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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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How sweet the sound

Photo by Provided

OPAS presents the off-Broadway show, Amazing Grace, directed by Gabriel Barre.

A song of rebellion, redemption and freedom filled Rudder Theatre this past weekend, telling the story of the famous Englishman responsible for the creation of a well-known Christian hymn.
“Amazing Grace,” a Broadway musical about the life of 18th century British slave trader John Newton and his journey to atonement, hit the stage for a single performance in Aggieland on April 7. In the play, Newton was the son of a wealthy slave trader. After being enlisted by the British Royal Navy, facing enslavement himself and surviving a storm in the middle of the Atlantic, Newton became a avid abolitionist.
The show was directed by Gabriel Barre, nationally acclaimed for MTC theatre’s The Wild Party and Son of a Gun. Songwriter Christopher Smith contributed to the show as one of the only writers to add to a musical’s concept, book, music and lyrics for a successful debut on Broadway.
Jacob Shipley performs as John Newton in the Show. He recently performed in the show Pump Boys & Dinettes in New York and A Funny Thing.
“[Newton], being enslaved himself, started transitioning into becoming a good human being and that’s when he became an abolitionist,” Shipley said. “He became a priest and just kind of happened to be a songwriter and write the song “Amazing Grace.”
Annita Kapchinski, College Station resident, saw the play with her husband to celebrate their 38-year anniversary. Kapchinski said she was surprised to know the story behind the song.
“It was wonderful,” Kapchinski said. “I really didn’t know [that there was a story behind ‘Amazing Grace.’] With how many times we’ve sung it, I guess I just never thought about it.”
Karys Tippon is a sophomore at McLennan Community College. She travelled from Waco to see the show.
“The show helped me better understand the atrocities of the slave trade in a way that I’d never thought about before,” Tippon said. “I really liked the show’s emphasis on forgiveness.”
Newton, the show’s conflicted protagonist, studied theology upon his return to England. He became a clergyman and eventually wrote the famous hymn, “Amazing Grace,” in 1779. The hymn is featured heavily in the show.
“There’s a really special moment at the end of the show where we sing ‘Amazing Grace’ and the audience joins in and it’s a really beautiful, coming together moment for us all and people, they’re able to relate,” Shipley said. “I think they really do resonate with the story and I really do think that they connect with the story of redemption and the story, obviously, of love and acceptance.”
Shipley said this show, while about the past, helps bring light to some of the issues which are happening today. While British slave trade was outlawed in 1807, human trafficking remains a prevalent issue in our society today, according to Shipley.
“The slave trade is actually still alive and well it’s taken on different forms,” Shipley. “The sex trade which is worldwide, it’s crazy … literally the worth of human life has depreciated in an insane amount which is crazy and it’s still going on.”
According to the International Organization for Migration, more than 40.3 million people were victims of modern slavery in 2017. Shipley said that as the show tours the nation, audiences will gain awareness of these injustices.
“I really believe in theater and art for social change and reading this script, especially where we’re kind of taking it throughout the country, it’s been really great to hopefully [share] love and acceptance throughout the world,” Shipley said.

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