A coming-of-age musical production that asks “What does it mean to be an adult?” will be presented virtually by the University of Wyoming Department of Theatre and Dance.
“29: A Song Cycle” will stream at 7:30 p.m. from April 9-17. The production features music and lyrics by Gaby Alter, and book and additional lyrics by Tommy Newman. The piece is adapted for the screen, directed by UW musical theater faculty member Seán Stone and choreographed by UW dance faculty member Cat Kamrath.
Virtual tickets are $5 for the public and can be purchased from the Buchanan Center for the Performing Arts box office by calling (307) 766-6666 Monday-Friday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., or by going to www.uwyo.edu/finearts. Box office personnel will provide viewers with instructions on how to access the production. UW students can receive free virtual access with a valid “W” number by calling the box office.
The song cycle — about the vagaries of young adulthood — features a tapestry of characters who face defining moments of growing up in their 20s, from getting a job and finding a roommate to an unexpected pregnancy to a parent’s illness. As time and adulthood bring increased separation and loss, the characters struggle to stay connected to one another and to themselves. Each self-contained story and song illustrates a turning point in the familiar journey from innocence to experience.
UW Department of Theatre and Dance faculty members had originally intended to produce a large-scale musical last fall — potentially “Oklahoma” — but the pandemic shut down theaters and other public spaces indefinitely across campus.
Stone and Kamrath began planning to include a musical program for the 2020-21 production season that could be rehearsed and produced virtually to protect the health and safety of company members. With its many stand-alone vignettes, “29: A Song Cycle” lent itself to such a production, they say.
“We did not have a normal process of making this show,” says Stone, who also orchestrated, arranged, performed and produced the show’s music.
The acting company rehearsed completely virtually, and dancers had limited opportunities to rehearse together on stage, always wearing masks. Early on in the production, it became apparent a livestream would be creatively limiting, so the decision was made to film the piece using green screens and devote time to post-production work, even though the department does not have a film program, Stone and Kamrath say.
The UW instructors worked with creative team members Jenny Foldenauer, Andrew Lia, Scott Tedmon-Jones, Jason Banks, Abigail Knoshaug, and Alex Brown, and stage managers Emilygrace Piel and Jake Sullivan to plan, design, manage, rehearse, film and edit the piece for its premiere.
“For most of the time it took to make this film, it has felt like the year of nots. Not just for me — for all of us,” Stone says. “But, at this point in the process, those nots seem less consequential than this impending fact: We could and we did, and we did so safely, and we did so together.”