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Bethel original a modern parable of Easter story

When the creative powers at Bethel Evangelical Free Church started planning an original play for this Easter season, Worship Director Andy Kvernen said they started with one question:...

Tony Potts and Ian Lahlum
Virgil (Tony Potts) tells his wary older brother Norman (Ian Lahlum) of his big plans in the Bethel Evangelical Free original play "My Brother's Keeper." John Lamb / The Forum

When the creative powers at Bethel Evangelical Free Church started planning an original play for this Easter season, Worship Director Andy Kvernen said they started with one question:

"How can we tell the story of Easter in a fresh, modern way that helps people connect with the message that's at the heart of our church?"

Oddly enough, that "fresh, modern way" is set nearly a century ago.

"My Brother's Keeper," the story of two brothers on different paths, is set before and after World War I.

Kvernen laughs about what some may see as an incongruity between "fresh" and "modern" and the early 20th century but says the story, more than the setting, is what makes it contemporary.


"Not to just retell the same biblical story that's so powerful and important, but tell it in sort of a parable form," he says of his collaboration with writer Ginger Williams. "So we're telling a story that reminds us of Christ's sacrifice at Easter."

In Williams' play, Norman (Ian Lahlum) and Virgil (Tony Potts) grow up outside Chicago. While both eventually move into the Windy City, Norman sets up with a steady job while Virgil gets sucked in by the glamour of Chicago and some of its unsavory characters.

Norman tries to keep his younger brother on the right path, even getting him a good job. And when Virgil gets drafted into WWI, big brother enlists to keep an eye on him.

When they return from Europe, Virgil's life unravels despite Norman's efforts to protect his younger sibling.

Williams, the church's drama director, says the first act is lighter, "very funny." The second act, after Virgil and Norman return from World War I, is more serious.

"It's a message of faith, that there's never a point where the (younger) brother sinks too low, and that's where we are with God, where he'll still say, 'I love you,' " Williams says. She and Kvernen plotted out the story starting last summer.

Kvernen sees Norman's care for Virgil as similar to Christ's sacrifices.

He also serves as the show's producer and music writer.


And there's a lot of music in the show.

As the scenery shifts from more rural Illinois to Chicago, the band swings from bluegrass to jazz tunes, and even a barbershop quartet of gangsters that Virgil falls in with.

Kvernen wanted different styles of music to appeal to as wide an audience as possible.

"We want to serve the community of Fargo-Moorhead by being a positive part of the arts scene here," he says.

And while he hopes the show entertains audiences, he hopes they hear the message.

"Really at the heart of it, we want them to walk away understanding how much Jesus loves them," Kvernen says. "We just want to remind people that there is a God who was willing to sacrifice his only son, and we want them to experience that in a very real, personal way."

If you go

  • What: "My Brother's Keeper"
  • When: 7 p.m. Friday through April 17
  • Where: Bethel Evangelical Free Church, 2702 30th Ave. S., Fargo
  • Info: Tickets range from $8 to $14 at Family Christian Bookstore, Rainbow Shop and Bethel Church. (701) 232-4476
  • Info: See clips and hear music from the show at www.bethelfc.com/mbk Readers can reach Forum reporter John Lamb at (701) 241-5533

For 20 years John Lamb has covered art, entertainment and lifestyle stories in the area for The Forum.
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