For Gettysburg College theatre students, next weekend’s production of Steven Sondheim’s musical “Into the Woods” represents a triumph over the challenges performers around the world have faced throughout the pandemic.
“It’s been two and a half years since I last performed a musical for an audience,” said Sophomore Molly Hoffman who plays Lucinda. “I remember walking into the first rehearsal and being so grateful to be back in that environment again.”
Sophomore Charlie Wingert, playing the role of The Mysterious Man, shared this sentiment. “After over a year of theaters being closed due to the pandemic, I’m very excited to be involved again,” he said.
For Senior Allie Charney, who plays the lead role of the Baker’s Wife, “Into the Woods” provides a final opportunity to participate in a musical before graduation.
“‘Into the Woods’ has always been my favorite show, but I never imagined I’d have the opportunity to be in it, much less as a lead in my senior year of college,” said Charney. “So many performances were cancelled during the pandemic, so when auditions were announced for this show, I was thrilled.”
Theatre Arts Professor and show Director Chris Kauffman originally planned to present the classic 1980s musical in Fall 2020, but his plans were altered by the pandemic. Kauffman now believes that the message the show shares with audiences is even more powerful, given the difficulties of the past year and a half.
“[Into the Woods] is about how one needs to find a community and recognize the family imprinted in ourselves, to learn the lessons necessary to find your way through “the woods”–– the dark and scary place of the unknown,” said Kauffman.
The extensive process of producing “Into the Woods” began early in the semester, with auditions taking place in August.
“There were so many talented people who auditioned for the show and it was really difficult to let thirty people go and narrow it down to this field of twenty—mostly made up of Seniors and Juniors with a few Sophomores and one First-Year—from majors across the campus,” said Kauffman. “We began rehearsing in the second week of classes, meeting for fifteen hours a week in the afternoons and evenings.
“The music is really challenging, so the students began working with Music Director Dr. Susan Hochmiller to learn the songs while I began working on scenes, characters intention, and staging song numbers with the students. Dr. Russ McCutcheon has been rehearsing a pit orchestra of ten people since the early part of the semester as well.”
Despite the major time commitment of participating in “Into the Woods,” students have enjoyed their rehearsal process.
“My favorite part of the production process has been creating relationships with the cast,” said Charney. “As we formed closer connections with each other, our acting clearly improved and became more intentional. When you truly know the people you’re acting with, it makes the characters’ relationships more genuine and believable to the audience.”
“The crew at the Majestic make our lives so easy by allowing us to focus on our roles instead of other aspects, like lighting, scenery, and sound,” said Hoffman.
After months of preparation and tireless efforts from the cast and crew, everyone involved in the production is excited to share their final product with audiences.
“I’m most looking forward to that moment on opening night when I’m standing in wings, all the lights go off, the audience goes silent, and then suddenly the music starts,” said Hoffman. “There are so many jitters before that moment, but once it starts, it is just pure fun”
“I think this show is a wonderful showcase for some lovely design work by my colleagues in Theatre—Juls Buehrer on costumes, Eric Berninghausen on sets and props, and Jon Stiles on lighting design—and their student crews. They’ve made some beautiful, playful pieces to create this world,” said Kauffman.
“I am looking forward to showing the audience the different angles to the Baker’s Wife personality,” said Charney. “She has a serious and stubborn side, an innocent and vulnerable side, and a silly side, just to name a few. All of these personalities must be revealed in my acting if I want to do justice to the character.”
“These students are the most talented cast I’ve ever worked with, so individuals not familiar with Gettysburg College theater will be blown away,” said Wingert.
“Into the Woods” intertwines the plots of several Brothers Grimm fairy tales, including “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Jack and the Beanstalk”, “Rapunzel”, and “Cinderella. The plot is tied together through themes of growing up, parent-child relations, accepting responsibility, community relations, morality, and the consequences of wish fulfillment. The musical premiered on Broadway in 1987 where it won several Tony Awards.
“Into the Woods,” presented by the Gettysburg College Department of Theatre Arts and the Sunderman Conservatory of Music, plays Thursday, November 4 through Sunday, November 7 at the Gettysburg Majestic Theater. Tickets are available online or at the Majestic box office. General audiences: $15; Students: $12.