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Great Depression interpretation of Bible story will make Perham's 'Joseph' like no other

James Stenger plays the lead role in "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat."1 / 3
Show director Ert Jones-Hermerding.2 / 3
It's a four-piece band doing the work of 19. That's how "Joseph" director Ert Jones-Hermerding describes the pit orchestra for the Perham production, led by Russ Bunker, piano, pictured here. Rounding out the combo, Joe Ulrich, drums; Joe Berns, bass; and Scott Eickschen, guitar. The original "Joseph" score was composed for 19 instruments.3 / 3

It is perhaps the most popular musical stage production of the last couple decades. But when "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" takes the stage in Perham, it will be a whole new approach to the contemporary retelling of the Bible story.

Instead of the arid Middle East of Biblical times, the "Joseph" story will be set in an American "desert:" The dry and devastated Dust Bowl of the 1930's Great Depression.

The characters are Midwest farm families, and the costuming is denim and calico; straw hats and boots--not Egyptian garb.

The concept is also a tip of the hat to one of the greatest pieces of American literature, "The Grapes of Wrath," by John Steinbeck.

"I was struggling with the whole idea of the popularity of the show," said director Ert Jones Hermerding. "'Joseph' has been done so many times and so many people have seen it...If we're going to ask people to see the show again, I thought we needed to do something different."

The result: "Joseph" like you've never experienced it before.

Jones-Hermerding has created an alternative take on the story that really could take off--if his all-original adapation was circulated to theater circles beyond Perham.

When you consider the Joseph Bible story, and the story of struggling rural families of the 1930's, it is an intriguingly unique fit. The stories revolve around the land and the success and failure of the farm. Famine, locusts, economic distress, terrible weather and crop failures are common themes to the Joseph story and the Great Depression.

"'Joseph' is a great show, it's fun, it's a good Bible story, it's fun to see the costumes...but I wanted it to be something more, something that wouldn't be dismissed," said Jones-Hermerding.

A great deal of dialogue was revised or added by Jones-Hermerding. There are 1930's-era references, such as the old Sears and Roebuck catalogue, which was like a retail Bible for rural America at the time.

"It's a version of the show you will never see any other place," said Jones-Hermerding.

The well-known Pharaoh character, in the stage version of Joseph is an Elvis impersonator. But in Perham, the part will be played by a female, Ta Fett, who is also choreography director of the show. Her interpretation of "Pharaoh" will be a surprise for the audience.

Similar to Steinbeck's "Grapes of Wrath" story, a struggling family is left with nothing--and all that remains is hope, said Jones-Hermerding.

Forgiveness, struggle, helping one another, sharing and other universal themes are explored.

Show dates are Nov. 20-24. The cost is $10 for adults and $7 for students and senior citizens, 65 and up.

Tickets will be sold in the administration office at Perham High School.

Tickets will also be on sale at the auditorium door at 7 p.m. before each show, and at 1:30 p.m. before the 2 p.m. show on Sunday.


"Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" cast of characters:

Joseph-James Stenger

Narrator-Ann Heines

Narrator-Keri Van Dyke

Potiphar-Chuck Johnson

Potiphar's Wife-Bonnie Tweeton

Pharaoh-Ta Fett

Jacob-Chuck Johnson


Simeon-Sam Stoll

Zebulun-Jack Meyer

Rueben-Ashley Fritz

Benjamin-Christian Bueng


June Kovar, Katie Baker, Rachel Guck, Michelle Kurtz, Brittany Rappatts, Bonnie Tweeton

Ensemble and Chorus

Ishmaelite-Chelsey Green

Ishmaelite-Talia Haibara

Ishmaelite-Annie Johnson

Ishmaelite-Abby Nygaard

Butler-Kjirsten Kroenke

Baker-Darla Medeck-Johnson

Dancers-Waitresses-Marketplace People

Darla Medeck-Johnson, Kjirsten Kroenke, Chelsey Green, Talia Haibara, Abby Nygard, Annie Johnson