Bethel alumni use their talents to minister with Theater for the Thirsty
Culture | Lexi Beasley for The Clarion
Jeremiah and Vanessa Gamble thoroughly enjoy their job. | Image for The Clarion courtesy of Theater for the Thirsty
True to its name, Theater for the Thirsty truly quenches the thirst you may not even realize you have. Jeremiah and Vanessa Gamble, a creative and humorous husband and wife team, founded Theater for the Thirsty and have been performing professionally for over 15 years.
It all began not too long after the two got married, after dating for five years. Vanessa, who graduated from Bethel with a major in vocal performance, went on to perform with a number of theater companies around the Twin Cities. Jeremiah, a theater major, created a one-man show while attending Bethel and continued to perform this show after graduation.
Each tried their hand at the “starving artist” routine, waiting tables and trying to get their feet wet in theater post-college. Neither knew what they would create together or the people they would reach with their passion and capturing charisma.
They were married in the fall after graduation, and Jeremiah had been asked to write and perform a show for the upcoming Christmas season at a camp in Iowa. With the wedding, honeymoon and newlywed life, Jeremiah reports that he got “dangerously close” to the show before beginning to write it. As he began creating it, he realized that having two actors, namely him and his new wife, would make it even better. So they performed their first show together and the enthusiastic response from the audience caught them off guard — thus beginning Theater for the Thirsty.
Many years later, they now have over 10 original productions and plans for more. Both have portrayed over 100 different characters in their shows. And not only are they talented actors, but they also produce and co-write the script and musical lyrics.
They have found a couple who share their same love for theater, Nathan and Stephanie Cousins, Northwestern College alumni. Through this relationship, the Cousins have now become a part of Theater for the Thirsty. The Cousins have been performing the Gamble’s Christmas show the last three years along with performing side by side with the Gambles in a few other shows.
Acting and working as a couple is something the Gambles love to do. “There’s so many benefits,” Jeremiah said. “I mean, getting to spend more time with your best friend and this person that you want to spend the rest of your life with is wonderful.”
Although they love working together, he said that balancing the different roles of being spouses, parents to their three children and co-workers is the biggest challenge. “You just have to be intentional about spending time as husband and wife,” he said.
This Easter, Theater for the Thirsty is bringing back their passion play, “Kingdom Undone,” for the second year, running from March 15-30. “Our desire is for people to experience the Easter story in a different way,” said Jeremiah. Treated with artistic integrity, it’s a close-up look at the story of Judas and the resurrection of Christ that will have you both laughing and crying throughout the performance.
“There’s going to be some things that people aren’t used to seeing, conversations that they’ve never heard before and stuff that happens in the margins, that’s what we’re interested in,” Jeremiah said. With powerful music and a soul-stirring script, biblical characters are brought to life as a reminder of the sacrifice Christ made.
When asked what he wants audiences to come away with after seeing one of their performances, Jeremiah said, “Not to be cheesy, but I really do want people to feel refreshed.” He added, “Laughter is a such a huge part of what we do and we want people to respond — to have people come away and say, ‘I needed that — I needed a good laugh,’ or, ‘I needed a good cry.’”
Hearing other people’s stories allows our own spirits to rise, said Jeremiah. And from first-hand experience, that is exactly what they do.