‘A New Brain’ challenges UD theatre, audience

By: Mary Kate Dorr – Asst. A&E Editor

Wouldn’t the world be a bit simpler if you could catch a glimpse into the minds of those in your life? You would know what essay questions your teacher is considering for the final exam or if your friends actually like the new shirt you just bought. The University of Dayton Theatre Program will offer that chance this month in William Finn’s musical, “A New Brain.”

The play follows Gordon, a frustrated playwright, after he becomes unconscious while meeting with an agent. After being admitted to the hospital, Gordon’s inner thoughts become available to the audience. His mind is exposed, including his fear of being unable to write any more songs if he doesn’t wake up.

“It provides for a very interesting, fast-paced show,” senior theater and English major Jess Urban, the show’s production stage manager, said. “A New Brain” is Urban’s last show at UD and differs from any of her previous shows.

“‘A New Brain’ is also completely sung, and the few moments of dialogue are completely underscored by music, which means that the music has to flow perfectly for the show to sound just right,” Urban said. The show has come together quickly after auditions were held in early February.

This short turn-around time means less preparation time for not just Urban, but for the actors and stage technicians as well. Travis Dwire, a junior computer and electrical engineer, is one of several student stage technicians working to make sure the behind the scenes work is completed by Opening Night. This includes painting the set, hanging and focusing the theatrical lighting and managing the theatrical sound system. One of the biggest projects for the show’s stage technicians was building an MRI machine that will run for the first time opening night.

“It is a pretty technical piece that we put together this year,” Dwire said.

The show requires a lot of effort outside of rehearsal from the actors as well. Sophomore music performance major Annie Scott will perform as Rhoda, Gordon’s agent. She attested to the difficulty in memorizing a staged scene or song., but thinks Finn is brilliant.

“The music is very challenging,” Scott said. The composer, William Finn, is just so brilliant!”

Sophomore Norb Wessels agrees that the most challenging part of preparing for the show is singing. Wessels plays Mr. Bungee, the despotic frog-based children’s show that Gordon works for.

“He is zany and evil, and an overall joy to play,” said Wessels.

Urban faced different obstacles as production stage manager. “Being a stage manager means being on top of everything, and knowing the next step often before most of the cast and crew have even thought about it,” she said. Luckily, she doesn’t have to face these challenges alone – stage manager Rachel Twardzic is part of her team.

“Having the two of us working together has helped alleviate some of the challenges that come with stage managing and trying to be multiple places at once,” Urban said.

The stage managers, technicians and actors all agree that the show will be one for the books, and one that UD students are sure to appreciate.

“It really makes you evaluate the reasons you decide to make creation a part of your life,” Wessels said. “I think that it also teaches you to realize what is important in this world.”

“This story takes you on a journey with everyone’s side of illness with a twist of crazy hallucinations and a frog from a children’s TV show,” Scott said. “And sure, you could see another production of ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ but why not experience something totally new to you?”

“A New Brain” will run in Kennedy Union’s Boll Theater this Friday-Sunday and March 26-28. All shows are at 8 p.m. except Sunday, March 22 at 7 p.m.  The show is $7 for UD students and $12 for general admission.

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