff Bowen, and a book by Hunter Bell and Susan Blackwell, was originally performed off-Broadway in 2012.

With a relatively small cast for a musical — just four actors (Creighton students Sam Allen McKinney, Matthew Tolliver, Torisa Walker and Jill Zmolek) and four musicians — and a performance on the Studio Theatre stage in the Lied Center, Schweiger said the show has already developed an intimacy she hopes will translate for audiences.

“It is one of those shows that’s more character driven and gives you an opportunity to focus on each individual as opposed to a show like Oklahoma! or West Side Story,” Schweiger said. “For us, it was enjoyable to work with each actor in a closer setting and to develop some ideas about character and motivation. You don’t necessarily get that with a lot of musicals.”

The show is also imbued with a hip lexicon and some edgier humor that should contribute to its realistic feeling for today’s collegians who, like the characters in the show, will soon find themselves beyond college’s halls and out in the wider world.

“I think it’s something with which students will certainly connect,” said Stephen Sheftz, MM, resident instructor in music and musical theatre at Creighton and musical director for the show. “These characters are identifiable for them and Fr. Merton’s idea, that living in the present is when we do our most honest living is something that we can all benefit from hearing.”

In keeping with the spirit and themes of the show, two performances are being dedicated to members of the Creighton University theater family. One performance will be dedicated to the memory of Wesley Pourier, a budding figure in the Omaha theater community who took part in many shows during his Creighton career, died in July in Omaha, and Creighton sophomore Joan Ocampo-Yambing, who was killed in an August car accident in Omaha. Another show will honor the perseverance of Demetra Arvanitakis, Will Tavis and Madalene Steichen, three sophomores injured in the car accident that took Yambing's life. Steichen and Tavis have also been involved in Creighton productions.

Performances for Now. Here. This. will take place at 7:30 p.m., Oct. 4 through 7. A 2 p.m. matinee is scheduled for Oct. 8.

Tickets are $5 for Creighton students, staff and faculty, $15 for seniors and $18 for adults. To purchase tickets, visit the Creighton Box Office online or call 402-280-1448.

All Department of Fine and Performing Arts events are funded, in part, by the generous support of the Richard and Mary McCormick Endowment Fund for the Fine and Performing Arts, the Grace Keenan Fund and other anonymous sources.

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