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Steeple People: A Southern Gospel Comedy

logoSeptember 1, 2014 - 7:00pm
September 2, 2014 - 7:00pm
September 7, 2014 - 2:00 & 7:00pm
Book by Benjamin L. Jackson
Original Music, Lyrics and Arrangements by Travis Smith


A gospel quartet and their quirky pianist, Lola are hosting a charity clothes drive for their upcoming three city national tour of Ghana. Featuring more than twenty of the most beloved gospel songs of all time including, "His Eye is on the Sparrow", "Are You Washed in the Blood", "It is Well With My Soul" and many more! You will be laughing and singing along with this cast of characters as they talk about their life in Stinking Creek, Tennessee!


Musical Numbers
Author Notes




A Note from the Author…

Benjamin JacksonWhen I was a little boy my mother played the piano at a very small church on Howell Mill Road in Atlanta, Georgia. The church was so small that at times there were more people in the choir than in the congregation! I loved that little church. The pastor's name was Johnny and I called it “Johnny's Church”. The little old ladies looked after me while my mom played the piano. The covered dish dinners were legendary and the ladies promised that there would always be a lap to take a nap on while Johnny preached his lengthy sermons. But the memory that stands out in my mind is of the traveling gospel quartets that would stop by to sing their songs. In the summer of 2011, Travis and I tossed around the idea of writing a show about a gospel quartet. I drew so much inspiration for “Steeple People” from that church on Howell Mill Road and began to write a tale of four men and their pianist. I didn't know these characters at first but the more I wrote the more they came to life. It has been such an incredible journey discovering their story and it is my hope that you will not only find them funny but also heartwarming. 

Benjamin Lee Jackson


A Note from the Composer…

Travis SmithIt has been so much fun collaborating on this project with Ben Jackson for the past few years.  In 2011, we started conceptualizing the show and writing down our thoughts and ideas. At one point the character of Lola didn't exist at all and the men were accompanying themselves with a karaoke machine!  Finally, after several rewrites and two workshop readings, we had written what you are about to see today.  Most of the basis for the music comes straight out of the hymnal.  But of course I did take some liberties in rewriting the arrangements for four men.  Then there are a handful of songs that I wrote specifically for this show including “The Bible Song” and “The Steeple People” theme song.  Ben and I have put a lot of work into creating Steeple People and we hope the work has paid off!  A special thanks goes out to all the people who have been supportive during the process. You know who you are!  Please enjoy the show and I sincerely hope it not only makes you laugh but also touches your heart, mind, and soul.

Travis Smith


Steeple People Cast




Amber Burgess



Travis Bird



Jeremy Littlejohn



Tom Rusterholz



Paul Hanft

Woman in Office


Rita Kurtz


Steeple People Staff


Executive Producer


Richard Pletcher

Associate Producer


Jeremy Littlejohn

Director / Choreographer


Matthew C. Scott

Music Director


Travis Smith

Production Stage Manager


Timothy James

Set Designer


Richard Pletcher

Costume Designer


Amber Burgess

Properties Master


Timothy James

Box Office Manager


Jennifer Scheffer

Archive Videographer


Steve Jones



Musical Numbers


Act I
Steeple People


Standing and Leaning


River Medley


His Eye is on the Sparrow


Church in the Wildwood


We Will Fly


What a Friend We Have in Jesus


Simple Gifts


Jesus Loves the Children


The Bible Song


Act II


The Love of God


Bulletin Bloopers


Are You Washed in the Blood of the Lamb?


My Hope is Built


It is Well With My Soul




Steeple People (Reprise)




Cast Biographies

Travis BirdTravis Bird (Jaxson) is blessed and excited to be joining The Round Barn Theatre’s 2014 season. Travis lives in Decatur, IN with his father and earned his Bachelor of Music in Voice performance at Ball Sate University. In college, he was a member of the BSU Chamber Choir and secretary of Down the Line Theater Company. He studied voice with Dr. Karri York and Dr. Kathleen Maurer. He was fortunate to be cast in Ball State Opera Theater’s Productions as Federico in L’amico Fritz and Bill in A Hand of Bridge under the direction of Mr. Joseph Levitt. One of his favorite roles was Don Octave in The Stoned Guest directed by Round Barn Theater alum Julie Lyn Barber.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of my family, friends and colleagues who have supported him throughout his journey!

