Multimedia / Student Life

Following Broadway’s Lead, Hunter Closes Brecht Production

The cast and director of “Mother Courage and Her Children,” in rehearsal, weeks before their cancelation notice. Photo by: Ian Calderon
Photo by Ian Calderon

The show must go on: Unless there’s a pandemic.

As of 5pm Thursday, Broadway lights have gone dark. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo mandated the closures of all gatherings of 500 people and above in response to the exponential spread of COVID-19. The announcement sent a ripple effect through artist communities in the city, shuttering off-broadway playhouses, and even the Frederick Loewe theatre on Hunter’s Campus.

Although there are substantially fewer seats in the black box theater off of 68th street, the Hunter theater department decided it would be in the communities best interest to stop rehearsals and cancel their Spring mainstage production, “Mother Courage and Her Children.”

The show had a special run Thursday night for the entire production team and theatre department chair, wrote senior Yanniv Frank in a Facebook post.“We got to both celebrate and mourn what a special production this would have been. We all cried. A lot.”

“We got to both celebrate and mourn what a special production this would have been. We all cried. A lot.”

In an email sent out to ticket holders Friday afternoon, the Hunter Theatre Department responded, “In short, as difficult and painful as it is to bring to a halt the incredible and inspiring work everyone’s been doing, it’s the right thing to do.”

Mother Courage and Her Children, an anti-war play by Bertolt Brecht, takes place during the 17th century, follows the story of a determined woman nicknamed “Mother Courage” working for the Swedish Army. Hunter’s production, directed by Shadi Ghaheri, was a modern take on the show, highlighting four students as both Mother Courage and her daughter Kattrin, in alternating scenes.

“Shadi our director had staged all three Kattrins falling down and the mothers rushing on stage to us,” said Chinstina Galarza, who played one of the Kattrins. “The fourth mother sang a lullaby, it was a really sad scene.”

The production was set to run March 25th through the 28th and again April 1st through the 4th. Rehearsals started in February. All told they spend more than 140 hours practicing plus countless hours memorizing lines.

With canonical writing from Bertol Brecht to memorize, a learning curve came with embodying the text. The students were “trying to understand the density behind the meaning of the lines and why the character is saying them,” she said.

In their final rehearsal Thursday night before hearing the news of their cancellation, Daphne-Olivia Adamson expressed concern in a text conversation that they didn’t know when they’d be “shut down for good.”

The hourly updates began after Chancellor Matos Rodriguez sent in an email Wednesday afternoon, asking campus to “reconsider holding non-essential gatherings and community events of more than 50 people during the remainder of the Spring 2020 semester.”

Seniors in the cast (from Left to Right) Annika Prager (assistant director), Christina Galarza,
Taryn Mack, Yanniv Frank, Adam Pine, Maria Jimenez and Dexter Phillip.

The cast of 19 students were a mix of graduating classes; the experience of canceling is bittersweet for senior Galarza.

“I understand how serious this situation has escalated to, but I am really sad to see it affect the show,” she said.

A freshman making her debut performance, Pricilla Prasad, was surprised by the news.

“If you had asked me a week ago if we’d be canceling the show because of a virus–I would’ve said definitely not.”

Although their opportunity to perform for an audience was cut short, Galarza said she had grown during the process.

“I feel like I’ve really become a better artist in the theatre even if we can’t show our work to a larger audience.”

At this time, there are no updates on rescheduling “Mother Courage and Her Children” for later in the semester.

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