May 28, 2024
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A return to large-scale productions

‘Into the Woods’ explores the power of community

A scene from the fall 2022 production of A scene from the fall 2022 production of
A scene from the fall 2022 production of "Into the Woods." Image Credit: Kari Bayait.

The Binghamton University Theatre Department is returning to a sense of normalcy with its fall 2022 semester show, Into the Woods, which yielded the greatest number of auditions since before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Into the Woods is a two-act production written by James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim that puts a modern spin on classical fairy tales that people know and love. The show features a baker and his wife who must reverse a witch’s spell to have a child. On their journey, they come across Jack and the Beanstalk, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood and Cinderella, who must learn to work together to regain their agency and have their happy endings.

The musical opens at 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 4, in Watters Theater in the Fine Arts Building and is under the direction of Tommy Iafrate, associate professor and director of musical theater.

“I cannot deny that doing a show and seeing a show in person are both way more fun and exciting than watching something that is on video or watching something from afar,” Iafrate said. “It’s thrilling to be in rehearsal with other artists and to be creating something together again. It’s not only more fulfilling, but also a more effective way of creating art.”

While living through the COVID era, Iafrate and the cast members developed new perspectives, enhancing their understanding and relationship with Into the Woods.

“Seeing all the characters go from an individualistic perspective to more of a group mindset, you think about COVID when people were scavenging for toilet paper and taking anything they could get, really focusing on survival for themselves,” said Jenna Cooperman, a senior biology, psychology and theatre major playing the baker’s wife. “Then, we shifted into a vaccination period, where you didn’t just need to get vaccinated for yourself but also for the people around you, adopting a group mindset. I think that I’m able to connect with the show a lot more after experiencing this and I think that the audience will be able to as well, because it is so in line with our reality that we are experiencing.”

According to the cast, Into the Woods embodies the power of community and what it means to be a part of the collective.

“We’re living in a time that is so focused on individualism and productivity for individual success because we’ve been told our entire lives that we have to look out for ourselves. Into the Woods really challenges those ideas,” said Patrick Saint Ange, a senior English and sociology major and theatre minor playing Jack. “It says that seeking success for yourself and for your own selfish desires is a hollow endeavor. One of my favorite songs in the show is all about how no one is alone and that is something that we all need to keep in mind, especially when we’re facing challenges as big as giants.”

The musical offers a sense of realism, as it demonstrates many people’s desire to have control over their lives and it delves into the notion that nothing is as simple as it seems.

“The characters are very human and relatable and they’re all flawed in ways that, even in a fantasy world, are applicable to our actual world,” said Olivia Timmis, a junior English major and theatre minor playing Little Red Riding Hood. “They face problems that everyone faces. A lot of times with a fantastical or high comedy musical, it can get a little farsighted, but this musical stays very grounded to the true human experience.”

Iafrate said that the production is an all-around good time that audience members will appreciate, and where cast members and the audience will be able to establish deep connections with one another, enhancing the magic that is created on stage.

Into the Woods is really funny, the cast is incredibly talented and the voices are phenomenal,” Iafrate said. “This is the first musical that we’ve done since I’ve been here in eight years that has an all-student design team. It looks beautiful, it sounds beautiful and its messages really resonate with the heart.”

The 2022-2023 theatre season continues with Jazz Nutcracker beginning at 8 p.m. Dec. 2; Thrive, or What You Will {an Epic} on Feb. 23; and Rent on April 21. Auditions for Thrive and Rent will take place Nov. 15 and 16.