Otterbein Production “Into a Lamplit Room” Explores Social Justice and Musical Legacy of Kurt Weill
Posted Mar 11, 2021
The life of composer and social activist Kurt Weill is celebrated in this compilation of his work. The production includes more than 30 songs, ranging from his life in Berlin during the Weimar Era, during which he was a voice against the Nazi regime, to his emigration to the U.S., where he was a supporter of the American war effort in the 1930s, and finally his contributions to the American musical theatre canon.
Into a Lamplit Room premiered at Cincinnati Conservatory of Music (CCM) in 2013 as part of A Kurt Weill Celebration, an interdisciplinary season of Weill works shared by the opera and theatre departments. It was created by CCM faculty Aubrey Berg (retired) and Julie Spangler.
Otterbein Director Thom Christopher Warren saw that performance and was drawn to its beauty.
“The production has stayed in my mind since first seeing it, and when the opportunity came for us to find something licensable for remote streaming due to the pandemic, it felt like the right time.”
While written long ago, Warren assures viewers that, “Weill’s music isn’t just a dusty relic of a bygone era – the themes of love, romance, sex, politics, war, death, the human life cycle in a world troubled by strife, all seem extremely prescient.”
In order to illustrate this collision of two time periods, the Lamplit Room creative team filmed some scenes in black and white in various locations throughout campus and Westerville, and other scenes in color on the stage in Fritsche Theatre at Cowan Hall.
It was Warren’s hope that “allowing viewers to see our cast in contemporary clothing and in a contemporary setting would highlight that the music, as interpreted through a contemporary lens, is still extraordinarily relevant. Showing certain moments in black and white and filmed on location would honor the original context of the pieces at the time of their writing – hopefully bridging the two worlds.”
Audiences will particularly recognize Weill’s collaborations with Ira Gershwin, Bertolt Brecht, and Maxwell Anderson in the songs written for Broadway, including Tschaikowsky, Mack the Knife, Pirate Jenny, Lost in the Stars, and September Song, all of which have become standards in the musical theatre canon.
In addition to these popular works, the production includes songs that Warren thinks provide a connection of the past to the present. “A song written as social commentary during Hitler’s regime has a certain clarity in our current world, and Weill’s work as social activism rings as clearly when he writes about justice as when he writes about the foibles of two people navigating love and sex.”
Warren went on to explain that, “Songs like Hosannah Rockafeller, Cry the Beloved Country, Heavenly Salvation, and Little Tin God all have political and social points of view that resonate today as keenly as they did more than 70 years ago.”
In accordance with safety measures to protect the production team and audience from the spread of COVID-19, the performance was filmed in advance and will be streamed via the website showtix4u.com. An Internet connection is required to access the stream.
Into a Lamplit Room: The Songs of Kurt Weill is presented under license from European American Music Corporation, on behalf of The Kurt Weill Foundation for Music, Inc. It will stream virtual performances at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 18; at 8 p.m. on Friday, March 19, and Saturday, March 20; and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, March 21. Tickets cost $15 per device. Call 614-823-1109 or visit www.otterbein.edu/drama.
The box office is open for in-person and phone sales from 12-4 p.m. Monday through Friday, and is located in Cowan Hall, 30 S. Grove St., Westerville.