Bethel Theatre Takes the Journey "Into the Woods"

Truths like treasures are everywhere in the Bethel Theatre performance of musical "Into the Woods," if only the audience chooses to look.

By Katie Johnson '19, student writer

February 06, 2019 | 4 p.m.

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“We have to realize happily-ever-after doesn’t just happen,” says professor, director, and choreographer Meg Zauner concerning the J-term musical Into the Woods—a story that weaves together the Brothers Grimm fairytales by bringing iconic characters into the woods. By the end of the first act, most characters have attained their happy endings, and as the audience stretches during intermission, one may wonder, “What on earth happens now?”

Though family favorite fairytale characters like Little Red Riding Hood and Cinderella journey through the woods, Zauner calls the musical “a cautionary tale for adults.” She has told the actors singing the finale not to face each other, but the audience, offering both a warning not to make the same mistakes as their characters have as well as hope for the journey ahead, promising that “no one is alone.”

For the interim class “Performing and Producing the Musical,” the cast, crew, and orchestra have to work together well in order to achieve what they have set out to do. Producing a musical in a month is not for the faint of heart, with rehearsals every afternoon and evening along with 20 hours of set and costume work required for everyone taking the class. Zauner works with the actors while Professor of Music Steven Thompson conducts the orchestra. The fast pace creates a community among the many people involved, constantly reminding the cast and crew that no one is alone.

Zauner concludes her director’s note by saying, “The joy of this musical is not only the incredible music and fanciful characters but also the truths imbedded along the way like treasures for the taking.” Each character learns something from his or her journeys through the woods, and collectively, as sung in the finale, they all learned “to mind the wolf, to heed the witch, to honor the giant.” If the audience graciously extends the metaphor to their own lives, the story is given the power to change more than just the fictional characters.

The witch offers another line to be treasured: “You’re not good, you’re not bad. You’re just nice.” Zauner grows passionate regarding this point. She says, “Jesus does not call us to be nice. He calls us to be good.” She says that goodness varies by situation sometimes, that love can be sacrificial, but it can also be speaking truth that may not come across as very “nice.”

And finally, one of the most precious promises of the play, especially for the Bethel production according to Zauner, is that “even though we aren’t alone, occasionally people let us down. Even if people let us down, there’s always One that doesn’t leave us, so we’re truly not alone.”

Into the Woods will take place February 7-9 at 7:30 p.m. and February 10 at 2:30 p.m. in Benson Great Hall. Purchase your tickets online.