Published: Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, March 19, 2013 02:03
This week, JustArts spoke with Helena Raffel ’14 and Bethany Greenbaum ’16, the directors of Hillel Theater Group’s production of Seussical.
JustArts: How did you two first learn about Seussical? What compelled you to bring the production to Brandeis?
Helena Raffel: Well, I was in Seussical when I was 12, so I feel like I’ve come full circle. I’m actually on the Hillel Theater Group Executive Board, so I was a part of deciding what show to bring to Brandeis. I know that at least one of our other E-Board members was also in Seussical, so we were all really excited that Seussical was a possibility.
Bethany Greenbaum: And then it got proposed. The girl who proposed it is an actor. I was also in Seussical—I think I was the same age, 12—and even at rehearsals then, I already knew that I wanted to direct when I was older, so I used to sit next to the director. And then I heard that it had been proposed and I was really happy, because I thought “Oh, I get a chance to direct something, and have Seussical be my first production.”
HR: We’ve both loved the show from the beginning.
JA: How does your production of Seussical differ from the Broadway show or the original production?
BG: I have not seen the Broadway production, but it’s very different from the version that I was in. From the version that I was in—a lot of the songs from this version were not in it. It was very much a happier show, whereas this one is meant for an older audience. We wanted to make it
more college student-appropriate.
HR: Yeah. We know that there was some backlash about the idea of doing a show that’s based on children’s books at college, but we both realized how adult it is and what important messages Seussical has to offer, even for college ages, so we did things like dressed General Genghis Khan Schmitz like Sergeant Pepper, and tried to bring some 60s themes into it too to make it a little more adult and add in some elements that you wouldn’t really appreciate if you saw it as a kid.
JA: Was there any reason that you chose the 1960s? Or just because it was a tumultuous era and is very much in the Brandeis consciousness?
HR: Ah! Well it was my idea at first because, when I think of Seuss, I think of a lot of colors, and when I think about Seussical—it’s very much about fighting for what you believe in even when nobody else will believe in the same thing you will—I think that that really is emblematic of the 1960’s as well. That revolution and really fighting for what you believe in, and also the colors. So I just thought that there were really a lot of similar associations
BG: And just overall—because we had been in it—we wanted to have it be different from what we’d been in, and be able to add our own personal flair.
JA: What was your biggest challenge in directing the show?
BG: Honestly? Really … there were very few things that we had to deal with. Just because it’s such a big group, communication was a challenge, and there were some times when it wasn’t as effective as it should have been, but overall, it turned out really well! I’m happy with it!
HR: The hardest thing, for me, was figuring out how to direct some of my best friends. I think that that was really hard for me to figure out how to distance myself from that and figure out how to interact in a different way. And the other thing was just, sometimes, figuring out what exactly I wanted to do with certain songs. Some of them, I knew exactly what I wanted to do and had a really great vision and it just came to me, and some of them took a bit longer to envision how I wanted a song to look.
JA: Was this your first directing experience?
BG: It was my first. I’ve assistant directed, but it was the first time I was one of the directors.
HR: I directed HTG’s fall play last year, but this was a very different experience—an incredible one! Very different.
JA: Do you two hope to make theater into a career, or is your directing experience a college endeavor?
BG: For me, it definitely is just a college endeavor. But because of that, I want to do it as much as possible in college. It’s a hobby that I don’t want to let go of.
HR: I’m actually not sure! I know that I want to teach English, but it’s very very easy to also get certified to teach theater, so I’m thinking I might end up teaching both. So who knows! Maybe I’ll end up teaching theater and directing in my future career. We’ll see.
JA: What do you hope that audiences will take away from the production?
BG: Definitely a powerful message, you know, “a person’s a person no matter how small,” which we certainly believe in. But also just to have an afternoon or an evening to just enjoy watching your friends, or for people who are coming to visit, relatives, or whatever; just to see all of their hard work is really special.
HR: I hope that people take away the message and really appreciate the performance as well and really enjoy looking at Dr. Seuss in maybe a way that they haven’t looked at his stories before.