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Missouri Baptist University theatre raises more than $3,000 for Send Relief, Ukraine

The village of Kulyenchikov gathers in to read an urgent letter to the schoolteacher in a scene from "Fools," produced March 24-27 by the Missouri Baptist University theatre department.

ST. LOUIS (BP) – “Fools” is a comedy play and “one long-running gag,” said Kasey Cox, director of theatre and dance for Missouri Baptist University. From March 24-27, though, Cox and her crew used it to raise $3,146.49 for a serious subject, sending those funds through Send Relief to aid Ukrainian refugees.

Following each of its four productions, Cox urged attendees after the curtain call to give toward the effort as they exited the theatre. The final tally was announced on the @mbutheatre Instagram account March 27.

“When we announced this show a year and a half ago, we had no idea that we would be doing a comedy set in Ukraine at the same time as a military conflict in the same country,” it read. “Your generosity reminds us that God always has a plan and, this weekend, He let us be a part of it.”

Cox was in a production of “Fools” as a 16-year-old at the Salem (Ill.) Community Theatre, playing the role of Sophia.

“It was a fun role,” she said. “I remember it very well. The whole show is an exercise in hilarity and it’s really fun to hear the audience respond to it.”

When Neil Simon wrote “Fools” in 1981 about a Ukrainian village with a 200-year curse of stupidity, he couldn’t have imagined that 40 years later the country would be staving off an invasion from Russia, its neighbor. Cox was in the same predicament in February after rehearsals for the play had begun.

“I originally picked it because I felt peopled needed to be in the same room and laugh,” said Cox, a 2010 MBU graduate who has led the theatre department for six years.

Given the current days’ events, a slight acknowledgement of the war was given in one actor’s line. But overall, the 10-member cast kept to the script.

“It’s just a funny show,” she said. “I wanted to give a little nod to current events, but also wanted people to rest and have some fun.”

No members of the cast have ties to Ukraine. MBU previously did a production of “Fools” in the early 2000s, said Cox.

“I came into rehearsal a week after the invasion and told the cast that I stood by the play, but didn’t feel right about its setting being in Ukraine and completely ignoring what was happening,” Cox said.

The students agreed and were eager to contribute.

“This generation is very committed to the greater good and want to make an impact in the world,” she said.

The Ukraine effort was not the first of its kind for the department. In MBU’s previous production, a musical interpretation of “Junie B. Jones,” 500 elementary students from a charter school watched for free. Other audience members were encouraged to purchase books at a fair that would then be contributed to the school. Another $2,000 was raised through the effort for the school.