Surrounded by old opera production posters, a couple of students, and a baby grand piano, David Ronis, the director of University Opera, beams as he takes a seat to discuss the upcoming production of Into the Woods. As co-producer and stage director of the show, Ronis and University Opera have teamed up with University Theatre for the first time in twelve years to produce a magical story full of all your favorite fairytales.
After nearly two years of collaboration between the two departments, Ronis and co-producer Jim Stauffer of University Theatre have almost completed their journey.
Into the Woods is an enchanted combination of the stories of your favorite childhood characters like Cinderella, Rapunzel, and Little Red Riding Hood. As each character ventures into the woods to fulfill their wishes, they begin to realize that happily ever after is not a no strings attached affair.
“We’re bringing you the magic of all the Disney movies you watched while you were a kid while also giving you the heart and soul of your favorite movie or song,” said Molly Frisch, assistant stage manager of Into the Woods. “That’s the cool thing about it – it isn’t just one thing.”
In fact, this show is far from being “just one thing.” While the pairing of opera and theater does create a holistic experience, the incorporation of art forms such as video and the theatrical practice of flight take the production to the next level.
“The best thing about this production is the production itself. It’s maybe the most elaborate thing either department has done,” explains Jacob Elfner, who plays Cinderella’s Prince Charming.
When asked about the interdisciplinary nature of the show, Ronis explains that this production’s interdisciplinary nature runs much deeper than the pairing of opera and theater.
“Interdisciplinary is a catch word now,” he says. “In theater we have text and poetry and visual art. We have sound and acting and textiles, and when we have a production, there has always been a lot of people at the table. Art alone is interdisciplinary.”
However, the particular intertwining of singers and actors does produce a unique experience both for those on stage and those filling the theater seats.
“People in the music department and people in the theater department probably went about learning the show in different ways,” said Elfner. “You see people doing something a certain way and say to yourself, ‘How did they get there? How did they go about learning the show this way?’”
For those in the audience, the fusing of these perspectives creates a dynamic, engaging performance simply by becoming a melting pot of ideas, techniques, and skillsets.
“This show is not the director’s baby, it’s not the designer’s baby, it’s not the stage manager’s baby – this show is its own baby and we all take care of it,” said Frisch.
Into the Woods, a production involving over 90 people, will be on at Shannon Hall in Memorial Union from Thursday, February 21 – Sunday, February 24.
“There’s a passage towards the end of the show where there are two numbers back to back which are deeply moving,” said Ronis. “Our students bring it. The work is exquisite, the acting work, the musical work and the timing, it’s full of emotion and I sit there weeping thinking, ‘wow, this is really good.’ I’m so grateful to be a part of this.”