The Lewis Center for the Arts’ Programs in Theater and Music Theater at Princeton University will present the Tony Award-winning musical Fun Home on February 15, 16, 21, 22 and 23 at 8:00 p.m. at the Wallace Theater in the Lewis Arts complex on the Princeton University campus. Based on Alison Bechdel’s best-selling 2006 graphic memoir and adapted by Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori, this groundbreaking musical introduces audiences to Alison at three different ages, revealing memories of her father and the rest of her uniquely dysfunctional family that connect with her in surprising new ways. The production features senior Luke Soucy as Alison’s father, Bruce, with set and lighting design by senior Megan Berry and directed by faculty member R.N. Sandberg.
Fun Home tells the story of Bechdel’s discovery of her own sexuality, her relationship with her gay father, and her attempts to unlock the mysteries surrounding his life. It is the first Broadway musical with a lesbian protagonist. It is told in a series of non-linear vignettes connected by narration provided by the adult Alison character. Fun Home was nominated for 12 Tony Awards, winning five, including Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, and Best Original Score, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
The two seniors proposed a production of the musical as their senior thesis work in pursuit of a certificate in the Program in Theater, mainly because of the show’s power to connect with people, its universality, and its emotional impact. Both had seen the show’s Tony Award-winning run on Broadway.
Soucy, who is from the Minneapolis area, is majoring in English and pursuing certificates in theater and in classics with a focus on Roman language and culture. He appeared in the Lewis Center’s 2017 production of A Streetcar Named Desire, also directed by Sandberg. Soucy served as general manager of the student group Theatre Intime and as artistic director for Princeton Summer Theater’s 2017 season. It is through these organizations, particularly technical work on Intime’s Freshman One-Act Play Festival, that Berry and Soucy connected.
Berry (who uses the pronoun “they”) notes that the show means a lot to them on a personal level and as a rare example of queer representation in theater, the subject of their senior thesis work in their major, anthropology, and relevant to their work pursuing a certificate in the Program in Gender and Sexuality Studies. Having a personal connection to the show makes their work as a designer even more meaningful, notes Berry, along with the challenge of how design advances the show’s reconstruction of Alison’s stories. Sandberg and Berry set this production in an attic, which emphasizes this “storehouse of memories” idea. The director and designer note that productions of Fun Home try to recreate the images in the graphic novel, but they are taking a decidedly different approach on this production.
Berry is originally from Cambridge, Massachusetts, and has designed the lighting for a number of Lewis Center theater productions including A Dream Play, Etched in Skin on a Sunlit Night, the musical Picnic at Hanging Rock, and Machinal, as well as working on many productions with student groups on campus, primarily Theatre Intime.
Other members of the cast include junior Abby Spare, sophomores Paige Allen, Morgan Carmen, and Glenna Galarion, and first-year students Ines Aitsahalia, Arin Champati, Maggie Poost, and Kate Semmens.
The seniors asked Sandberg, who shares their enthusiasm for the emotional impact of the musical, to direct the production. Sandberg teaches in both the Theater Program and English Department at Princeton and is a professional theater director and playwright. A workshop performance of his new musical Mad Dreams was presented by the Lewis Center in October. He has directed a number of recent Lewis Center productions including Machinal, Cloud 9, Madman Robertson, Uncle Vanya, and How I Learned to Drive, as well as Princeton Summer Theater productions of Pygmalion and The Heidi Chronicles. His plays have been seen in Australia, Canada, England, Japan, Panama, and South Korea, as well as at theaters throughout the U.S. He has been commissioned by, among others, George Street Playhouse, McCarter Theatre, Idaho Shakespeare Festival, Seattle Children’s Theatre, and Merrimack Rep. Sandberg is a Princeton alumnus and in 2014 received the University’s President’s Distinguished Teaching Award.
Stephanie Tubiolo, the Department of Music’s Associate Director of Choral Music, and sophomore Maddie Wu are co-music directors for the production. Wu conducts the eight-piece band from the onstage piano she plays throughout the production. First-year student Katie Bushman shares costume design responsibility with Berry, junior Jenny Kim is sound designer, junior Marshall Schaffer is choreographer, junior Milan Eldridge is stage manager, and sophomore Lydia Gompper is assistant stage manager.
Some of the students involved with the production are in the course “Theater Rehearsal and Performance,” which provides students with a rigorous and challenging experience of creating theater under near-professional circumstances.
The Wallace Theater in the Lewis Arts complex is an accessible venue. Assistive listening devices are available from the venue staff upon request. Patrons in need of other access accommodations are encouraged to contact the Lewis Center at least two-weeks in advance at LewisCtr-Comm@princeton.edu. For more details on access services visit arts.princeton.edu/accessibility.
Tickets are $10 for students, $12 for seniors, and $12 general public in advance of show dates, $17 general public purchased the day of performances at the box office. Advance tickets are available through University Ticketing online at tickets.princeton.edu, in person at the box offices at Frist Campus Center and Lewis Arts complex, or by calling 609-258-9220.
To learn more about this event, the Programs in Theater and Music Theater, and the more than 100 other performances, exhibitions, readings, screenings, concerts, and lectures presented by the Lewis Center, most of them free, visit arts.princeton.edu.