Theater director draws parallel between economic gaps then and now

Mar 11, 2015

The Benzie County Players rehearse "God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater."
Credit Daniel Wanschura

Forty-five years ago, Andy Mollema participated in his first readers theater production. He was a graduate student at Central Michigan University. The show was adapted from Kurt Vonnegut’s 1965 novel, "God Bless You Mr. Rosewater."

Today, Mollema is the one directing his own version of the novel, again in readers theater format.

“What’s going on with society today with this wealth versus disparity sort of thing, just brought me to want to resurrect this script,” says Mollema. “It’s absolutely pertinent, if not more so, today than it was then.” 

Perhaps one of the lesser known works of Vonnegut, "God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater" highlights the economic imbalance between the upper and lower classes of the 1960’s. 

The main character, Eliot Rosewater is a multi-millionaire. As the story progresses, he becomes empathetic towards the needy. Eventually, he moves out of the high societies of New York, and settles down in a city named after his wealthy family. 

Once there, Eliot aids the poor, even starting a hotline for them to call with their troubles.  
And because of the city’s depressed economy, there’s plenty of need.

Andy Mollema thinks the widening gap of economic prosperity, makes the novel’s message still very relevant today.

“I look on Eliot Rosewater as being just a symbol of someone who really wants to help and care about people,” he says. “What I feel this play does more than anything else is show compassion for people in need. And you know, that’s a lesson I think all of us can take away from this show.” 

Mollema believes the same types of forces that kept the lower class down back then, continue to exist today.

“There is laughter to be had in the show, but there is also thought," says Mollema. “And I hope that people leave with a concept that this is a very, very true happening in our society today. And it’s something that, you know, we need to address. Cause otherwise, we’re just going to be in some very serious problems with the citizens of our own country.”

You can catch one of their shows this weekend at the Mills Community House Theater, in Benzonia. 
For performance times, visit our almanac.