April 18, 2016

Lewis Center for the Arts presents The Luckiest Girl

The Lewis Center for the Arts’ Program in Theatre at Princeton University will present a fully staged production of a new musical, The Luckiest Girl, written by senior Sonya Hayden, featuring seniors Victoria Gruenberg and Matt Volpe, and directed by faculty member Ethan Heard assisted by Nico Krell ’18. Performances will be held April 22, 23 and 28 at 8:00 p.m.; April 24 at 2:00 p.m.; and April 30 at 7:00 p.m. at the Marie and Edward Matthews ’53 Acting Studio at 185 Nassau Street. A talkback discussion led by Professor Stacy Wolf will follow the April 28 performance.

luckiest girl

Matt Volpe, Victoria Gruenberg, and Sonya Hayden (left to right), the three seniors behind the premiere of the new musical, The Luckiest Girl, at Princeton. Photo by Kristin Hauge

Hayden, who is a concentrator in the Department of Music and pursuing a certificate in the Program in Theater, wrote the music, book and lyrics for The Luckiest Girl. Hayden sets her new musical during the Jazz Age in New York City where a young woman steps into the role of her recently deceased mother in upper class society. Yearning to see the world outside her Upper East Side home, she begins to explore the bohemian world of downtown New York. She discovers a love for the people and art she finds there and must reconcile two radically different worlds.

Hailing from Charlottesville, Virginia, Hayden began working on the new musical last spring, and it became her main focus in September. Following a read-through and revisions, she held a three-day workshop presentation of the work-in-progress to receive feedback. Music Department faculty member Donnacha Dennehy, the award-winning Irish composer and collaborator with the Tony Award-winning playwright Enda Walsh, has been music adviser to Hayden on the new work, with Robert N. Sandberg, Acting Director of the Program in Theater and widely performed playwright and director, serving as her theater adviser.

Gruenberg, who plays the lead character in The Luckiest Girl, has focused on acting and directing during her studies at Princeton. An English major pursuing certificates in theater and urban studies, she most recently appeared as a lead in the Lewis Center’s production of Cloud 9. The Winter Park, Florida, native has also been an active member of the campus theater community performing and directing with the Program in Theater and a number of student theater groups, most recently directing the play Gidion’s Knot with Theatre Intime. Gruenberg notes her interest in being a collaborator on new work also stems from mounting a new play by Annika Bennett ’15, Spackle, produced last spring through Theatre Intime’s Student Playwrights Festival.

Volpe, who also plays a lead in the new musical and serves as dramaturge for the production, is a chemical and biological engineering major from Chicago. He appeared last season in the Lewis Center’s production of How I Learned to Drive, and has performed in several productions with the Princeton University Players (PUP), the Princeton Shakespeare Company, and Theater Intime over the last four years. He has also directed The Pirates of Penzance for the Princeton Opera Company, and has designed and built sets for campus productions, the most recent of which was for Harvey with Theater Intime. Volpe also played the lead role in Sonya Hayden’s last musical, Dream a Little Dream, which was performed as a staged reading last January with PUP.

All three seniors have studied acting and directing in musical theater with Tony Award-winning theater faculty member John Rando and director of this production, Ethan Heard. All three have also been involved with renowned student musical theater group the Princeton Triangle Club, which creates, performs and tours an original musical each year.

Heard, who is directing The Luckiest Girl, has taught at Princeton and two years ago directed the Lewis Center’s production of The Producers and the Department of Music’s production of Monteverdi’s The Coronation of Poppea. He is a theater-maker based in New York City and has directed a broad range of theater including Sondheim and Lapine’s musical Sunday in the Park with George, Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Amelia Roper’s Lottie in the Late Afternoon, Justin Taylor’s Rodeo, and M.J. Kaufman’s Eligible Receivers. He served as Artistic Director of The Yale Cabaret while a student at Yale School of Drama. Heard played a key role in the inaugural Santa Fe Theatre Festival in 2009 and, in addition to directing productions at Yale, has directed for Berkshire Theatre Festival, Yale Baroque Opera Project, Williamstown Workshop, and Grotto Theatre.

Musical direction is by Emily Whitaker, a 2015 alumna of Princeton. For her senior thesis last year, Whitaker presented Ding! a musical experience in which audience members, who very quickly became active participants, were led by an ensemble through a musical/theatrical “composition” that everyone in the room created together using toys, games, and other childhood objects as non-traditional instruments for collaborative music making. She is currently working as a freelance music director and pianist in New York, and as a teaching artist at McCarter Theatre in Princeton.

The all-student cast also includes Allison Light ’18, Julia Peiperl ’17, Cecily Polonsky ‘19, Meagan Raker ’18, Luke Soucy ’19, and Alex Vogelsang ’18.

The production will feature lighting by professional designer Solomon Weisbard, along with costume design by Savannah Marquardt ’16, sound design by Hillel Friedman ’17, and choreography by Adin Walker ’16. Michelle Navis ’17 serves as stage manager with assistant stage management by Catharine Leahy ’18 and Evan Gedrich ’18, and assistant music direction by Kristin Hauge ’18.

Tickets for The Luckiest Girl are $12 general admission and $11 for students and seniors when purchased in advance, and $17 general admission and $15 for students and seniors purchased the day of performances at the box office. Tickets are available through the University Ticketing, which offers flexibility for online ordering and print-at-home tickets. To purchase tickets online visit, call Princeton University Ticketing at 609-258-9229, or stop by the Frist Campus Center Ticket Office. Tickets will also be available at the door prior to performances.

The Lewis Center’s Program in Theater annually presents a major, professionally produced play, as well as a number of senior thesis productions throughout the year. The 2015-16 season will conclude with I.M. LOST! a show about clowns, a one-person, ethnographic and interactive show conceived and performed by senior Nathalie Ellis-Einhorn drawn from interviews with people who clown, directed by senior Ogedmi Ude and running May 5 through 7.

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