The cast members of the Hanover College play “Hagar’s Children,” from left, front, Felisha Lovett, Gracie Taylor, Kay Kemp and Robert Henline; and back, Shane Totten, Jackson Pollock, Brian Phillip Stewart, Shawn Franklin and Joshua Anderson pose for a picture Tuesday on stage at Parker Auditorium. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie)
The cast members of the Hanover College play “Hagar’s Children,” from left, front, Felisha Lovett, Gracie Taylor, Kay Kemp and Robert Henline; and back, Shane Totten, Jackson Pollock, Brian Phillip Stewart, Shawn Franklin and Joshua Anderson pose for a picture Tuesday on stage at Parker Auditorium. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie)
An upcoming production at Hanover College focuses on the need for acceptance and the power of unconditional love by a group of troubled teens during the holiday season.

"Hagar's Children" shows the audience the inner turmoil in an alternative home for emotionally troubled teenagers and their two live-in counselors, the play's director and Hanover College associate professor of theatre Paul Hildebrand said. A crisis interrupts preparations for the upcoming Christmas holiday at the home after someone kills the pet lamb and a knife goes missing.

"All (of the characters) believe they aren't worthy of being loved," Hildebrand said.

Student actors take the stage in Parker Auditorium beginning at 7:30 p.m. today to present the work of Ernest Joselovitz. The play also begins at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday with a special Saturday matinee at 2 p.m.

The production at Hanover College will be the third time Hildebrand has been involved with the play. He first worked as the artistic director for the East Coast premier of the production in 1976 at the New Playwrights Theatre of Washington. He also directed the play in 1981 as part of a community outreach project focused on increasing community awareness and response to the needs of trouble teenagers.

"It's been an important play in my life and career," Hildebrand said.

Even though Hildebrand has been involved with the production before, the play continues to evolve and change with each presentation. Elements of the play continue to present new insight into the lives of troubled teens with each production, he said.

"The play has been in my bucket list" to perform at Hanover College, he said. "The age range is good for college kids."

The audience of the play is limited to 100 people per show with the seating to be on the stage of the Parker Auditorium.

"It's more intimate than usual," Hildebrand said.

Hildebrand warns the audience that adult language is used in the production, but also notes that the language adds to the emotion of the program. The characters portrayed in the production use their language and actions to push people away, he said.

"There's a reason for it," Hildebrand said of the language. "It's not gratuitous."

Cast members for the production include Jackson Pollock, Kay Kemp, Felisha Lovett, Shawn Franklin and Robert Henline as the Bridgehaven Farm kids. Other cast members include Brian Stewart, Gracie Taylor, Josh Anderson, Shane Totten, Jacie Hubbard and Gray Schierholt.

The three-act play is expected to be about two hours, Hildebrand said. The play has two ten-minute intermissions.

"To me, it's every sense of a Christmas play, but not the nativity play," he said. "I guarantee there won't have a dry eye in the house."

Tickets for the show are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors ages 65 and older and $5 for youth in high school or younger. Admission to the play is free to people with a current Hanover College ID or Community Arts Series season ticket holders.

Due to the limited nature of seating, all visitors are asked to make a reservation for the production as tickets may not be available at the door. Tickets for the show are available by calling the Hanover College Box Office at (812) 866-7110.