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Original new musical wraps up Indiana Festival Theatre season

Guest post courtesy of newsroom intern Jaclyn Lansbery:

No man is an island, especially in the big city.

In the original new musical “Island Song,” the Bloomington Playwrights Project and IU’s Department of Theatre and Drama teamed up to create the final production of the 2013 Indiana Festival Theatre.

Since Aug. 6, both the production team and the cast have been working together on the show’s script, a process that will continue until close to opening night at 7 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 22. Additional show times and ticket information are available.

The production’s songs, written by New York-based duo Sam Carner and Derek Gregor, are the show’s most compelling element. After IU Theatre and the BPP decided to partner for the project, show director Chad Rabinovitz received a list of submissions, including the script and music for “Island Song.” Rabinovitz, the producing artistic director of the BPP, was hooked from the moment he started listening to the music.

“This is unlike any other musical that I’ve heard,” he said. “It’s contemporary, unique, and that’s what this is about — it’s about developing something that is new and innovative. It’s the future of musicals.”

Rabinovitz said he plans to gauge audiences’ reactions to the show before re-working the musical again and showing at the BPP in February. As the director, Rabinovitz has been in contact with the playwrights three to four times a day.

Island Song

A recent rehearsal for “Island Song.”

Set in New York City, the story centers on five young people determined to make something of themselves. While two of the characters sustain a relationship throughout the plot, most of the other characters lead separate, yet connected, lives. Overall, the production pays homage to New York City, Rabinovitz said.

“It becomes very overwhelming and overbearing at times when you’re in the city,” he said. “You feel so small and so separate. But then somehow when you’re in New York, everything does end up connected, especially with social media and mass transit. So in some ways, all of our lives are connected.”

Brian Bandura, a sophomore studying musical theater at IU’s Department of Theatre and Drama, plays Cooper, a character who moved to the big city after graduating high school despite his father’s disapproval.

Bandura said the play offers a mix of up-tempo songs and ballads – the hardest music he’s ever had to sing.

He sings three songs by himself, including “After Hours,” a fast-paced number that gives Bandura the chance to own the stage. “I really try to show off why I’m in the city to the audience and what I love about it, so it’s a lot of fun,” he said. Another song, “No Room for Plan B,” takes place at a time when Bandura’s character comes to terms with being successful in his own right.

Being a part of a workshop play was also new for Bandura. Often the actors have had to continue rehearsing outside of rehearsal hours.

“Normally you’ll come into a show, and you might be really familiar with it and heard all the music before and you understand the basics of it,” Bandura said. “This one is really interesting because I didn’t know the music or plot before coming into rehearsal. Every day it keeps changing.”

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