Next month, a cast of 17 Upper School (US) students will dramatize the Nazis’ rise to power when they perform Cecil Taylor’s Good with a unique balance of cross-gender casting.
Good follows German professor John Halder (Charlotte Gifford ’19) and his gradual corruption by Nazi ideology. While struggling to maintain a positive relationship with his Jewish friend, Maurice (Max Ambris ’19), Halder must also care for his decrepit mother (Nicholas Kolbas ’20) and divulge his affair with a student (Rebecca Mironko ’19) to his wife Helen (Cordiana Cozier ’19).
When Drama Teacher Mark Lindberg decided to cast students for suitable roles regardless of gender, he had in mind that for centuries, men wrote and acted in all plays, banning women from the stage and also from eminent positions in politics.
“Historically, the Nazi characters in the play were men, but they could easily have been women,” Mr. Lindberg said. “As we’re seeing today, there are more women in power now. It’s historically inaccurate to have teenagers playing these roles, so why is that any different than having gender differences?”
In addition to cross-gender casting, the play also features a high percentage of seniors: nine out of 17. Because the cast consists mostly of upperclassmen, Mr. Lindberg said, he felt comfortable tackling a complex script.
“If I anticipate there are going to be more seniors than usual, I can do a play that’s a little more demanding than usual,” Mr. Lindberg said. “There’s no question Good is challenging, but I choose shows I’m not sure I can do. That’s a great quality to share with the actors.”
Max, who played Prof. Pickering in last winter’s musical My Fair Lady, Guard in last year’s fall play Antigonick, and Judas in the 2017 musical Jesus Christ Superstar, said he thought one of the darker themes in Good is the heavy influence politics has on people.
“What struck me was the theme of brainwashing—how powerful a group of people can be,” he said. “If others push their ideologies at you enough, you will succumb and go against people you love.”
Charlotte said she had initial reservations about accepting the lead role of Halder.
“Even though I was cast as a prominent role, I’m very against voicing Nazis’ personal stories because I don’t believe they deserve voices in the media,” she said. “I very fundamentally disagree with all the choices my character makes in the play.”
Yet the discomfort of playing Halder is the challenge Charlotte said she looks forward to undertaking the most.
“I’m really excited about tackling this character,” she said. “It’s definitely a challenge for me because I’ve never had the opportunity to play someone who is so fundamentally different from myself—not just because he’s a Nazi, but he’s also a man. While I would so much rather be playing a woman, this role will help me grow.”
The curtains rise on Good in the US Theater at 3:45 p.m. on November 15 and 7:00 p.m. on November 16 and 17.