In 1971, Michael Weller’s Moonchildren opened a unique and timeless window into the everyday lives of seven college seniors, coming of age during an era of tremendous global transformation. Set in 1965, the play is a snapshot of a group of quirky housemates and their ongoing dance between reality and idealism, responsibility and aspiration, and the clashes, struggles, and celebrations that their lives encompass. This spring, eleven Simon’s Rock students--under the direction of theater faculty member Karen Allen--will breathe new energy and vision into the play which will be brought to life in the Liebowitz Studio Theater in the College’s Daniel Arts Center, beginning Wednesday, April 22, 2009. Moonchildren is truly a seminal work— one that has weathered many years and still emerges as a timeless theatrical gem. Its inaugural production took place in 1972 at Washington D.C.’s renowned Arena Stage and went on to have a critically acclaimed run on Broadway. While the play remains grounded in the era in which it was written, it continues to speak a language that in many ways is still universal and unchanging.
It did not take long for the eleven Bard College at Simon’s Rock students and two professional actors in the cast to become comfortable with the exploration of their roles. Portraying college students whose lives, struggles, and questions are much like their own, the cast quickly fell into a familiar rhythm of friendship and dialogue that remains evident both in and out of the rehearsal studio. “I believe there is a ripple effect in terms of what resonates with us as college students today and what was significant in the lives of the characters we are portraying,” says Simon’s Rock sophomore Christopher Olmstead who plays “Mike.” “We all have very similar questions about identity, life, reality, and what kind of world we will be inheriting.”
One exercise that prompted the actors to become so deeply engaged with the play, their characters, and each other, was a series of structured improvisations that took place early on in the rehearsal process. Spearheaded by director Karen Allen, these improvisations gave the actors an opportunity to physicalize their relationships, behaviors, and actions while they were still becoming familiar with Weller’s written text. Research projects were also assigned to the students to further explore the culture, politics, and social issues of the period. In addition, each student was asked to write a full character biography that they discussed at length with Allen.
“The whole project has been so much fun,” continues Olmstead. “It is such an exceptional group of people in the cast and Karen [Allen] is an incredibly insightful and giving director”. Moonchildren opens on April 22, at 7:30 p.m. and runs Thursday, April 23 at 7:30 p.m.; Friday, April 24 at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 25, at 2: 00 p.m.; and 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, April 26, at 2:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.. For more information, please call 413-644-4235.