|Collaboration Across Departments Will Launch the Sondheim Musical on the Davidson Stage
March 20, 2009
by Rachel Andoga
Davidson's community news Web site DavidsonNews.Net conducted a recent interview with "Company" directors Ann Marie Costa, Jacquelyn Culpepper and Bill Lawing. You can hear their comments about the production at this link.
Forged from the efforts of more than 100 students, faculty, staff, and community members, Davidson College’s upcoming production of Stephen Sondheim’s Company marks the first full-scale collaboration between the Davidson Theatre and Music Departments in twenty years.
|First-year student Ryan Chiles receives advice from all sides about his love life in playing Bobby, the lead character in Davdison College's upcoming productio of Stephen Sondheim's "Company."|
General admission tickets are $15, and $11 for seniors. Show times are 8 p.m. on March 27-28, 2 p.m. on March 29, 7:30 p.m. on April 2, and 8 p.m. on April 3-4, all in Duke Family Performance Hall. For ticket information, call 704-894-2135 or visit www.davidson.edu/tickets. Company contains adult language and content; recommended for ages 14 and up.
The story concerns Bobby, a single man unable to commit to a steady relationship, his three increasingly frustrated girlfriends and the five married couples who comprise his close group of friends. Through short vignettes linked by the celebration of his 35th birthday, Bobby weighs the pros and cons of his friends’ relationships and wonders if a life-long commitment lies in his future.
Director Ann Marie Costa, Professor and Theatre Department Chair, has been working closely with Musical Director Jacquelyn Culpepper, Artist Associate of Voice, and Conductor Bill Lawing, J. Estes Millner Professor of Music, to bring Company to life.
“All three of us see things very differently, which I think is a great strength of this production,” said Lawing. “What catches Jacque’s ear is very different than what I’m aware of, and Ann Marie sees something different still as the director and a theatre person. Our differing visions of the show are very complementary.”
Culpepper added, “There’s a security in working with people you trust—I always know that one of the two of them will catch what I miss.” Costa sees value in what she describes as “a wonderful learning curve” from the process of collaboration: “There’s just this added energy. We’re sending people across campus to sing with the orchestra, and Dr. Lawing will come to a rehearsal in our building to conduct a run through. I think it’s a wonderful experience for students to see.”
Culpepper said a strength of the collaboration is the incorporation of new voices into musical theatre. “I’ve had a vision since I’ve been here that every student would have the opportunity at least once to be part of a show at Davidson,” she said. “Whether they play in the pit, act, sing, dance, work backstage, whatever—in a production like Company, everyone puts individual goals aside and works together on something larger.”
Costa agreed. “This collaboration has allowed the Theatre Department to tap into a larger community of students. We have a lot of people in the show who are music majors, or sing in an a cappella group. So we’re bringing an entirely new group of people to the stage.”
|"Company" involves students from both the music and theatre departments. |
History major Michael Harkins ’09, a seasoned student actor who has played major roles in Davidson’s productions of She Loves Me, Anything Goes, and HMS Pinafore, plays Harry in Company. He sees the extension of theatre’s campus reach as indicative of what Davidson can do. “Having student musicians play a score this demanding makes the show a purely Davidson production. We’re saying to audiences these students are talented enough to perform all aspects of the musical.”
“It’s a very honest approach to people and their world,” said Bill Lawing, conductor for the 22 student musicians providing the instrumentals. “Company is all about relationships—not necessarily good ones or bad ones, just normal relationships and the great variety that exists within normal ones.”
First-year student Ryan Chiles ’12, who plays Bobby, claims that the age difference between himself and his character is irrelevant because the problems Bobby faces are endlessly relatable. “Being a college student in a liberal arts environment, I don’t know what I want to do with my life yet,” he said. “What I’m studying now isn’t necessarily going to translate into what my life will look like. None of us knows what the future holds. We’re all trying to figure out where we fit. And that’s what Company is all about.”
The show contains some of Sondheim’s most famous tunes, including “Another Hundred People,” “The Ladies Who Lunch,” and “Being Alive.” The original 1970 production of Company won six Tony Awards, including Best Musical. In 2006, the revival show won the Tony for Best Revival of a Musical, proving the immense staying power of Sondheim’s innovative show. “Company remains a very relevant play for a couple of reasons,” said Costa. “To me, they are the music and the story. The music is typically Sondheim with its complexity and sophistication, and the story stays with you.”
For Costa, the play’s staying power is personal. “One could argue that the reason I am in theatre is because of Company!” she said. Costa was 9 years old when she had her first experience with musical theatre—a college production of Company by the Boston Conservatory of Music, Costa’s eventual alma mater. “It was so vibrant, this idea of live theatre where the actors were just moving on stage, right in front of you. And, even at 9, the idea of someone wanting to be accepted and loved by another human being moved me.”
Davidson is a highly selective independent liberal arts college for 1,700 students located 20 minutes north of Charlotte in Davidson, N.C. Since its establishment in 1837 by Presbyterians, the college has graduated 23 Rhodes Scholars and is consistently regarded as one of the top liberal arts colleges in the country. Through The Davidson Trust, the college became the first liberal arts institution in the nation to replace loans with grants in all financial aid packages, giving all students the opportunity to graduate debt-free. Davidson competes in NCAA athletics at the Division I level, and a longstanding Honor Code is central to student life at the college.
Posted By: Bill Giduz