BWW Interview: Robert Meffe talks about 'Enchanted April' at SDSU
For those looking for an escape from San Diego's winter weather of mid to high 60's, maybe a trip to the Italian countryside is just what you need. SDSU is presenting "Enchanted April" November 30th - December 3 at the Don Powell Theatre.
This new musical follows four London women in 1922 as they find an opportunity to escape their realities in London with a magical month in a castle in the Mediterranean. Based on the novel of the same name, this new musical allows the students in the MFA program at SDSU more occasions to explore their craft.
Robert Meffe, the Head of the MFA Musical Theatre Program at SDSU, looks for opportunities to work with the students on new musicals. Before coming to San Diego, Meffe worked in New York with Broadwya credits that include working on "Little Women", "Les Misérables," "Newsies," "Phantom of the Opera", and more.
I had a chance to find out why he thinks that opportunities like working on new musicals is especially helpful, and what drew him to "Enchanted April."
For those who are not familiar with your program at SDSU, can you tell us a little bit about the focus of, and what you want the students to get out of the program overall?
The MFA Musical Theatre Program at SDSU trains performing artists for the next step in their careers. We balance performing training (acting, singing, dancing, performance opportunities) with rigorous scholarly work (history, directing, pedagogy, analysis and research). The MFA degree allows graduates to teach at the university level and our graduates are performing, directing, teaching and writing worldwide.
Why is the commitment to exploring new musicals important to you and to the students in your program?
New musicals blend performance training with analysis. A new musical has no previous production to base character analysis and development, so it is a great opportunity to stretch our students' capacity. Also, this kind of collaboration puts our students in direct contact with some of the great new writers of our generation. The networking possibilities are vital for our students' career goals.
What about "Enchanted April" made you think this was something you wanted to work on?
My colleague Stephen Brotebeck has worked on earlier incarnations of "Enchanted April"and he has built a strong working relationship with the writers Richard Evans and Charlie Liepart. What especially drew us to the subject material is that the piece features four strong female characters and we wanted to highlight our strong female students in our cohort.
The show has music by Richard B Evans and lyrics by Charles Leipart, what intrigues you musically about this show?
Richard composes lush and expressive melodies that exquisitely call to mind the romance of Italy in the Spring. In a world where most musicals blast an electric bass and drums in the pit, "Enchanted April"is accompanied by a 22 piece string orchestra. It is wonderful and emotional music.
This show has four very different women at the heart of it, who clash at first and then bond as they start to find some common ground and derive strength from each other. This seems timely as we are seeing a present day discussion about expression, repression, and women coming together as a powerful force to make change. Were you drawn to this show because of this happening in the world, or were you interested in exploring themes of this nature and it happened to sync with what's happening in present day?
I think there is a welcome sea change happening in this country where women's voices are starting to be heard loud and clear. "Enchanted April "allows these women to be heard, their feelings of aspiration, regret, happiness, sorrow and love expressed in this remarkable story. "Enchanted April" is not a political statement; it is a show that delves into the complex humanity of these four people that happen to be women.
As if that isn't enough, Meffe makes it clear it's not just the performances that are to be admired about this show.
We are extraordinarily lucky to work with the MFA in Design and Technology at SDSU. They have created and built an exquisite set, gorgeous costumes and props and lit with warm Italian sunshine.
In the final week of rehearsals Evans and Leipart will be in San Diego to continue with making adjustments to the show while working with SDSU theatre students. This will be only the second time this show has been produced and will be shown in its newest and most current version at SDSU.
Live orchestration will be provided by the SDSU Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Michael Gerdes.
"Enchanted April" runs Thursday, Nov. 30 through Sunday, Dec. 3 in the Don Powell Theatre at San Diego State University. Tickets are $20 General, $17 Students/Seniors and can be purchased online at theatre.sdsu.edu.
Photo Credit: SDSU