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October 18, 2012 | 12:00 a.m. CST
Swap Jerusalem for Georgia and Pontius Pilate for a Southern governor, and the scene is set for a modern telling of the story of Christ with a country twist.
In The Cotton Patch Gospel, Mary Hagler, the daughter of a deacon, has baby Jesus in an abandoned trailer because there was no room at the motor lodge. Years later, Jesus takes to the road to preach the word of God.
Tom Key originally wrote the piece as a one-man play. Harry Chapin later added songs and a four-piece band to make it a full-length musical. After seeing Key perform the play, actor Phillip Kaufmann wondered if he could pull off an entirely one-man show — music and all.
Kaufmann plays more than 20 characters and 11 instruments on stage at the same time with the help of prerecorded videos projected onto a screen. He even sings his own back-up vocals.
His mission is simple — to fight hunger by donating the proceeds from each performance to local, national and international organizations. As of Oct. 16, Kaufmann has raised more than $55,700, and half of the proceeds from his two Columbia performances will be donated to support local food pantries and soup kitchens.
Since he started the project a year and a half ago, Kaufmann has already performed 50 shows across the country, and he says it’s always fun to watch the audience sort through what’s going on the first time they see five of him on stage.