May Day Musical

04/20/18

Small-cast musical at Bluffton explores the creative process

Bluffton University will present “[title of show]” as the May Day musical on May 4 and 5 at 7:30 p.m. each evening in Yoder Recital Hall.

This playful contemporary show offers audience members a glimpse at the creative process by showcasing a musical about writing a musical. This small-cast production explores themes of creative collaboration, self-doubt and artistic dilemmas that seek to resonate with viewers.

“It’s really about where you find your inspiration and pulling those pieces together,” said Dr. Melissa Friesen, professor of theatre and communication, when discussing the musical’s themes. “I think this musical is a lovely opportunity for people participating in the arts to think about where inspiration and creativity come from.”

“[title of the show]” explores the ideas of creativity and muse, following the journey of four friends entering the creative process. The unique and quirky dynamics stem from the musical writers themselves portraying their own lives through this production. The actors and actresses cast also resonate with the difficulties of the creative process with the somewhat daunting size of the roles.

“There are just four performers, so it’s a tiny cast,” said Friesen. “But, they are getting incredible opportunities to develop these characters, have tight harmonies with the songs, and have fun with the personalities in these characters to bring a lot of sparkle and quirkiness to the performance.”

The smaller casting offers students a lot of opportunity but also a lot of responsibility. Memorization and time commitment, at the most basic level, are some of the more difficult tasks with such a small group of performers.

However, the cast members collaborate well together, easing some of the difficulties.

“It’s been different, but it’s been fun since we all gel,” said Seth Regula ’19, a music major from Jackson Center, Ohio, who plays Jeff. “We have great cast members, and we’re already friends so we know what buttons not to press and all of our own styles.”

Each student cast member represents roughly 25 percent of the performance, so juggling both academics and the arts can also be difficult.

“Balancing this huge time commitment at the end of the semester is a big challenge,” said Friesen. “But, I’m really excited about our cast members, and they are fantastic, working hard and are really dedicated.”

The students are also optimistic about the progress.

“Just getting to see progress pretty quickly is rewarding,” said Meghan Gibson ’19, music major from Goshen, Ind., who plays Heidi.  “Going in not knowing a lot about what you’re doing in a specific scene or song and coming out of rehearsal much better than when you started is nice to see.”

In addition to the small cast size and single musician, the musical itself calls for few dramatic props and elements.

“It’s about finding magical moments within simple circumstances,” said Friesen.

The cast is utilizing the “almost bare stage” as an “open space to fill with creativity” in their exploration of the characters and themes in this production.

The small-cast production encourages the audience and cast alike to think about the creative process and how even the simplest of things can draw the biggest inspiration and make the biggest impact.

“It doesn’t have to be a huge Broadway budget to be extraordinary,” said Friesen.

The musical is under the direction of Friesen with Natalie Mallis serving as music director and Stephanie Titus serving as rehearsal accompanist and lone musician. Along with Regula and Gibson, music major Taylor Blum of Wharton, Ohio, will play Hunter, and Alicia Loch, a biology and sociology double major from Quakertown, Pa., will play Susan.

The musical will be performed at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, May 4 and 5, in Yoder Recital Hall. Tickets are $15 for reserved seats and $5 for Bluffton University students. They are available online at http://tickets.bluffton.edu or in person at Marbeck Center Information Desk; for assistance with tickets, call the box office at 419-358-3239. 

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Cara Echols '19 Student News Writer