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Brundibar at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis: Creativity and Efficiency in Tandem
Wendall K. Harrington
Original Content12/3/2009

About three years ago, Steve Ryan, director of production for Opera Theatre of Saint Louis called me and asked if I would be interested in working on a new production of Brundibar for their education department. The previous production had a lot of scenery he said, and he was looking to make something that would be more portable.

I was immediately interested. For decades I have been trying to encourage the use of projections for educational theatrical use: Once created, productions can be easily remounted and require virtually no storage. When I looked at a tape of the previous production I understood the real issue with Brundibar for education was twofold. On one hand, opera companies are looking to introduce young people to the beauty of opera with the hope of instilling at least curiosity about the art form, and at the same time they are using Brundibar to teach the history of the Holocaust. Brundibar is a musical fable most famous for being played and sung by the Jewish children interned in the Terezin concentration camp. The subject matter — two children in need of money to buy milk for their sick mother, who triumph over the organ grinder Brundibar — does not neatly illuminate the struggle in the camps, but the idea of any kind of triumph must have been mighty appealing for the inmates, who also were allowed to remove their yellow stars in performance.


About the Author: Wendall K. Harrington received Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle and American Theatre Wing awards for her design of The Who’s Tommy. Broadway credits include Grey Gardens, The Capeman, Ragtime, The Good Body, Putting It Together, Company, John Leguizamo’s Freak, Amy’s View, The Will Rogers Follies, My One and Only, The Heidi Chronicles and They’re Playing Our Song. Opera credits include productions at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, The Minnesota Opera; Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Metropolitan Opera, Washington National Opera and BAM. Ballet: Anna Karenina for Alexei Ratmansky; Ballet Mécanique for Doug Varone and Othello for American Ballet Theatre. Concert: Bolcom’s Songs of Innocence and Experience; I Hear America Singing for PBS; and tours for Chris Rock, Simon and Garfunkel, John Fogerty and The Talking Heads. Harrington, a founding member of the Drama Department, is the former design director of Esquire magazine. She created player introductions for the New York Knicks, Liberty and Rangers, as well as two fine daughters. She lectures widely on projection design and is on the faculty of the Yale School of Drama.

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