BRANSON, Missouri — Night after night, Rodney Coe helps retell Bible stories on an epic scale as he takes the stage at Sight & Sound Theatres’ Branson location.
Tuesday, the Greenfield-Central High School graduate’s “stage” will be more than 600 movie theaters as his portrayal makes the leap to the big screen.
News of the movie, “Jonah! On Stage,” has brought an incredible response in messages to Coe, he said. Among those sending greetings have been his high school drama director, retired teacher Jack Rhoades and friends Coe has made in theater through the years.
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The movie was filmed in 2012, as Coe portrayed Old Testament prophet Jonah in a Sight & Sound production in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Coe had no idea the footage would become a movie until a few months ago.
“We’re what?!” he remembers thinking. “It was definitely surprising, in a very good way.”
Several weeks ago, he returned to Lancaster to re-film a scene near the end of the Jonah production to “make it a little more film-friendly.”
In the scene, Jonah is arguing with God. Jonah’s disappointed the people of Nineveh have taken God up on his offer to show them mercy.
In the production, the Ninevites previously have killed Jonah’s father. That detail is not part of the Bible account, but Coe said it’s in the production to help the audience grasp what a ruthless people the Ninevites were and how hard it would be for Jonah to want to help them.
A powerful scene for Coe is one in which the Ninevites ask Jonah to pray for them. Jonah is taken aback and reminds God these people don’t deserve mercy.
Consider the scene against the backdrop of Coe’s own life: In a mugging 17 years ago in New York, Coe was so badly beaten, he couldn’t act for five years. He suffered brain damage and went through months of physical therapy.
“There are things in life that we experience that just rock us to our core,” he said. “(The scene is) a powerful moment for me. The Ninevites have been set free from their past, but Jonah hasn’t.”
These are the scenes, carried out night after night, he said, that change a performer.
Coe performs in Branson now, portraying Moses’ brother, Aaron, in Sight & Sound’s “Moses.” Betsy Haines, whose son went to high school with Coe, has seen “Moses” on stage and got to talk with Coe after the performance.
“We thoroughly enjoyed seeing ‘Moses’ in Branson recently, and friends who saw ‘Jonah’ previously were equally impressed,” she wrote in an email to the Daily Reporter. “I believe that seeing ‘Jonah’ will be an awesome experience.”
Rodney Coe stars as Jonah in “Jonah! On Stage,” a new movie set for a one-night showing on May 2.
Among theaters showing the film are these area locations:
Galaxy 14, 8105 E. 96th Ave., Indianapolis
Castleton Square 14, 6020 E. 82nd St., Indianapolis
Hamilton 16 with IMAX, 13825 Norell Road, Noblesville
Indianapolis 17, 4325 S. Meridian St., Indianapolis
Find a full list of theaters and ticket information at www.jonahonstagemovie.com.
Also on the site, Coe shares about his life story; select “Photos and Videos,” then “Rodney Coe’s story” at right.