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Student Players to debut song cycle, ‘Edges’

| Thursday, March 30, 2017

1490832614-3c84bc9be4b1511Photo Courtesy of Kelly Burke

From Thursday to Sunday, Student Players will perform “Edges,” a song cycle written by two University of Michigan sophomores in 2005 that explores the edges and turning points that seem to define our lives.

“It’s a song cycle, so it’s not a traditional musical,” sophomore Kelly Burke, one of the show’s directors, said. “Basically, it doesn’t have any dialogue, it doesn’t have a traditional plot, but it’s a series of songs that are all centered on the theme of being on the edge of something in life.”

The song cycle was originally written for males and two females to play all 12 roles. Burke and fellow director, sophomore Roisin Goebelbecker, however, have taken the show’s flexibility and run with it — expanding the cast to seven females and five males and arranging the songs in a specific order.

“We’ve given it more of an arc than it was written with — all of the actors are the same character all the way through, and they start kind of unsure of themselves and unsure of what they want, and by the end of the show they’ve all become more confident and self-assured,” Burke said.

Burke and Goebelbecker applied for Student Players to produce the musical after seeing the number of students who wanted to do musical theatre but were turned away from PEMCo’s Grease.

“We thought, ‘it’s kind of sad that’s the only opportunity that students have to do musical theatre because that’s the only group that does productions — maybe we could do our own production with a different group … we just kind of made the opportunity,” Burke said.

While PEMCo specializes in musicals and Not So Royal Shakespeare Company specializes in Shakespeare, Student Players falls somewhere in the middle.

“We’re kind of moving in the direction of dubbing Student Players as a place for people to do their passion projects,”Goebelbecker said.“So if you really want to do a show about social justice issues, you can apply to do a show about social justice issues and if it seems like you’re ready and prepared to do it, then student players will help make it happen.” 

Balancing the roles of director and actor has been a new experience for Goebelbecker and Burke, both of whom are hesitant to call themselves “directors” in the traditional sense. Creating the show, they said, has been a democratic, respectful and, though stressful, mostly pain-free process.

“We wanted to make it a collaborative experience,” Goebelbecker said. “Because we are leading the project and we’re also in it, that means there’s limitations on how much we can do in both roles, and those limitations are less of an issue if people step in and offer their perspectives and their ideas.”

Part of that process was creating the characters themselves. Most of the show’s roles are unnamed and there is not much characterization within the lyrics themselves, necessitating the creation of unique characters for every production.

“It took a lot of imagination and creativity,” Goebelbecker said. “We sat down and decided where their character was from, what college they went to, what they majored in, if they went to college, what their family looks like, what their biggest fears and loves are … people had to draw on their own experiences to answer those questions, but then that became a character separate from themself.”

Directing “Edges” has reinforced in both Goebelbecker and Burke the importance of taking initiative and working collaboratively. They hope the audience members will also gain something from watching the small narratives unfold before them — an understanding of their own edges and how they can, in Burke’s words, “take the leap.”

“Looking back, I wouldn’t have done anything differently,” Burke said.

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