This has been a an interesting semester for the theatre department. First, there was a musical in the Fred Stone Theatre. Now, they are rehearsing for an improv show in the Annie Russell Theatre. But the biggest shock of all is the opera the music and theatre departments are planning in the Tiedtke Music Hall.
Dr. Julia Foster and Kevin Gray have devoted all of this semester to training a group of students to perform the traditional childhood fable Hansel and Gretel. According to Foster, part of the reason that they chose Hansel and Gretel was that the students could relate to the characters and the roles matched their voices. Laura Knowles ’11, who plays the role of the Witch, added that, “It’s a fairytale. So it’s very fun … and it’s not so far removed from your life that you can’t understand it.”
The cast auditioned for the opera last November then started rehearsing at the beginning of the semester with nine hours of rehearsal a week. Gray, the show’s stage director, started working with the actors by doing a read through of the show without any music added, so that they could dramatically develop their characters. After they had created a general idea of how they wanted to portray the characters, Foster began training them musically.
One of the main challenges that the actors have faced is the fact that the entire opera is sung with absolutely no speaking parts. Said D’vonte Chapman ’14, one of the only boys in the show, “you have to make sure that you keep your voice healthy.” Gray seconded this, saying, “these arts are ancient and Olympian … they require such extremes of the human instruments that they literally can’t be done until a certain age.” The good news is that Foster and Gray doublecast the show so that there will be a different group of actors performing for each of the two nights the show is running. This relieved some of the stress for the actors by ensuring that they would not have to sing a full opera two nights in a row.
Gray, in particular, has been very enthusiastic about the collaboration between the two departments. He has been pushing for this connection to be made for the two years he has been here, and now that it has happened, he could not be happier. He and the actors have enjoyed exploring the themes of the show. “It’s such a universal theme,” Gray said. “What is safe and what is frightening for children … and for each actor, those elements were different.” Everyone has agreed that while the show has been difficult, it has also been a worthwhile experience. “It’s a lot of work because you’re adding movement to an already difficult art form … but mostly it’s just been really fun because you’re with all of your peers and you’re all in it together,” Knowles commented before going back to rehearsal.
Hansel and Gretel will run on April 1 and 2 in the Tiedtke Music Hall.