By Megan Bowers, Senior Staff Writer
With a cast of over 50 actors, “Street Scene” is by far one of the largest productions ever put on at Miami.
“It’s the hardest show we have ever attempted and the the most ambitious thing we have ever done,” director Ben Smolder said. “When it comes together, it will be really beautiful.”
“Street Scene”, which will be showing April 7, 8 and 9 at 7:30pm in Gates-Abegglen Theater, tells the story of five immigrant families in the 1940s, who all live in the same brown building and are struggling to find their own American Dream.
The main focus of the story is the family dynamic of the Maurrants — the father, Frank, is abusive, the mother, Anna, is unhappy with her life and their daughter, Rose, is looking for a way out of the brown house.
Though the people in this family and the others are very different from one another, they are all connected by their current situation.
“They all identify in different ways but can relate because they are in the same slump,” graduate student, Travis Pearce, who plays Sam, the best friend and potential love interest of Rose, said. “They are all, in essence, trying to get out.”
With any performance where you take on another character, a crucial first step is deciding how you are going to play them.
“There are choices made for you, because it is a script, but then there are choices you can develop on your own,” Pearce said. “It’s about getting to know the script and then adding your own layer.”
One way to add this layer is by relating the character to your own experiences.
“I relate to my character through my mother,” recent Miami graduate Rebecca Herbst, who plays Anna Maurrant, said. “I come from a family of divorce, so I know what it looks like when someone doesn’t love someone anymore, so I tend to look at what my mom was feeling.”
On the other hand, many characters are much harder to relate to. Sophomore Steele Fitzwater, who plays Frank Maurrant, says that it is difficult getting into the mind of such a dark character.
“Being the villain of the show, he is a character very different from myself,” Fitzwater said. “You have to put yourself in a very dark and introverted mindset, mending your own experiences with the role you are playing.”
The events that occur in the show are not typically experiences that are easy to relate to.
“I have never had to live in a situation as she is living her life,” junior Andrea Davies, who plays Rose Maurrant, said. “She has a cloud over her the entire time as she always carries her family’s problems with her.”
Miami’s production of “Street Scene” is unique because it has been double cast, meaning that each of the leading roles has two actors who will rotate nights playing them.
This is convenient as it gives the actors time to rest and relax, but it also means you could see two entirely different shows if you went on different nights.
Although the basics of the characters are there, each actor has their own take on their personality.
“I think as an opera singer you really draw from your own experiences,” Fitzwater said. “There are some actions that are different based on how you feel you would react in a given situation.”
“Street Scene” is a highly emotional show, full of many shocking moments, and this can take a toll on the actors.
“You have to reach that emotional peak, but you can’t let it affect your personal life,” Davies said. “You have to find the line because you want to be able to get there when you’re performing but you can’t go all the way or its death by character.”
These emotions can also affect your voice, especially in such a singing-intensive show.
“To sing music that has such a high level of drama and intensity behind it is really good for a young singer to do,” Fitzwater said. “It teaches you how to perform without letting the emotion affect your voice.”
The music in the show is not what you would typically expect when going to see an opera.
“The composers included jazz, blues, Italian opera and Wagnerian orchestral influences, all of these things because they represent the diverse types of people living in the building,” Allie Rose Hotz, who plays Rose, said. “They are immigrants and come from all different areas of life and it just
blends it together.”
The themes that arise because of this are very relevant today.
“You can see there is a lot of racism, a lot of turmoil and fear against immigrants,” Smolder said. “This piece is not hidden under political correctness. It’s just raw and exposed, and it doesn’t cast judgment on anything. It just tells a story for better or for worse.”
Tickets for “Street Scene” are $10.