The Lewis Center for the Arts’ Program in Theater at Princeton University will present Ding!, a new musical experience conceived and directed by senior certificate student Emily Whitaker. Ding! is an upbeat, joyful musical experience in which audience members, who very quickly become active participants, are led by an ensemble through a musical/theatrical “composition” that everyone in the room creates together. The experience makes use of toys, games, and other childhood objects as non-traditional instruments for collaborative music making. No musical background is required for participation. The event will be held in the Berlind Rehearsal Room at McCarter Theatre Center on Thursday and Friday, April 2 and 3 at 7:30 and 10:00 p.m. and Saturday, April 4 at 2:00 and 7:30 p.m. Ding! is free and open to the public, however seating is limited and advance reservations are encouraged at http://ding-princeton.eventbrite.com/.
Whitaker’s concept for Ding! has it roots in her work as a music major at Princeton as well as her interest in theatrical improvisation. “I was very interested in the power of music as a tool for people to communicate with one another,” notes Whitaker. “My idea for this project began with seeing an African dance class in which the students made music with all kinds of instruments and invited audience members to join in. I wanted to recreate and share that experience, which is very different than my experience as a musician in the more formal setting of the concert hall.”
In addition to being a pianist in the Department of Music, Whitaker is pursuing a certificate in the Program in Theater and is the music director for Quipfire, a student comedy improv group on campus. She has served as a conductor for Triangle Club productions and as assistant music director for last year’s Lewis Center production of The Producers. The Niskayuna, New York, native was among the outstanding underclassmen recognized last year by the Lewis Center for distinctive achievement.
In her sophomore year McCarter Theatre selected Whitaker for an apprenticeship to work on the spring 2013 Fiasco Theater/McCarter production of the Sondheim musical Into the Woods before its move to Broadway. “It was absolutely amazing to watch Fiasco create Into The Woods,” she recalls. “Everyone had so much trust and respect for their collaborators, which allowed people to share ideas and improvise freely and brilliantly. I was really inspired by their commitment both to their fellow ensemble members and to the work itself – everything they did was in service of the story.”
After graduating from Princeton in June, Whitaker plans to work as a freelance musician while she auditions for graduate school.
The Lewis Center’s Program in Theater annually presents a major, professionally produced play, as well as a number of student senior thesis productions throughout the year. Coming up this season are a new play by senior Annika Bennett inspired by 1960s counter-culture icon Ken Kesey; a production of The Other Shore by Nobel Prize-winning playwright Gao Xingjian; a cabaret performance of songs from Stephen Sondheim musicals; Hero, a new musical work by Eamon Foley based on interviews with Vietnam veterans and incorporating aerial choreography; and a workshop reading of a new play based on the experiences of people struggling with depression.