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Haverford Winter 2011 : Page 24

The Blue Flower , which features 18 original songs composed by Jim Bauer, has virtually no dialogue. The story is narrated by an onstage figure called The Fairy Tale Man (far left). Growing Flower 24 HaverfordMagazine The Blue The multimedia musical Jim Bauer ’78 and his wife Ruth first conceived a decade ago gets its first full-scale production at the renowned American Repertory Theater. Bauer, a former music major who had never thought of the work as a Broadway show, is backed by one of Broadway’s biggest names: Stephen Schwartz of Pippin and Wicked fame. . By Eils Lotozo

Growing The Blue Flower

Eils Lotozo

The multimedia musical Jim Bauer ’78 and his wife Ruth first conceived a decade ago gets its first full-scale production at the renowned American Repertory Theater. Bauer, a former music major who had never thought of the work as a Broadway show, is backed by one of Broadway’s biggest names: Stephen Schwartz of Pippin and Wicked fame.<br /> <br /> Up on stage at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Mass., a man in a bowler hat pedals a bicycle in slow looping circles, a woman wearing insect wings and wielding a flyswatter sings a mordant song, and an actor delivers a tongue-in-cheek lecture on the origins of World War I. Projected onto the back wall of the set, videos with the look of old silent films show marching soldiers and white horses galloping in a fog. A nine-piece band, stationed stage right, plays a soaring melody as a character on a park bench sings a lament.<br /> <br /> This is the technical rehearsal for The Blue Flower, which will open for previews the next night, and Jim Bauer ’78 and his wife, Ruth, the creators of this unorthodox musical about art, love and war, sit in the darkened theater studying the action onstage. Also in the theater on this rainy November night is Stephen Schwartz, composer and lyricist of such Broadway hits as Wicked, Pippin and Godspell. Schwartz is one of the producers of the show, and it is thanks to his efforts that The Blue Flower, first conceived by the Bauers more than a decade ago, is getting its first full-scale production here at A.R.T.<br /> <br /> As the lights go up at the close of the rehearsal, the Bauers huddle with Schwartz and A.R.T. Artistic Director Diane Paulus to ponder what needs tweaking in the sprawling multimedia show, which features seven actors, 18 original songs composed by Jim Bauer, and a complicated set with a rolling platform used, at various times, to conjure a battlefield trench and the Eiffel Tower.<br /> <br /> “I think things went pretty well with the sound for the first run,” says Schwartz, who became enthralled with The Blue Flower when he saw a stripped-down version in a tiny New York theater a few years ago. But Jim Bauer is unhappy that the band is crammed into a corner of the stage. “I want them to be positioned so they can see the films,” he says. “I want them to be participants in the show.” Ruth Bauer, a visual artist who co-directed the inventive videos that are such an integral part of the play, raises an eyebrow when Schwartz gently suggests that one of them is distracting from an important bit of stage business and could be cut.<br /> <br /> Later, Jim Bauer will observe, “For So many years, we had no one to answer to about The Blue Flower but ourselves. But now that we have investors, they have an interest in changing it in ways they think will make it successful. What we have to do is decide what we think we need to retain in order for it to be the Blue Flower we imagined, but be open to other people who have ideas about getting it in front of a larger audience. Stephen Schwartz has been very good this way. He says, I don’t want to change what you want to do. But the higher the stakes, the more difficult that becomes.”<br /> <br /> Set in Paris, Zurich and Berlin, on a battlefield and a New York park bench, The Blue Flower follows the shifting fortunes of four friends—the painters Franz and Max, Dada artist Hannah, and scientist Maria—through the First World War and into the Second. The show’s arresting music incorporates pedal steel Guitar and cello, accordion and bassoon. (Bauer calls his Kurt Weill-meets-Hank Williams sound “Sturm n’ Twang.”) The songs, which feature Bauer’s poetic, impressionistic lyrics, include a number of showstoppers, among them the poignant “Eiffel Tower,” an exploration of loss, mourning and survival that ends the first act and could bring a tear to even the most jaded eye. (“Eiffel Tower” already seems to be making its own way into the American songbook. Jim says he’s been fielding a steady series of requests from actors who want the music for auditions.)<br /> <br /> In most ways, though, The Blue Flower doesn’t at all resemble a traditional musical. Its title refers to an image the German romantic poets used to symbolize the quest for artistic perfection and that later became an emblem of hope. With virtually no dialogue in the play, the story is narrated by an onstage figure called The Fairy Tale Man. The Bauers describe the work as based on the concept of a collage. Its constantly changing video projections offer vintage photos, moody images, witty textual comments on the proceedings, and archival footage, including a clip from a Man Ray film featuring flying hats. The video element also provides subtitles for the invented language, called Maxperanto, that Max, the main character, speaks throughout the play in a Gesture that is part political statement and part art project.