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The cast of New Wine rehearses for this weekend's Coffeehouse presentations of "Moses and the Fire Within." Wendy Johnson/wjohnson@pinejournal.com

Local church youth share 'the burning within'

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“Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”  Matthew: 9:17

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What better way to celebrate the 25th anniversary season of the local “New Wine” church-based theater troupe than to share the age-old story of Moses — in a brand new way.

Some 52 students and countless volunteers from 12 area churches are participating in this year’s production, “Moses and the Burning Within,” a musical in two acts adapted from the Book of Exodus. The story spans the time between Moses’ birth and crossing the Red Sea to save his people.

“Moses’ call was always simmering in his heart,” explain the production notes on goodforthesoulmusic.com, which handles licensing rights for the play. “It began to burn when he said ‘yes’ to lead his people from death to life.”

The passion that the drama and its music inspire was apparent as the student actors met for their final dress rehearsals in preparation for this weekend’s series of “coffeehouse” productions at Zion Lutheran Church of Cloquet, 1000 Washington Ave. For much of the run-through on Monday night, actors moved introspectively from scene to scene as they portrayed Moses’ journey — with various characters at times shedding tears of sorrow or emitting cries of anguish — until pouring their hearts out during the play’s moving score.

The play is a new musical written by composer/author David Kauffman of San Antonio, who also just completed a feature-length movie coming out next fall called “The Song,” starring Kevin Pollak and Christopher Lloyd.

“The music [in “Moses and the Fire Within”] is really impressive,” commented director’s assistant Naomi Palmquist.  

Costumes for the local production were created by the mother of one of the actors, Annette Gannucci, with contributions from County Seat Theater of Cloquet.

Artistic director is Amanda Olsen, with assistance from musical director Dan Palmquist and Pastor Loren Schumacher as well as Naomi Palmquist.

Olsen, a 2003 graduate of Esko High School, was also a former member of New Wine herself.

“When I was asked to come on as theatrical director,” Olsen said, “I jumped at the chance to be involved in it again. New Wine is such an uplifting experience — not only for those directly involved but also for the entire community as it brings us all together in so many ways. We are so thankful to all of the parents, local church members and businesses that help to make this amazing program possible.”

Olsen works as a day program coordinator for Interim Healthcare, and she said she was even able to get some of her clients involved in the volunteer play production effort.

“They pitched in and assisted by making props and painting scenery for the production,” Olsen explained. “New Wine truly is an amazing experience that could not be possible without the support of everyone involved, no matter how small or large the contribution!”

“Moses and the Fire Within” will be presented Thursday, April 24, through Saturday, April 26, at 7 p.m. and on Sunday, April 27, at 2 p.m. During intermission, guests will be invited to the church’s fellowship hall, where the student actors will serve a choice of three different desserts.

The ticket cost is $10 and they are available from any cast member or at the Zion Lutheran Church office. The coffeehouse series is the group’s biggest fundraiser of the year.

The New Wine troupe will take their production on the road June 7-17, heading to southern Minnesota first, then South Dakota and Montana, ending up in the community of West Yellowstone and presenting the musical production along the way.

New Wine was first started by local Zion Pastor Todd Mattson, who spearheaded annual theater productions and summer presentation tours up until the time he departed 12 years ago. Church members Cheryl and Steve Vopat were also instrumental in keeping New Wine going for several years.

“It’s been such a privilege to be a part of this year’s [production],” attested Naomi Palmquist. “There are so many parents involved in it, helping with decorations for the coffeehouse and in many other ways. I’ve gotten to know so many people from the surrounding areas.”

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Wendy Johnson
(218) 879-1950
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