The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

Doudna presents Children of Eden

Monica Alifantis (Yonah), a vocal performance and music education major, belts out a note at Doudna Fine Arts Center Sunday evening. (Alli Hausman)

Children of Eden opened Thursday night at the Doudna Fine Arts Center to much praise from audiences. 

The 30-person cast alongside the orchestra, tech crew, directors, designers and more have been hard at work for the past eight weeks, rehearsing six days a week, Monday through Friday and Sunday evenings, in preparation for the opening of this large show, said director and choreographer Larry Cox.  

Freshman communication disorders and sciences major Aubrey Kaufman attended the Children of Eden performance and was ecstatic following the performance. Kaufman has been to shows at Doudna before but has never seen a musical put on there.  

“I absolutely loved it,” Kaufman said. “Anything the Doudna puts on is absolutely incredible.” 

Kaufman had high praise for the show, saying she would encourage anyone to come. 

“I was just so impressed,” she said.  

Children of Eden was selected to be this year’s musical in celebration of Doudna’s 15-year anniversary, Cox said. With a run time of two and a half hours, a large cast and a grandiose writing style, Children of Eden was selected as a way to go all in for commemorating Doudna. Each year, Cox said, he tries to pick a show that will challenge his students. 

Compared to last year’s show Xanadu—an 80’s rock comedy musical, Children of Eden is almost double the scale. According to Dr. Rebecca von Kamp, the music director for Children of Eden and vocal instructor at Eastern, this year, the orchestral score was over 800 pages, compared to roughly 300 for Xanadu last year. For the conductor score, Children of Eden was 432 pages, while Xanadu’s was 175 last year.   

To learn all the material, von Kamp and Ethan Hayward, the assistant musical director for Children of Eden and the piano accompanist during rehearsals, led the cast in a series of sing-throughs during the earliest rehearsals. Last Friday, the cast and orchestra combined to practice together in what’s known as a sitzprobe, von Kamp said. The sitzprobe rehearsal focuses on integrating the cast and orchestra, who previously practiced separately. 

Harrison Hahn (Cain), a junior music education major, is cursed with the mark of Cain by Paris Bayless and Emily Ritter (Storytellers) in front of Mitchell Cox (Father) at Doudna Fine Arts Center Sunday evening. (Alli Hausman)

“This show is so much bigger, so much longer, than the one we did last year,” von Kamp said. “But they [the cast] did amazing. They did really, really well.”  

The cast for Children of Eden is also bigger than last year, according to Cox. With a show as sizeable as Children of Eden and with Doudna’s anniversary, Cox said he was very interested in bringing in the community.  

“It’s so fun to bring outside people into the department to work with us,” he said.    

Cox said this year two community members, two students from Charleston High School and one student from Mattoon High School were cast in the show.  

As the creator of the musical theatre track in the BA theatre program and instructor of musical theatre at Eastern, Cox has watched the interest in theatre grow in Charleston and around campus. When started at Eastern, he estimated 20 students total tried out for all four of Doudna’s yearly productions. This year, he said, 50 to 60 students auditioned for just the musical.  

Bri Olshawsky (Eve), a sophomore theatre major, gasps as (from left to right) Ellis Mansfield, Rose Brazzell, Olivia Enlow, Emily Ritter, Abby Smith, and Andi Hortenstine (Snake) convince her to take a bite of the apple at Doudna Fine Arts Center Sunday evening. (Alli Hausman)

One student who auditioned this year was Harrison Hahn, a junior music education major. He was cast in the role of Cain, a major character in the first act of the show. Children of Eden was Hahn’s first musical at Doudna, though he said he has been heavily involved in theatre since he was young. Following the performance, Hahn was greeted with roses from friends who attended the show. 

“I feel great,” he said. “It’s exciting. Everyone’s at the top of their game.”   

Hahn said that the scale of the show was challenging and that it was a lot to memorize and learn as a cast member.  

“I’m just proud of our whole cast,” Hahn said. “Everyone’s voices are super strong; the acting is great. I’m so happy to be here.”

In Feb. 2024, the Children of Eden cast will be headed to Lincoln Center in New York with Cox to perform in the Broadway concert premiere of Children of Eden. The Eastern cast members will join Broadway actors in the ensemble as storytellers.  

Children of Eden is the favorite show of Stephen Schwartz, the person behind Children of Eden’s music and lyrics. Schwartz is most famous for his work in the musical Wicked, Cox said. Despite this, Children of Eden has never been produced on Broadway. 

“They’re [the cast] so excited. Like, everyone is so excited,” Cox said. “And faculty is too. We’re all super geeked about it.”   

The cast is currently fundraising for the trip.  

Bri Olshawsky (Eve) looks on as (from left to right) Ellis Mansfield, Rose Brazzell, Olivia Enlow, Emily Ritter, Abby Smith, and Andi Hortenstine (Snake) appear before her at Doudna Fine Arts Center Sunday evening. (Alli Hausman)

While Children of Eden is inspired by the Book of Genesis in the Bible and Tanakh—the Hebrew Bible, the show departs from the biblical story. Both Cox and Harkulich shared their thoughts on the production’s themes. 

“The show really talks about parent/child relationships,” Cox said. “That’s really what it’s all about. How we generationally do the same things over and over and over again.”  

Throughout the show, multiple generations of a family are shown and how they mirror one another. From the character Father banishing Adam and Eve to Cain killing Abel, the characters in Children of Eden are part of a generational cycle of behaviors.  

“This is a powerful story about the cost and joy of creation, loss, perfection, paradise and family,” Harkulich wrote. “We hope you’ll find something new in this old and well-known story.” 

Children of Eden will be shown several more times at Doudna this week and next. Tickets can be purchased on their website.

 

Alli Hausman can reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].

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Alli Hausman
Alli Hausman, Copy Chief
Alli Hausman is a sophomore journalism major and can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].

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