<br /> <br /> “The Blue Flower is about a society in turmoil,” says Schwartz in an interview at A.R.T the morning after the tech rehearsal. “It’s about artists trying to make art, and have lives and romance, and being buffeted by events that are out of their control. And it’s about the way a society can be commandeered by people who seem to have very simple solutions.”<br /> <br /> The Grammy- and Oscar-winning composer, who once had three shows running on Broadway simultaneously, calls The Blue Flower “one of the most creative and original pieces of musical Theater that I’ve ever encountered in my life.” But he acknowledges that this quirky originality makes the show a challenge to stage. “The tone walks a very fine line,” says Schwartz. “It deals with very serious subject matter but with sardonic humor. It’s really a tricky piece. You can’t say, Well how did they do that in The King and I? There is no model. The Blue Flower is a thing unto itself.”<br /> <br /> A major piece of musical theater with Broadway aspirations is not at all what the Bauers had in mind when they first hatched the concept for The Blue Flower.<br /> <br /> Jim, a Haverford music major who found an important mentor in longtime music professor and prolific composer John Davison, has been composing and playing music since his college days. A pianist, singer and guitarist, he has performed in a number of bands and is currently part of the “free folk” duo Dagmar with singer Meghan McGeary. “When we started Dagmar, I envisioned this trilogy of Cds,” says Jim. “I had an idea for a narrative song cycle whose concept was this guy who can’t get up in the morning and an insect goddess who plunges through the ether to rescue him.” (Two of the Cds have come out, and the third was completed in September but is yet to be released.)<br /> <br /> In 2007, Dagmar won a slot in the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s competitive Music Under New York program, which schedules performances at subway stations. With the help of video footage he’d recorded and some meticulous counting, Jim estimated that in one Union Square gig Dagmar played to more than 6,000 different people an hour. “We sold tons of Cds and made a huge number of fans—from all over the world, because this is New York,” he says. In 2008, Dagmar got the chance to rehearse with Oasis and later play some songs from the band’s Dig Out Your Soul album in the Grand Central subway station. It was part of a novel promotion for the aboutto- be released record that had the band teaching the songs to NYC buskers.<br /> <br /> (To watch videos of that performance go to youtube.com/dagmar2.)<br /> <br /> To make ends meet, Jim has worked as a freelance composer scoring for independent films and television, and for eight years he sold life insurance—something one of his musical heroes, composer Charles Ives, once did. “You are basically self-employed as a life-insurance salesman,” he says, “and that gives you freedom and control over your own time to do other things, like music. I was a very good life-insurance salesman, partly, I think, because I’m not what people expected.”<br /> <br /> He and Ruth raised two boys, taking turns in the primary-bread-winner role so that each could have time for their art. Son Lewis, 27, graduated from Haverford in 2006, married a Bryn Mawr alumna, And now teaches English in a public school in Virginia. Sam, 24, works as a paralegal in Boston. Ruth, who studied at the Rhode Island School of Design, has worked as an illustrator, and her paintings, watercolors, collages and monotypes have been shown in museums and galleries across the country. For the past decade, she has been a faculty member, and now chairs the arts department, at Shore Country Day School in Beverly, Mass., where the Bauers live.<br /> <br /> Jim first began composing the music that would become The Blue Flower in 1999. He saw the work back then as a song cycle and his inspiration was the couple’s shared interest in the Weimar period in Germany. “It was an extraordinary time,” he says of the Weimar era, that brief period of democracy between the end of World War I and the rise of the Nazis, when artists and intellectuals flourished. “World War I had taken everything down, but then they had this opportunity to build things back up,” he says. “It was this period of devastation and hope, a time of restless, feverish, artistic impulse.”<br /> <br /> It is just hours away from the first preview performance, and the tall, intense Texas native is sitting with his wife at a table in the lobby of the A.R.T. The Bauers, who finish each other’s sentences with an easy rapport that seems unaffected by the tensions of a looming theatrical debut, have just finished filming an interview for a local television show. Soon they will be called back into the theater, where the cast and crew are again rehearsing, to wrangle over eleventhhour changes in the production.