The Lewis Center for the Arts’ Program in Theater will present a production of Stephen Sondheim’s groundbreaking Broadway musical, Sunday in the Park with George, inspired by Georges Seurat’s famous pointillist painting, A Sunday on La Grande Jatte-1884. Performances are on April 12, 13, 18, 19 and 20 at 8:00 p.m. at the Berlind Theatre at McCarter Theatre Center. The production is directed by senior theater student Julia Bumke and features seniors Holly Linneman in the role of Dot and Brad Wilson as George.
With music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by James Lapine, Sunday in the Park with George won the 1985 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, two Tony Awards, two New York Drama Critics Circle Awards and numerous Drama Desk Awards.
In the first act, which takes place in the 1880s, a fictionalized Seurat named George spends two years ignoring the real people in his life while he paints his impressionist masterpiece. Characters become figures in his painting and figures become characters. Dot, his model, attempts to connect with George, but he ultimately chooses his art over life and love. The second act jumps ahead to 1984, when Seurat’s great-grandson is struggling to create art amidst technological changes and commercial pressures. Conflicts of the past and present are resolved. Sondheim summarized the plot of the play as, “Boy loves girl. Boy loves art. Boy loses girl. Boy gets both girl and art 100 years later.”
The three seniors, who are collaborating on this production for their senior thesis project, embraced the challenge of producing Sunday in the Park with George, noting the show’s intricate music and equally complex dramatic scenes that combine to create a piece of theater that encapsulates the trials and rewards of the creative process. Students in the Program in Theater complete a senior thesis project in fulfillment of the requirements for a certificate, similar to a minor, and which is in addition their major area of concentration.
For Bumke, who is a history major and also pursuing a certificate in American studies, the musical’s themes and plot mirror the experience of a soon-to-be-graduating Princetonian. “George and Dot’s parallel quests for balance and order amidst a swirl of choices are uniquely relatable from an undergraduate perspective,” she explains, “particularly for those of us who are considering what to do with our lives after leaving Princeton.”
Wilson and Linneman, both English majors, note that they have deeply explored the characters of George and Dot to find the personal connections between the roles and themselves.
“One of the things at stake for George is his place in the world – how he fits in, where he belongs and with whom,” states Wilson. “Everybody here at Princeton is familiar with the fear of what the ‘real world’ – the world outside the window – will be for us like it is for George.”
“Dot is an interesting character to me,” adds Linneman, “because the more I explore her, the more layers I see. Dot is strong, but rarely appears truly in control, which can be viewed as a weakness or as selflessness.”
Other members of the all-student cast include: Maeve Brady ’15, Maddy Cohen ’16, Franklin Darnis ’15, Nathalie Ellis-Einhorn ’16, Ryan Gedrich ’16, Victoria Gruenberg ’16, Sonya Hayden ’16, Tadesh Inagaki ’14, Jordy Lubkeman ’16, Manny Marichal ’16, Olivia Nice ’14, Julia Phillips ’15, Adam Stasiw ’13, and John Whelchel ’15. The musical ensemble includes several members of the Princeton University Orchestra.
Alumna Andrea Grody ’11 provides musical direction with sets by Tim Mackabee, costumes by Kristin Fiebig, lighting by Miriam Crowe, and Christina Henricks ’13 as stage manager.