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PEMCo to present ‘A New Brain’

| Thursday, October 5, 2017

The Pasquerilla East Musical Company (PEMCo) will perform William Finn’s musical “A New Brain” from Thursday to Saturday in Lab Theatre in Washington Hall.

“A New Brain” follows songwriter Gordon Schwinn, who is diagnosed with a severe brain disorder and is forced to face the possibility that his life and his dreams could soon come to a close. 

Sophomore Caroline Lezny, director of the show, said the musical conveys the universal human struggle to balance relationships with personal aspirations, as well as the significance of using time carefully and wholeheartedly.

Cast members rehearse for PEMCo's production of "A New Brain", while director Caroline Lezny looks on. The play will run from October 5-7 in Washington Hall.Courtesy of Denise Dorotheo

Cast members rehearse for PEMCo’s production of “A New Brain”, while director Caroline Lezny looks on. The play, which follows the story of a songwriter with a brain condition, will run from October 5-7 in Washington Hall.

“The idea that we’re really trying to drive home is that relationships are the most important things you can have in your life and that you shouldn’t waste the time you’re given, because you don’t have the time that you think you do,” Lezny said.

In addition to the dialogue, which occurs almost entirely through song, Lezny said the combination of the costumes, lighting and overall design highlight the theme of the musical.

With a small cast, Lezny said she focused especially on characterization, or understanding characters on a personal level, with the actors.

Junior Shane Dolan, who plays the lead character — Schwinn — in the show, said he worked closely with Lezny to create a backstory for his character,  particularly regarding how Schwinn’s past affects his relationships in the present.

“In the beginning, we worked a lot on really expressing what you’re saying while singing a tune,” Dolan said. “Then, we talked more about backstory for characters and put that back into the musical process.”

Similarly, sophomore Samuel Jackson, who plays Schwinn’s boyfriend Roger, also considered his character’s history to fully capture Roger’s essence.

“I created the entire context through which Roger lives his life. I asked myself how old is he, where did he go to school, who are his parents, how long has he been dating Gordon,” Jackson said. “Through those experiences, I tried to find a mapping between his life and my life, so I could not only act as the character, but have some type of connection to him so that, on stage, I don’t just know the information, but I can live in it.”

Dolan hopes the audience will identify with Schwinn.

“I’d want people to take a look at [Schwinn], who is having a really tough time … and maybe see a little bit of themselves,” Dolan said. “Then, they can see how and why this can affect his life so completely in terms of how he views his past and how he’s looking towards his future, if there is going to be a future for him.”

“A New Brain” is unique to PEMCo in terms of the centrality of a same-sex relationship, senior Kelsey Dool, the show’s executive producer, said.

“This is one of the first times, if not the first time, that PEMCo has featured a same-sex relationship fully fleshed out on stage,” Dool said. “This is a show that treats the relationship between two men as if it were a heterosexual relationship. The show is not about Gordon being gay. He just happens to be gay, and his relationship with his boyfriend is a very central part of the show, but it is just treated as a fact of his life, and I think that will be very exciting for Notre Dame students to see.”

Lezny, Dool and Dolan expect “A New Brain” to resonate with the student body through its depictions of ubiquitous human truths.

“We think that theatre, and musical theatre in particular, is a great place to go to see something that both resonates with you from personal experience but also exposes you to something new and allows you to spend time thinking about it afterward, which I think this show is going to do a really good job doing,” Dool said.

The performances will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, as well as 4 p.m. on Saturday in Lab Theatre. Tickets are available for $8 per student and $10 general admission at LaFortune Box Office.

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