<br /> <br /> “All of this really started with this idea of having a live band in front of a silent film,” says Ruth about the origins of The Blue Flower. “We were thinking of it as a concert experience.”<br /> <br /> The couple made some videos, and Jim put together a group he dubbed the Weimarband to play the music in a series of “alt-cabaret” performances. With Jim and three other singers on vocals (among them McGeary, who originated the role of Hannah, which she plays in the A.R.T. production), they played clubs around New York, including the Bottom Line and Joe’s Pub, as well as alternative venues, such as Galapagos Art Space.<br /> <br /> The director of the A.R.T. production, Will Pomerantz, had his first introduction to The Blue Flower at one of these concert performances. It made an indelible impression. “The music was unlike anything I had ever heard,” he says.<br /> <br /> Through it all, says Ruth, “We had no big destination in mind.”<br /> <br /> “It was never, We could turn this into a Broadway show,” says Jim.<br /> <br /> “The way we approached it is, This is what we’re making right now,” Ruth says. “I think that’s what you do as an artist. You go into the studio and you make something and you see where that leads you. That’s how we would work.”<br /> <br /> As the years passed, the piece continued to grow and shift. The Bauers did more research on Weimar Germany and the belle epoque, the long era of peace and prosperity that began in the 19th century and ended with the Great War. They began to flesh out a basic story (a love rectangle) and four characters very loosely inspired by four real-life figures: the artists Max Beckmann (declared a “degenerate” artist by the Nazis), Franz Marc (the German Expressionist painter killed in World War 1) and Hannah Hôch (part of the Dada movement in Berlin); and the scientist Marie Curie.<br /> <br /> Audiences loved The Blue Flower, says Ruth, “but they got more and more interested in the characters. They kept saying, ‘Tell us more about the story.’”<br /> <br /> Looking for guidance, in March 2003 the Bauers submitted the work to a music-theater workshop that Schwartz runs with ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, a performing rights organization). “I read the synopsis, and it described this multimedia, avant-garde piece with video and nine-piece band,” Schwartz says. “I said, This is great, but we only have a piano in a cafeteria. They said, That’s OK; we just want to work on the story.”<br /> <br /> That summer, the Bauers again benefited from Schwartz’s counsel at an ASCAP-sponsored two-week workshop at The Perry Mansfield School for the Performing Arts in Steamboat Springs, Colo., in which they presented two complete workshop performances with Jim playing the lead role. Then came six performances of the full play at the New York Musical Theatre Festival. Eventually, The Blue Flower attracted the support of producers Andrew Levine and Steve Tate, who joined forces with The Prospect Theater Company to mount an Equity showcase production at The West End Theatre in New York in 2008.<br /> <br /> Seeing that production was what finally hooked Schwartz, inspiring him to take on the role of theatrical producer for the first time in his life. “I thought, How can I get this show someplace where people can see it?” says Schwartz, who decided that the perfect venue for a full production was the venerable A.R.T., known for its daring theatrical fare.<br /> <br /> All it took was a call from Schwartz to A.R.T. artistic director Diane Paulus, asking her to listen to a CD of The Blue Flower. “It was by far the most exciting music I’ve heard in years,” she says. “It’s not imitative of anyone else, and it has a kind of passion and intelligence I thought is exactly right for A.R.T.”<br /> <br /> Getting to this point, with The Blue Flower hovering at the edge of fame and possibly fortune, has not been easy for the Bauers, says David G. Oedel ’79, who has been Jim’s friend since the two were customs men together in Lunt.<br /> <br /> “I think people have often said to Jim, why don’t you just forget your dreams and do something more conventional,” says Oedel, a professor at Mercer University Law School who is acting as the couple’s attorney, helping them navigate the complex contractual territory that comes with having three separate producers with a financial stake in The Blue Flower.<br /> <br /> “But Jim has a combination of dogged-Ness and uncompromising artistic vision that is very unusual,” says Oedel. “I also think Ruth has helped facilitate that. She is a wonderful, generous-spirited person and a great artistic partner. In a way, The Blue Flower is a snapshot of their marriage. Each has contributed to the whole, and it’s better for each of their contributions.”<br /> <br /> As for where The Blue Flower could ultimately be headed, Stephen Schwartz is circumspect. “I liked this piece and I thought it deserved a shot. But I don’t know if this will be the only full production or whether [the play] could become a part of the repertoire at other nonprofit theaters,” he says. “There are things that have clear commercial value in the theater and things that don’t. But you just never know what will turn out to have an audience and what won’t.”