‘A New Brain’ showcases theme of healing through art

Lauren Crist

Musical reflects composer/lyricist’s life

Music, love, brain surgery and a man dressed as a frog are just some of the elements included in the School of Theatre and Dance’s production of “A New Brain.”

“A New Brain” is a musical based on the autobiography of William Finn, the creator of the show’s music and lyrics. The main character, Gordon Schwinn, is a young, gay songwriter who is working for a children’s television entertainer, Mr. Bungee.

“Gordon is a frustrated optimist,” said Christopher Richards, a senior musical theater major who plays Gordon Schwinn. “He’s driven, but a lot of clutter gets in the way of him doing what he loves to do.”

Schwinn discovers that he has a brain tumor and fears he might die before he reaches the height of his career. The story follows his time in the hospital and the hallucinations he experiences.


Show times and ticket information:

n “A New Brain” will be performed Oct. 3 and 4 at 8 p.m. and Oct. 5 at 2 p.m. It will also be shown Tuesday, Oct. 7 through Saturday, Oct. 11 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 12 at 2 p.m.

n To buy tickets, visit the box office in the Music and Speech Building or call (330) 672-2497.

n Box office hours: Monday-Friday: 12-5 p.m. and one hour before each performance

“It’s this kind of fractured reality of what is going on inside Gordon’s mind,” said Eric van Baars, assistant professor of acting and movement and director of the show. “I’m challenged to see how that plays out and if people get that.”

The musical has a small cast of characters. Each character plays a significant role during Schwinn’s experience in the hospital.

“Roger is the calm, cool collected lover of (Gordon),” said Rick Coffey, senior musical theater major who plays Roger Delli-Bovi. “He is the voice of all things calm when everything is going crazy in the hospital.”

The musical does not follow the traditional aspects of a Broadway show. It includes a relationship between two gay men without discussing the issue of AIDS, which was the theme of many gay musicals of the past.

“It’s not like a typical musical,” Baars said. “This was the first non-AIDS, gay, hospital musical, and that was a real turning point in our culture.”

The central theme is the healing powers of art, Baars said.

“We all live really busy lives, and Gordon is in a hospital room by himself and has time to reflect on his life,” he said, “and that reflection is very powerful for him, and very scary.”

Two giant wire hands dominate the stage and are a part of the scenery throughout the entire play.

“To me, since this takes place in New York City, (the hands) represent buildings and create the city skyline,” Baars said. “They also represent the significance of how small we really are.”

The music includes upbeat songs and is accompanied by a small pit orchestra.

“It’s a fun musical,” said Dana Glaus, senior musical theater major who plays Rhoda, Gordon’s best friend. “I think in the music there are so many different genres and sounds, and yet it is still connected.”

“A New Brain” opens tonight at 8 p.m. in the E. Turner Stump Theatre. Performances continue through Oct. 12.

“Come and be ready to listen,” said Richards. “It will be hard to get the story unless you are paying attention, so keep your ears open.”

Contact College of the Arts reporter Lauren Crist at [email protected].