‘Blood Brothers’ allows audience to see off-stage preparations

Elizabeth Myers

Mirian Henkle-Moellmann, a freshman musical theater major who plays Mrs. Lyons, forces Mrs. Johnstone, played by Denise Dumper, junior musical theater major, into a pact to give her one of Mrs. Johnstone’s unborn twins in the Student Theatre Festival Prod

Credit: DKS Editors

Neon-colored chalk covers the black walls of the basement theater Room B005 in the Music and Speech Center. Phrases such as “If your shot your dead” and “Commies always lose” pop off the wall as the actors run rehearsal for the Student Theatre Festival production of “Blood Brothers.”

The Student Theatre Festival is a student-directed, student-run production that takes place every spring semester. This spring, junior musical theater major Rick Coffey was chosen as the student director.

While the festival prefers to see a student-written production, the main goal is to “explore theater as we don’t typically see it,” Coffey said.

Coffey chose “Blood Brothers,” a British musical written by Willy Russell but has changed the setting to McCarthy-era America. He has also chosen to present the show in a Brechtian style. This style creates a very open atmosphere between the audience and the actors, since the “stage” does not a have a backstage or any hidden spaces. The audience will be able to see off-stage actors and any make-up changes.

“This is a show I’ve liked but never seen or heard of it done in this way,” Coffey said. “The script is crying out to be done in Brechtian style.”

The set itself is very minimal, using only a few platforms and boxes as scenery.

“Blood Brothers” is an age-old tale of twin brothers separated at birth who grow up in two different social classes. The mother of the rich brother starts a suspicion that if the brothers ever find out they are brothers, they will both die.

Junior musical theater major Denise Dumper plays Mrs. Johnstone, the poor mother of seven who is forced to give up one of her twin sons.

“I try not to make her a victim of circumstances,” Dumper said, elaborating on how easy it would be to have pity for her character being poor and struggling. “(The show) is not supposed to make you feel bad – it’s supposed to make you think.”

Coffey said the main themes of the show are superstition and suspicion.

“The characters live in fear for no reason,” Cofffey said.

He compared this fear to the fear of Communists during the McCarthy-era and the fear Americans had of supposed weapons of mass destruction that brought the country into war.

The show opens at 8 p.m. tonight in Room B005 in the basement of Music and Speech. It will continue to run through Saturday. All showings of the musical are free. Seats are based on a first-come, first-served basis.

“Even people who’ve seen ‘Blood Brothers’ will not be expecting this,” Coffey said.

Contact performing arts reporter Elizabeth Myers at [email protected].