<br /> <br /> Jim, too, is uncertain. What he’s wary of, as the first full-production performance of The Blue Flower approaches, is turning the piece into something else. “When we first created The Blue Flower, we really thought of it in abstract terms. It wasn’t about characters. It was about understanding this restless thing that could create greatness or great tragedy. We wanted to make something that would create that same restless sense in the audience, something visually stunning and engaging.”<br /> <br /> He’s still got qualms about the idea of cutting one of the films. “And now they want us to cut the second song,” he says. “They think it drags. But we don’t always have to be telling a story. There should be some sense of discovery for the audience. It’s that experience we’re trying to provide.”<br /> <br /> EPILOGUE: The Blue Flower had a strong run at A.R.T. Though the reviews were mixed, some glowing, others not so kind, audiences were enthusiastic, with many returning to see the show multiple times. “It was a fantastic experience,” says Jim. “The audiences were great.The show had standing ovations almost every night.”<br /> <br /> The Bauers continued to tweak the show throughout the run. They cut one of the films in half in one scene and streamlined the music in another. “We’re discussing creating a new scene as a bridge between the characters in their youth in Paris and the outbreak of the war,” Jim says.<br /> <br /> In February The Blue Flowerwas nominated for 11 IRNE Awards, which each year recognize the best of Boston theater. Among the categories the production got the nod for are best actress, best actor, best new play, best musical and best musical director.<br /> <br /> And it looks like The Blue Flower could have a bright future. At press time, the show’s producers were in discussions with two prominent off-Broadway theaters in New York that “auditioned” the show at A.R.T. and are interested in doing a production next season. The Bauers and the three producers will be meeting in March for a Blue Flower summit to plan the next steps.<br /> <br /> “We wanted to make a piece of art with some integrity, but we also want to bring it to a larger audience,” says Jim. “I think we’re almost there.”<br /> <br /> FORDS IN THEATER<br /> <br /> ALENA SMITH ’02: PLAYWRIGHT<br /> <br /> Smith is the author of The Lacy Project, It or Her, The Piven Monologues, Alice Eat Your Words and Saturnalia in Poughkeepsie, among other plays. In 2009, her play The Sacrifices, the darkly comedic story of a family cruise gone wrong, was selected for the Summer Play Festival sponsored by New York’s Public Theater. Smith’s play Plucker—about 29-year-olds grappling with money problems, relationship issues and abandoned dreams—had a monthlong run in London, at the Southwark Playhouse, last summer. She lives in Brooklyn.<br /> <br /> Latest work: Smith is shopping around The Bad Guys. The play focuses on five men who grew up together, among them a Marine just back from Iraq and a banker mixed up in the housing-market collapse, as they deal with secrets from their past.<br /> <br /> What she loves about writing for the theater: “I love the possibility of the audience getting to be privy to incredibly long and intimate scenes between characters. In the theater you have the opportunity to dwell with characters in a specific environment and almost cross over into a place that feels uncomfortable. The audience is compelled to witness a confrontation and take stock of all sides. If the playwright has done their job, you don’t know whose side they are on.”<br /> <br /> Theater’s biggest challenge: “The world of American theater is challenged in so many ways. There’s a lack of money, a lack of an engaged audience and a lack of responsible critics. In New York, the critics are the ones who set the tone, and it seems like every time there is a new play the playwright gets a public humiliation. After years of unpaid labor, you get your foot in the tiniest crack of the door, and they throw tomatoes at you. I am friends with a lot of playwrights my age, all at differing levels of success, and everyone says they feel worn out. Hopefully, we might be able to support ourselves writing for television.” More information: alenasmith.typepad.com<br /> <br /> SCENES FROM THE BLUE FLOWER<br /> <br /> (left) Meghan McGeary, a frequent musical collaborator with Jim Bauer, in the role of Hannah, which she originated. (above) The cast performs a dance with chairs in the show, which the Bauers first conceived as a “concert experience” combining a live band with film. (below, left to right) Maria (Teal Wicks), Max (Daniel Jenkins), and Franz (Lucas Kavner) form a “love rectangle” in the play with Hannah (McGeary, far right).<br /> <br /> SARAH LOWRY ’05: CO-FOUNDER OF EXPERIMENTAL THEATER COMPANY THE MISSOULA OBLONGATA<br /> <br /> Lowry and friends Donna Sellinger and Madeline ffitch launched the company in Missoula, Mont., in 2005 with their first collaborative play, The Wonders of the World: Recite. With a mission to create and tour original work, the company members make their own portable sets and lights, which they operate themselves. Among the full-length works they have taken on the road are The Most Mysterious Day of the Year, The Last Hurrah of the Clementines, and The 50 Greatest Ladies and Gentlemen. A reviewer once likened their work to “a bunch of summer camp counselors performing a fairy tale with a set designed by deeply disturbed scrapbookers."