In January, Jesse Bontreger, a senior theater and film major, will be finishing up his degree at film school in Los Angeles. Before he leaves, he will be giving Goshen College one last taste of his artistic talents.
His senior theater show, “Tape,” will be performed on Saturday, Dec. 10 in Umble Center. Bontreger describes “Tape” as a serious drama that centers on the reunion of two men who were high school friends. The story escalates as the friends begin to argue about an incident of sexual assault that happened in the past, and it reaches its climax when another female friend enters the conversation.
The choice of this darker play deviates somewhat from Bontreger’s usual subject matter. His senior film show earlier this semester largely showcased his love of comedy.
“I think kind of my reputation and what I gravitate towards is comedy,” he said. “I wanted to do something more dramatic, and this show felt especially relevant for a college campus given what’s going on in this world.”
Bontreger also expressed interest in approaching an issue bigger than himself using the platform of this senior show.
“The goal of a senior show is to be this sort of capstone on my senior experience and my time here at Goshen College,” said Bontreger. Along with demonstrating the acting theory he has learned over the past four years, Bontreger wanted to communicate a message that could inspire further conversation.
“I want people to continue to think about it,” he said, encouraging further discussion about sexual assault at GC. “We need to figure out where our campus goes from here, where our world goes from here.”
Other actors collaborating with Bontreger on this project are Martin Flowers, a 2016 GC theater graduate, and Lea Ramer, a senior theater minor. Suzanne Ehst, professor of education, is their director. Bontreger expressed appreciation for them, along with other students who work behind the scenes “out of the goodness of their hearts.”
Bontreger has been very involved in the theater program from his first year at Goshen. His roles have been both as an actor and a director in main stage performances.
“I’ve tried on many hats,” said Bontreger. For the past three years, he has served as a theater director at Bethany Christian High School, using what he’s learning to teach others. He has also kept very active with film, working at Five-Core media on various other projects.
On the directing front, Bontreger has fond memories of assistant directing the spring 2016 main stage, “Julius Caesar,” with Michele Milne. Bontreger described it as all-around great experience doing Shakespeare in the round and learning from Milne.
Bontreger also cited performing in “The Boys Next Door” in his sophomore year as a turning point in his career at Goshen. He appreciated working with talented upperclassmen in a comedic yet heart-felt show.
Of his future plans, Bontreger said, “It’s kind of a big question-mark…but I’m okay with not knowing.”
He hopes to have a better idea of whether he wants to focus on theater or film after his semester in LA. He loves both fields and majored in them both when he couldn’t narrow it down.
“It’s always been a kind of balancing act of how much time I give to film and how much I give to theater,” said Bontreger. “What I do in theater informs what I do in film and vice versa.”
Bontreger doesn’t necessarily think theater and film need to be separated from one another.
“For me I just see it all as art. Film and theater work together,” he said, and added with a laugh: “That’s the artist’s answer…or the pompous answer.”