Amber BurgessAmber Burgess (Lola / Costume Designer) is pleased to be returning to The Round Barn Theatre after showing her true colors as the Wicked Witch in last season's The Wizard of Oz. She has been involved at RBT as the director of Sisters of Swing, 9 to 5, this season’s Little Women, and she is the resident costume designer for the 2014 season. She was last seen on the Second Stage as Shelby in the 2007 production of Steel Magnolias.  Amber is also a board member of the Chicago Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, a finisher in the 2013 Chicago Half Marathon, and is a member of the Salt Creek Quilters guild.
I would like to thank Kevin, Oxford, and my family for the inspiration, love, and support that made my dreams a possibility. Visit


Paul HanftPaul Hanft (Ira) is very happy to make his debut at Amish Acres in Steeple People and would like to thank all the members of the cast and crew for allowing him to share the stage with them.  Since 1989, Paul has performed in over 90 productions in the Michiana area, including performances at the Lerner Theatre in Elkhart, the Parish Theatre in Kalamazoo, the Bristol Opera House, New World Arts in Goshen, the Warner Theatre & the Wilson Theatre in South Bend, all three of the venues at the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center (Philbin Studio Theatre, the Leighton Concert Hall, & the Shakespeare Festival at the Decio Main Stage Theatre) at Notre Dame. Favorite roles include Don Quixote (Man of La Mancha), John Barrymore (I Hate Hamlet), Mack Sennett (Mack and Mabel), George Hay (Moon Over Buffalo), Renfield (Count Dracula), Beatty (Fahrenheit 451), Officer Lockstock (Urinetown), Jimmer Negamanee (Escanaba In Da Moonlight) and Ebenezer Scrooge (A Christmas Carol).  For over 25 years, Paul has donated his time and talent to WNIT Public Television in Michiana.  Paul would like to say a very big THANK YOU to his dear wife, Kay, for allowing him to celebrate their 42nd Wedding Anniversary a couple days late, this year.  Thank you all for coming to our performance.
Please enjoy the show. 

Benjamin JacksonBenjamin L. Jackson (Book) was born in Georgia and raised in a small suburb of Atlanta called Powder Springs.  Both of his parents are classical musicians and regularly exposed him to the Opera, Symphony and lots and lots of piano recitals. However, his first experience with Musical Theatre didn't come until his junior year of High School when the chorus teacher approached him about playing “Bum #2” in Little Shop of Horrors. Throughout his younger years, Ben studied classical piano and voice. He later rebelled against the “family business” and majored in Business Administration and graduated from Georgia State University in Atlanta.  After returning from South Korea, Ben booked his first job in “Show Biz” and headed out for the high seas as a member of a vocal quartet on board a major cruise line. Since then, he has traveled around the world and the U.S. entertaining as many people that would tolerate his antics! Some of Ben's favorite roles include Smudge in Forever PlaidRobert Anne in Nunsense A-Men and of course, “Bum #2” in Little Shop of Horrors. Ben loves comedy and believes that in life there is no greater gift than to make someone laugh. So, when Travis presented the idea of writing a gospel musical about a male quartet in the south, it was an offer he couldn't refuse and there have been many, many laughs along the way!

Jeremy LittlejohnJeremy Littlejohn (Beauregard) is so pleased to be working with such a talented group of people (steeple or otherwise) on this brand new show! Jeremy grew up right down the road in Elkhart, Indiana and came to work at Amish Acres for the first time in 1997. He is probably remembered for his performance credits but is most proud of creating the Second Stage program that you are enjoying this evening. He was particularly excited to celebrate the ten year anniversary and reopening of the Locke doors with this season’s very successful Greater Tuna, and he is so proud to be ushering in a new era of Second Stage Productions with Steeple People!  His directing work can be seen in the upcoming Main Stage production of Joseph, and he will be getting his “Ogre” on this holiday season as the title role in Shrek.  Visit for more details.

Tom RusterholzTom Rusterholz (Clayton) is making his Amish Acres debut with Steeple People!  Recent and favorite credits include Ren (Footloose), Jerry (The Full Monty), Link Larkin (Hairspray), Phil Davis (White Christmas), Mitch Mahoney (25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee), and Schroeder (You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown).  Appearances at Chanhassen Dinner Theaters, La Comedia Dinner Theater, Festival 56, and St. Croix Festival Theater.  
Much love to my family and fiancé.



Matt ScottMatthew C. Scott (Director) is from Orbisonia, PA and has been a professional Actor / Director for eighteen years! No stranger to The Round Barn Theatre, Matthew has recently directed Miracle on 34th Street, Church Basement Ladies 2: A Second Helping and Arsenic and Old Lace for the Main Stage. You may have also seen him pinching pennies as Mr. Mushnik in Little Shop of Horrors craving the spotlight as the Reverend Mother in Nunsense A-Men or wearing multiple hats in the Second Stage production of Greater Tuna. Some of his other directing credits include Run for Your Wife at Cornwell’s Dinner Theatre, Forever Plaid with Festival 56, and Pump Boys and Dinettes here at the Round Barn.  Matthew returns to Nappanee directly from his summer in Princeton, IL and will be featured in the upcoming RBT production of The Diary of Anne Frank.

Travis SmithTravis Smith (Composer / Music Director) has been an active composer, orchestrator, and arranger for the last several years of his life.  He has composed many children's musicals that have been seen and even performed by thousands of kids in the Midwest.  He also spent several years writing review shows at Bearcreek Farms Resort in Indiana where he fine-tuned his skills at arranging music for singers.  He has helped collaborate on writing many shows throughout the years including A Christmas Carol and Miracle on 34th Street at Amish Acres.  Also an accomplished pianist, Travis has music directed several productions.  He holds a double major degree in Vocal Performance and Theatre from Otterbein University in Columbus, OH.  Please visit for more information.