<br /> <br /> Latest work: Clamlump, directed by Lowry, visited 18 states in five weeks during The Missoula Oblongata’s winter tour, which ended in February.<br /> <br /> What she loves about what she does: “We are able to bring theater to people who don’t normally go to the theater, and to communities and spaces that normally don’t house theater—whether this be a tiny community center in a really small town, a cafeteria in a summer camp, or a barn in Vermont. In the places we perform, there is often no stage at all, and that offers us the opportunity to break the rules of traditional theater practices. We can reinvent the tradition of theater.<br /> <br /> “When I get to sit in a packed audience of a play that I have directed, or when I perform for a crowd that is shouting at us from their seats, I know that what I am doing is important. There is a need for it. This is what keeps me going.”<br /> <br /> Biggest challenge: “Fund raising. We make most of our sets from scrap, find donated rehearsal space, and pass the hat for gas money on tour. This means that when we begin the process of making a new show and planning a tour, donations go a very long way to filling the gaps in our hunter-gatherer strategy.”<br /> <br /> More information: themissoulaoblongata.com<br /> <br /> KEN LUDWIG ’72: PLAYWRIGHT<br /> <br /> Ludwig, who lives in Washington, D.C., is the author of 16 plays, including the Broadway hits Lend Me a Tenor, Crazy for You, and Moon Over Buffalo. His work has been performed in more than 20 languages in at least 30 countries. Latest work: Ludwig’s comedy A Fox on the Fairway debuted at the Signature Theater in Arlington, Va., in October.<br /> <br /> What he loves about the theater: “I love the immediacy of the experience, the visceral feeling you get as a performer, a writer and an audience member when you’re part of a community having a one-time experience that can never be replicated. I love being in an audience when the laughter echoes around the rafters in a way that can happen nowhere else. I love telling stories. I love the architecture of a great play and I love the way that a play can get to the heart of a person with a single word or even a single turn of the head. I have two world premieres coming up in 2011, as well as a revival of one of my musicals, Crazy for You, in London, and I look forward to being involved in the productions. I love being part of the community of actors and designers. We become families with each production in a way that is very moving. There is nothing in the world I’d rather be doing than writing plays.”<br /> <br /> His biggest challenge: “At the moment it’s finding time to write all the plays that are spinning around in my head. The past few years have been full of new plays for me, and I have several more that I’m ready to write.”<br /> <br /> More information: kenludwig.com<br /> <br /> LANE SAVADOVE ’89: ARTISTIC DIRECTOR, EGOPO<br /> <br /> Savadove launched the nonprofit repertory theater company EgoPo in New Orleans 15 years ago with the mission of staging classic works of modern theater. After Hurricane Katrina destroyed the company’s headquarters, he relocated EgoPo to Philadelphia. Among the company’s repertory productions are Jean Genet’s The Maids, Frank Wedekind’s Spring Awakening, Tennessee Williams’ Vieux Carré and an adaptation of Samuel Beckett’s Company that involves blindfolding the audience. Most recent production: EgoPo mounted Artaud Unbound in February. Savadove’s production of Hell, based on the novel by Henri Barbusse, opens April 27 in Philadelphia.<br /> <br /> What keeps him at the work: “When you’re running a small theater company, you don’t usually have time to ask yourself the big questions. But post-Katrina I had the opportunity to ask: What is the importance of our mission? Do we have something special to provide to audiences? I came to the conclusion that, yes, the work that we did was unique and if we didn’t do it, no one else would. We take these amazing works of art, that are challenging, large in scale and difficult to produce, and bring them back to life again. We create context in theater. Doing a season devoted to Antonin Artaud, as we have, gives you a context for the entire avant-garde theater movement.”<br /> <br /> His biggest challenge: “You have to be careful of burnout as an artistic director. There is so little money to go around for theater that you have to be OK with licking stamps and doing whatever is required. Fortunately, I love accounting and I love writing grants. But it gets to be a trudge. You have to make sure you have your eye on the bigger picture, so that even the most mundane tasks feel meaningful to you.”<br /> <br /> More information: Egopo.org<br /> <br /> THEATER THRIVES AT THE BI -CO AND BEYOND<br /> <br /> Theater major Emily Letts ’11 hasn’t yet graduated, but she’s already become part of Philadelphia’s vibrant theater scene. As a junior, Letts was featured in the cast of FATEBOOK: Avoiding Catastrophe One Party at a Time, presented by New Paradise Laboratories (and also featuring Jesse Paulsen ’09) at the 2009 Philadelphia Live Arts Festival and Philly Fringe. Letts, who has been cast in several other roles since then, is currently hard at work on a new production, titled Whale Optics, being developed by Philadelphia theater artist Thaddeus Phillips.