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Alumni Profile: Jeremiah and Vanessa Gamble ’95

Jeremiah and Vanessa Gamble ’95 met in the theatre department at Bethel.

Vanessa and Jeremiah Gamble ’95 are professional storytellers. As such, they represent a multitude of vocations, weaving together their abilities as actors, composers, writers, comedians, and (sometimes) procrastinators within Theater for the Thirsty, their self-started theater company. Both music and theatre majors, the Gambles met their freshman year at Bethel. Their first date, to a Bethel event, did not go well. “We became archenemies and unfortunately had every class together,” says Vanessa. “It took a year before we became friends again.”

Theater for the Thirsty started 15 years ago when Jeremiah wrote The Rough and the Holy, a one-man show about the life of Jesus, for his senior theatre practicum at Bethel. After performing the piece for a Bethel chapel service and receiving positive feedback, he realized he wanted to make it a full-time gig. He traveled and showcased The Rough and the Holy while Vanessa performed musical theatre in the Twin Cities. Soon after they were married, Jeremiah was commissioned to write and perform another original piece. Two weeks before his deadline and without a single line written, he asked his wife, “Would you…want to be in the show with me? I think it’d be funnier if there were two people in it.”

“And we’ve been full-time ever since,” says Vanessa. The couple has now co-written, produced, and performed in more than 14 original shows, including Amnesiac Jack, My Name is Daniel, and Kingdom Undone. These productions seek to tell stories of redemption while making audience members laugh until they cry.

Theater for the Thirsty rebels against the stereotype of mediocre Christian art. In fact, Vanessa says she and Jeremiah were frustrated with subpar Christian theatre and wanted to raise the standard. “Part of our motivation to even start doing this was seeing so much bad Christian theatre,” she says. “We kept thinking, ‘Are our expectations too high?’ ‘Do we need to lower the bar?’ Those are ridiculous questions when you look at how some people risk their lives to bring beauty into this world.”

Now, Vanessa and Jeremiah are working on a new show about Naaman of the Old Testament. “We've wanted to tell this particular story for about four years,” Vanessa says. “It's a beautiful New Testament-feel story stuck right in the middle of the Old Testament. A story of serving our enemies and of what healing can look like.”

The Gambles have dedicated their careers to writing and performing accessible stories that simultaneously challenge, amuse, and entertain their audience. “I love that we get to tell redemptive stories for a living. The best news we spread as Christians is to tell stories of how God is constantly creating beauty from the ashes,” says Vanessa. “At the end of the day, we have very little. We don't have yesterday and we don't have tomorrow, but we do have today and we have our stories, the words of our testimony. And that might just be the thing that sets people free.”

Read more about Theater for the Thirsty online.

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