Having grown up in NYC, I became accustomed to seeing great theater performances. Last night, I had the rare pleasure of seeing a Broadway show in formation, with the extra benefit of knowing something about the back story.
In his 7/29/2012 sermon at my church last Sunday, Pastor Kai Nilsen introduced a young man from our community who had been coming to our church. Alex Kip was a 2006 Gahanna Lincoln High School graduate who went on to my alma mater, the University of Michigan, to study Musical Theater. In his senior year, about to go to Broadway to pursue his craft, Alex came down with cancer that not only affected his singing voice, but gave him only a 15-30% chance of living. Alex fought and made it through, returned to Broadway, and, with the encouragement and help of a director, Ari Laura Kreith, started writing a play based on his story. After three table readings in NYC, he brought the play back to his high school and worked with Actors Equity and high school performers for a week to stage its first performance.
What a thrilling performance it was! The story was compelling. The glimpses we get of the great richness and power of Alex’s singing voice help us understand the crushing blow he must have felt in hearing that he may lose his singing voice forever ‒ a message that hit him as badly as the one that he may die. The reality of family life is presented with the poignancy of supportive love. Even knowing the outcome, I doubt there was a dry eye in the house.
This is a work in progress, with script changes being made daily. So as explained prior to the performance, the cast performed with scripts in hand. It wasn’t at all distracting, but a reminder to the audience that we were having a hand at forming this work. Our part became more active in the “talk back session” after the performance in which the audience provided comments and suggestions. What an unusual opportunity it was to see and hear how a play is created! The director explained that even the audience reaction during the performance offered them suggestions on adjusting the play.
NBC4 News in Columbus covered the show. Here’s the clip from their news broadcast last night:
See more about Alex and the production at his website: http://akipprod.com