For F&M Players, Franklin & Marshall College's student theater company, braving the polar winds of January wasn't as challenging as preparing their production of "Into The Woods," the 1986 musical by F&M alumnus James Lapine '71.
"This is a very large show," said Athena Tahos, president of F&M Players. "It has a lot of moving parts to it, literally and figuratively -- the sets move on the stage. It's been a challenge, but it's been really fun."
This is the first of five theater productions at F&M this semester, three produced by students and two by the College's Department of Theatre, Dance and Film.
A senior majoring in psychology, Tahos has the role of the baker's wife in the musical about the complexities of interpersonal relationships viewed through the intertwining of plots of Brothers Grimm fairy tales, such as "Cinderella" and "Little Red Riding Hood." F&M Players invited Lapine to opening night, Jan. 16.
"He was very excited to hear that we were putting on the show, but he is unable to attend," Tahos said. "It's really cool to have a piece of F&M on stage."
This production is only F&M Players' second of "Into The Woods." The musical debuted on Broadway in 1987, winning several Tony Awards, including Best Score and Best Book. The F&M Players first staged it in 2000, at the Fulton Opera House, with a large cast. Tahos said many alumni from that production plan to attend this year's production.
"We've been in contact with them and they're very excited," she said.
The theater company, most of whom returned a week early from winter break for rehearsal, consists of 30 cast members, a 17-member orchestra and a 10-member stage crew. Having so many students come together to work toward a shared goal has been a rewarding communal experience, Tahos said.
At Roschel Performing Arts Center's Schnader Theatre one cold afternoon, as cast and orchestra rehearsed the music and lyrics written by Stephen Sondheim, Tahos said she wasn't sure the role of the baker's wife was right for her. She thought otherwise after poring over her lines. She found the role had subtle humor, which made people in rehearsal laugh.
Learning her lines, though, was not as difficult as learning the songs. "From an actor's standpoint the music is very challenging," Tahos said. "Sondheim really threw us a number."
Charlie Wynn, a sophomore double majoring in psychology and theatre, makes her directorial debut with the production, but she is undaunted.
"This is my 14th musical," said Wynn, who serves as F&M Players' board secretary. "It's the reason I do music theater."
"Into The Woods" is Wynn's favorite musical. She said she has seen it performed on stage three times, owns the movie version, and performed in the musical in high school and in elementary school.
"They do the junior version in elementary school," Wynn said. "The junior version is just the first act."
Wynn acknowledged the production has been a challenge, "but less so than I was expecting," she said. "It's actually been very nice. I've had a lot of help."
Among the helpers are stage manager Emma Corrado, a sophomore, orchestra conductor Eliana Rabinowitz and musical director Joshua Chopak, both seniors, and choreographer Hannah Weissler, a junior. The show's lighting designer is junior Julia Philips, and the costume designers are senior Suzanne Emerson and junior Charlotte Brooks.
Some of the musical's other key roles include the two narrators, first-year Kevin Gallagher and senior Hannah Mead; the Wolf, senior Jay Hall; Rapunzel, senior Samantha Kahn; Witch, senior Kelsey Prakken; Cinderella, senior Ali Tufano; and Little Red, junior Marissa Bendit.
"Into the Woods" will be performed at F&M's Roschel Performing Arts Center, 628 College Ave., at 7 p.m. Thurs. & Fri., Jan. 16-17, and 1 p.m. and 7 p.m., Sat., Jan. 18. Tickets, available at the Roschel Lobby Box Office and online are $5 for students, $7.50 for faculty and staff and $10 for general admission.
Also on stage this season at F&M:
· "Sincerity Forever." Directed by Visiting Assistant Professor Jon Foley Sherman, this play by American playwright Mac Wellman examines teenagers grappling with some of life's largest questions: does God have a plan for us? Does Dexter have a monster crush on men? Feb. 13-15, 7:30 p.m., and Feb. 16, 2 p.m. Green Room Theatre
· "The Vagina Monologues." Organized by F&M sophomores Marienil Aquino and Brianna Robinson and first-year Cecilia Plaza, this episodic play addresses topics related to the female experience. Written by American playwright Eve Ensler, it arrives to celebrate V-Day. Feb. 21 & 22, 7 p.m. Green Room Theatre
· "Broadway Revue 2014: (Gonna Find My) Purpose." Directed by F&M juniors Jake Benedict and Christine Potts this annual review features performances by the F&M Players. March 20 & 21, 7:30 p.m., March 22, 2 and 7:30 p.m., Green Room Theatre
· "Angels in America Part II: Millennium Approaches," by American Playwright Tony Kushner. The play examines what it means to live in a free and good society while lighting upon subjects from Ethel Rosenberg to the Mormons, from the AIDS epidemic to race and sexual identity. April 3 & 4, 7:30 p.m., April 5, 2 and 7:30 p.m., Roschel Performing Arts Center's Schnader Theatre
For more information about "Into The Woods" and the other performances, contact the F&M Box Office at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 717-358-4858.