Junior Trevor Farney will be playing the lead role in Anne Welsbacher’s world premiere of “The Miracle of Father Kapaun” which takes the stage on Thursday, Feb 16.
The play, directed by Misty Maynard, tells the story of Father Emil Kapaun, a Catholic priest and Korean War hero from Pilsen, Kan. He led a dedicated life of service to his family, friends and fellow soldiers, and is currently on the road to sainthood.
In April 2013, President Obama awarded the Medal of Honor to Father Kapaun, stating, “This is the valor we honor today — an American soldier who didn’t fire a gun, but who wielded the mightiest weapon of all, a love for his brothers so pure that he was willing to die so that they might live.”
Aside from knowing that there is a Wichita high school named for him and a colorful mural of his military service displayed on the wall of St. John’s Chapel in Sacred Heart Hall, Farney said that he did not know much about Father Kapaun at the time of his audition.
Each role has its own challenges, Farney said. “The essence of the person being portrayed cannot be learned as easily as everything else when it comes to acting,” he said. “No one has ever played Father Kapaun [before], but there was a Father Kapaun. If you are taking the mantle from any person, you have to beat the pre-conceived notions coming in.”
In the seven years Farney has acted in various productions around Wichita, some of his favorite roles include: “Buddy” from “The Diviners,” “Joe” from “The Last Night at Ballyhoo,” and “Grant,” an original character that was written specifically for Farney, from the play “Fair Departure” by recent Newman graduate, C.L. Smet.
Even though Farney has never played a non-fictional character, he said that he tries to treat every character the same way, whether they be fictional or not. “If the play is written really well, [the actor] will end up playing that character — so I try to let the script dictate my characters,” he said.
Farney has spent time researching, looking up pictures, recordings and anything else he can find to get a better sense of what Father Kapaun was like. “When I go to a character who is different from me, I try to find someone who is like them,” Farney said. “Then I take time to learn more about the person they’re basing it off of, and add little frills from the script.”
The play is performed in a narrative style — a structure Farney has not had experience with in past productions. “As an actor, it’s hard, but definitely something worth perfecting,” Farney said. “Father Kapaun was an interesting man and very important to many people, so he deserves to be done right.” As a result, Farney and his fellow actors are currently rehearsing six times a week to ensure that the show is brought to life on stage.
“I hope the audience takes away that, no matter what, we’re all still people,” Farney said. “One line [in the play] says something along the lines of, ‘He treated Jews, Muslims, Atheists and Protestants like Catholics, and he treated Catholics like loved ones’ — The idea being that, ultimately, it doesn’t matter who you are, what you believe or what you are fighting for. We are all human and should be treated as such.”
The Newman Theatre Department will present “The Miracle of Father Kapaun” at 8 p.m. on February 16, 17 and 18, and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, February 19, in the De Mattias Performance Hall. Admission is $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and $5 for military members.