A Hopeful Farewell: Senior Music Theatre Majors Take Their Final Bow
By Ella Spoelstra ’21
A few weeks ago, the Carthage Theatre Department completed the live performances of its annual spring Mainstage musical. This year’s musical, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, with music and lyrics by David Yabez, book by Jeffrey Lane, directed by Herschel Kruger, and music direction by Jeremy Ryan Mossman was uniquely special though. This was the first musical on the Mainstage since Flora the Red Menace in 2019, as well as the first theatre production this school year that family members have been able to attend in person. The theatre department has adapted its performances, classes, and events throughout the past year to keep everyone safe in the midst of COVID-19, while continuing to create meaningful and high quality art. Live streaming capabilities have been an amazing tool throughout this year, but nothing can truly compare to the magic of a live performance. The absence of families and community members in the audience has been felt, particularly by the senior students.
When director Herschel Kruger announced to the cast one night at a rehearsal that each of them would be allowed to have two family members attend the show, it was a beautifully emotional moment for so many. Senior music theatre major, Anna Brown, who played the role of Pepa recalls:
“I was quite honestly unprepared for the news. I think we had all just gotten so used to smaller audiences and were just grateful to be creating theatre in any capacity. When Herschel shared the news, I had just finished singing “Mother’s Day” in which Pepa reflects on her memories of her mother and her own fears of becoming a mother herself, which just made me even that much more emotional. It was incredibly overwhelming being able to sing that song with my parents in the audience on opening night and that is a memory I will hold onto forever.”
As a fellow senior in the theatre department, it was an indescribable feeling walking into opening night of Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. The mere presence of parents in the audience completely transformed the space. The excitement and joy in the room was palpable. Elizabeth Henry, who took on the role of Marisa shared how deeply the news of her parents being able to attend her final Carthage show impacted her. She recalls “The news hit harder than I was expecting; tears of happiness left my eyes as we took one more step towards “normalcy”. Knowing that this was the final weekend of performing at Carthage for my friends, I was both swept up in the show itself and in their stunning performances. From the moment the show began, I was completely captivated by the transformative set, the colorful costumes, the storytelling, and the energy of the performers. While we’ve had multiple shows on the Carthage stage since the pandemic began, this was the first musical on the Mainstage since 2019. Since last year’s musical, Kiss Me Kate, was canceled due the pandemic, the anticipation surrounding Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown was powerful. And the show lived up to that anticipation. Watching a show that uplifts the voices of women and highlights the diverse talents of our students while also entertaining audiences with dance and song through zany characters and wild plots was a thrilling experience.
Looking back on the show, Christine Barreca who played the role of Taxi Driver, shared, “It’s been such a privilege for me to explore this incredibly fun role with so many people I love. The weight of knowing that this is one of the last shows I’ll be in with so many close friends hasn’t been lost in me”. And, Allison Burns who played multiple roles, including Pepa’s Concierge and Magistrate 1 shared the gratitude she felt when she found out her parents would be able to attend the show: “After the year we have had, the news of my parents being able to attend was what I needed.” As the performance drew to a close and I watched these resilient and talented seniors: Christine, Anna, Elizabeth, and Allison take their final bow on the Carthage stage, I was struck by the power of endings. There has still been so much change, loss, and the performing arts industry particularly continues to evolve in the wake of this past year. But, these precious moments to perform in front of a live audience, including family members, felt like a sign of something new beginning, rather than merely something ending. I was reminded during curtain call that this farewell is truly a hope filled one.