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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

August 17, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

Accent

Musical portrays importance of family and faith

Perfection is boring. Paradise is boring. With these ideas in mind, the cast of “Children of Eden” intends to present a production that emphasizes the beauty in imperfection and the rewarding outcomes of human struggle.

“Children of Eden” was composed by Stephen Schwartz, the acclaimed lyricist behind the hit Broadway musical “Wicked.” The show is the theater department’s first musical this season and is mostly composed of loose adaptations of stories from the Old Testament of the Bible.

With continuing construction in Dillingham Center, the cast and crew have had to adapt to limited rehearsal space. Most of their rehearsals have been held in the basement studios of Dillingham, making the cast and crew constantly open to impending changes to scenes, movement and staging.

Director Lee Byron, associate professor and chair of the theater department, said the circumstances surrounding the show’s rehearsal process mirror that of the professional world.

“It’s pretty typical in most [professional situations] that you’re not going to get into the theater until very late in the process. In many ways, it’s good for the students to [see] what that transition is like to the theater,” he said.

The actors play multiple roles as storytellers and main characters in the biblical stories. But college students aren’t the only actors taking to the stage. “Children of Eden” also includes four rising middle-school thespians — including director Byron’s 12-year-old daughter, Keara.

Keara, who was also in the cast of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at the college in the spring of 2008, said working with college actors was educational and rewarding.

“It’s kind of challenging because you learn more difficult choreography and more challenging songs,” she said. “They’re good role models on how to sing and act.”

Sophomore cast member Bruce Landry said working with the children was a new experience for him — one that required adjusting to their different levels of skill.

“I haven’t really been in a show where I’ve had to deal with much younger performers,” he said. “They’re wonderful and very talented, but it’s just interesting because we wind up having to teach them years of training that they haven’t gotten yet.”

Senior Michael Haller, who plays Adam in the first act, said though the musical takes parts of the Bible to tell the story, it is not a carbon copy of the written text.

“It’s very clear from the get-go that this is not a biblical retelling,” he said. “The story is changed a little bit for dramatic effect. We’re taking probably 20 to 30 verses of the Bible and making a two-and-a-half-hour musical out of it.”

Senior costume designer Ainsley Anderson said she had to be inventive when it came to toning down the clothing for Haller and senior Abbe Tanenbaum, who plays Eve.

“Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden was difficult because we wanted this to be a family show so we can’t have them be naked,” she said. “We also didn’t want to go with the cliché of nude body stockings with fake greenery. We decided to go with the thought that [God] clothed them in a cloud of his light.”

Her costume designs also incorporate animals in the story of Noah’s Ark in the second act of the play. Majestic, towering elephants, muslin-covered rabbit faces and fabric-covered skeletons of giraffes are all a part of the show. Some of her inspiration came from other professional shows like “War Horse,” a show that uses actors in skeletal puppets of animals.

“We looked at ‘The Lion King’ for some inspiration,” she said. “But we decided to go a little bit different from that.”

Landry said despite the show’s biblical undertones, a diverse audience can enjoy it.

“Don’t let the religious aspect of this show stop you from seeing it,” he said. “You can be an atheist and still really get a great message from the show. Come see it — it’s fierce.”