<br /> <br /> Letts credits her success to the training she has received in the Bryn Mawr and Haverford Theater Program and in particular to its affiliated program, the Headlong Performance Institute. “It was possibly the most important experience I’ve had as an artist,” says Letts of the Institute, a semester-long intensive in which students live in Philadelphia and attend classes five days a week with a faculty comprised of some of the city’s top theater artists.<br /> <br /> Professor of Theater Mark Lord, who has helped shape the bi-college theater program since he arrived at Bryn Mawr in 1987, developed the Institute with members of Philadelphia’s Headlong Dance Theater. “We had been talking about what young people need to develop in our field and we decided to start an institute to supply what we’d identified,” says Lord, a director whose acclaimed, often site-specific, productions have included Across, in which the audience walked through Philadelphia’s Old City neighborhood to experience sixty actors at 50 sites performing a text by Walt Whitman.<br /> <br /> The Headlong Institute, which offers bi-co students a full semester of academic credit, provides training in performance techniques as well as practical information about the life of an artist. “Sometimes students think that being an artist means you are either going to be a star or eat dog food for the rest of your life, but Philadelphia has lots of examples of theater artists who own houses and raise children. So, we teach them about taxes, and money, and how nonprofit corporations work, and how much being a good writer counts when you do grant applications.”<br /> <br /> The bi-co theater program offers students the opportunity to minor in theater, or to major in the subject through the Independent Major Program. Courses offered include fundamentals of acting, topics in American drama and playwriting. The program has sponsored a Student Theater Festival, which provides an opportunity to gain experience mounting and directing works for the stage, and each fall semester, Lord directs a major production with a cast of student actors.<br /> <br /> In November, Lord directed Alice Underground, a play that Took the denizens of Alice’s Wonderland and set them down in the 1960s avant garde music scene in New York. Joseph Ramirez ’13, played the Mad Hatter in the production, which also featured John McLure ’12 and Josh Samors ’11 in the cast. “That was the biggest role I’ve ever played,” says Ramirez, a sociology major and theater minor. “I was very, very nervous, but there was something comforting about having Mark there, because you always have the sense that he really knows what he’s doing.”<br /> <br /> Ramirez, who is also an active member of Haverford’s student-run, longform improv group The Throng, has taken Intro to Acting (with adjunct professor Catharine Slusar, one of Philadelphia’s busiest stage actresses), as well as 20th Century Theories of Acting and Shakespeare on Stage, both with Lord. He also took a course on foundations in technical theater—which encompasses lighting, sound and stage design— with longtime theater professor Hiroshi Iwasaki. “I found that the nuts and bolts of theater are just as interesting to me as the actual production,” says Ramirez.<br /> <br /> Sadly, the theater program lost Iwasaki to cancer in January. A respected designer, he collaborated closely with Lord on dozens of innovative productions, on campus and off, and his talent for helping students to believe in themselves as artists made him a beloved mentor to many. “To say that he will be missed, would never cover it,” says Rose Bochansky BMC ’99, a former student of Iwasaki’s who now works as the theater program’s technical director.<br /> <br /> Beyond its official course offerings, the bi-co theater program also provides crucial assistance to student-run productions. Sam Rodriques ’13, the director of an ambitious and well-received tri-co production of the Stephen Sondheim musical Assassins, which ran for three nights in Bryn Mawr’s Goodhart Auditorium in December, says the group relied heavily on the theater program staff. “Rose and Brooklyn [Poggioli, the assistant technical director,] helped us with every aspect of the show,” says Rodriques. “They didn’t just supervise, they were very much participants. They helped us put together the technical side of the production. They helped hang lights and do sound.”<br /> <br /> A math and physics major, and a student worker with the theater department, Rodriquez says his motivation for making Assassins a tri-co effort (something that had never been tried before) was his desire to create a sophisticated production. “It seemed the best way to do that was to incorporate talent from all three schools,” Rodriquez says. “But we could not have done it without the help of the theater program. Supporting student theater is something they do very well."<br /> <br /> —Eils Lotozo

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