Hope College Theatre has presented many types of productions through the decades - Classical plays, Shakespearean comedies and tragedies, intimate contemporary character studies, an elaborately staged retelling of the holiday favorite "The Nutcracker," the Kennedy Festival-honored "Rose and the Rime," musicals, the list goes on.
Never, in all those years, has the program staged a full opera, a circumstance that is changing with the Wednesday-Saturday, Nov. 17-20, run of Kurt Weill's "Street Scene," a 1947 play that is being presented as a major collaboration of the departments of theatre and music, and with support through a grant from the Kurt Weill Foundation.
"We are excited to present the first fully produced opera in our history of theatre at Hope College" said Michelle Bombe, who is director of theatre at Hope as well as a professor of theatre and resident costume designer, and is preparing the costumes for the play. "This production marks a wonderful collaboration between the theatre and music departments with faculty and students from both departments participating."
All four performances will be at 8 p.m. in the DeWitt Center main theatre.
As a story of jealousy, bitterness and disenchantment, "Street Scene" is based on an earlier play by Elmer Rice, and explores the struggles of humanity of neighbors living in a Depression-era New York City tenement. Residents from a variety of cultures, ranging from Italians to Swedes to Jews, gather outside to get a breath of fresh air and share bits and pieces of their lives. Over a period of one day there are births, deaths, romances of all sorts, and plenty of gossip, building up a cluster of storylines as events unfold. Weill wrote the music, with book by Rice and lyrics by Langston Hughes.
"Street Scene" will be directed by John Tammi, professor of theatre at Hope. The music director is Linda Dykstra, associate professor of music. The cast will include not only Hope students but area children, with the college's Symphonette performing as the orchestra for the production.
"'Street Scene' is ideal vehicle for showcasing the talents of our classical and musical theatre singers, actors, dancers, and instrumentalists, as well as talented children in the community," Dykstra said.
The project has received $4,000 through the Kurt Weill Foundation Grant Program, which awards financial support to not-for-profit organizations for performances of Weill's musical works, to individuals and not-for-profit organizations for scholarly research projects, and to not-for-profit organizations for educational initiatives directly related to Weill and/or his wife, singer Lotte Lenya. Bombe wrote the college's grant proposal with assistance from Dykstra.
In addition to Tammi, Dykstra and Bombe, faculty members working on the production team are Richard Piippo, associate professor of music, conductor; Linda Strouf, adjunct assistant professor of music, rehearsal accompanist and assistant musical director; Richard Smith, professor of theatre and resident scene designer, scenic and properties designer; and Perry Landes, associate professor of theatre, resident sound and lighting designer, and manager of theatre facilities, lighting and sound designer.
Other personnel involved in the production include staff member Paul Anderson, technical director; staff member Darlene Christopher, costume shop supervisor; junior Amanda K. Van Assen of Grand Rapids, stage manager; junior Brittni Nowicki of West Bloomfield, assistant stage manager; freshman Abigail Johnson of Sammamish, Wash., assistant stage manager; junior Kelsey Cratty of Rockford, Ill., child wrangler; and junior Amanda Vander Byl of Williamson, N.Y., assistant costume designer.
The cast of "Street Scene" includes senior Sarah Michelle Ashcroft of Holland; junior Heather Marie Benson of Muskegon; junior Jenna Buck of Elburn, Ill.; senior Trevor Coeling of Grand Rapids; senior Lauren Conley of White Lake; freshman Molly Coyle of Hamilton; sophomore Sophia Daly of Plymouth; freshman Aiden de Jong of Holland; sophomore Dan Denby of Westmont, Ill.; freshman Alexa Duimstra of Appleton Wis.; sophomore Erik Durham of Holland; sophomore Skye Jasper Edwards of Morrison, Colo.; freshman Kelly Allison Eubank of Louisville, Ky.; senior Angelee Garcia of Belmont; sophomore Erin Gilbert of Marshall; senior Ross Green of Delton; freshman Aaron Haecker of Winchester, Va.; freshman Bradley Hamilton of Lathrup Village; sophomore Haley Hodges of Hart; freshman Carter Jones of Traverse City; senior Kent Kammermeier of Grand Rapids; freshman Angelica Kurtz of Streamwood, Ill.; junior Katie McDougall of Flint; sophomore Emily Nock of Grand Junction, Colo.; sophomore Julie Oosterink of Jenison; junior Rachel Parada of Harbor Springs; senior Jackie Richards of Worthington, Ohio; freshman Gabe Robinson of Grand Rapids; junior Brent Smith of Owosso; senior Daniel A. Smith of Tekonsha; sophomore Jesse Swatling-Holcomb of Oakland, Calif.; senior Jenny Tremblay of Oostburg, Wis.; junior Madison Tustin of Plainwell; sophomore Nick VanderLaan of Greenville; junior Christoff Visscher of Silver Spring, Md.; and senior Jonathan Weppler of Libertyville, Ill.
The children in the cast include: Karianna Alvarado, East K-7; Will Bast, West K-7; Maurice Brown, Jefferson K-7; Evan Deenik, eighth grade, Holland High School; Emily Ellis, East K-7; Mercedez Laaksonen, Jefferson K-7; Yazmin Laaksonen, Holland High School; Jacob Larson, West K-7; Alyssa Leal, West K-7; Thadius LeFebre, East K-7; Lola Quinn, East K-7; Christian Richards, East K-7; Anna Ryzenga, West K-7; and Emma Schaap, East K-7.
Tickets for "Street Scene" are $10 for regular admission, $7 for senior citizens and Hope faculty and staff, and $5 for students, and are available at the ticket office in the main lobby of the DeVos Fieldhouse. The ticket office is open weekdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and may be called at (616) 395-7890.
The DeVos Fieldhouse is located at 222 Fairbanks Ave., between Ninth and 11th streets. The DeWitt Center is located at 141 E. 12th St., on Columbia Avenue at 12th Street.