Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Against the brilliant violet-indigo background and haunting musical undertones, eight performers emanate passion and excitement in the well-choreographed scenes of the original musical “Written in the Stars.”
Written and directed by Charles Inniss ’09, the student-run production will be performed this week in the Lang Performing Arts Center. Set in a performing arts school in Cleveland, Ohio, the play follows the protagonist, Eddie and his quest for truth and meaning in his life. Inniss describes the play as a dark comedy about “a kid searching for his destiny, which is written in the stars.”
As a new student at Coventry High School, Eddie struggles to adjust to his new surroundings while still dealing with issues from his past. Randall (Keith) Benjamin ’09, who plays the lead role, describes his character as a vulnerable individual who “is reaching out for somebody who cares.”
Personal family tensions and a new love interest play into Eddie’s personal struggles. At home, Eddie’s relationship with his mother, played by Eva McKend ’10, is tense and strained while at his new school, Eddie is teased and taunted by his peers. However, he finds a love interest, played by Sunny Cowell ’10, who becomes his first friend at Coventry High School and helps him cope with his personal struggles. Cowell describes her character: “Amanda is the most coveted girl in high school. She’s popular, well-dressed, and at the same time, has a quiet confidence about her.”
To complement the ups and downs of Eddie’s life, Inniss incorporates fun, upbeat music and dance. Gerrit Straugther ’09, the musical director of “Written in the Stars”, helped Inniss arrange the music, inspired by the smooth R&B beats of Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, and Janet Jackson.
Many cast members remarked on the incredible process and development that this original musical underwent. Benjamin explains, “I’m very excited about the musical. I remember when Charles came up to me freshman year and said, ‘I want to write a musical.’ It’s very profound to see his vision fulfilled.”
During rehearsal, the many hours of work and dedication put into the music, choreography, and acting are obvious. As Jessie Cannizzaro ’12, who plays one of the gossip girls, explains, “There’s so much care and passion put into the show and it’s been a really great experience to be part of a completely original musical and see it come to life.”
The musical accomplishes remarkable, seamless weaving and interchange of dialogue and songs. From the upbeat opening scene to Eddie’s frightening nightmare, the musical engages and energizes the audience in varied, evocative, ways. Interwoven in the music, acting, and dancing are the play’s central themes of love, destiny, fate, death, and power.
While this play follows Eddie’s personal story, the play’s themes connect to each audience member and their personal lives. Jessie Cannizzaro ’12, who plays one of the gossip girls, elaborates, “It’s about finding your own strength and overcoming the personal battles that we all face. Eddie learns to overcome his own personal struggles and I think its something that anyone can relate to because in one way or another, we’ve all had our own personal struggles.”
The title, “Written in the Stars” refers to the concept of destiny and how each individual pursues his or her own fate. Cowell explains, “I think the play is saying that destiny is not very straightforward. Destiny isn’t really destiny; its about what you choose to do.” Throughout the play, Eddie struggles to define himself in the midst of his personal and social struggles. However, this concept of designing one’s own destiny is especially relevant to Swatties who don’t know what their futures hold.
Charles Inniss states, “this show should speak to [everyone]. Your destiny and fate are not so far away that you let that fate dictate how your life is. Its yours to take and mold. All you need to do it grab it.”
So now that the score is done, lines are memorized, costumes are made, and sound and staging are arranged, all this musical needs to be complete is a captive and engaged audience. As Inniss puts it, “The audience should look forward to a kickass production and casting team.”
Performances of the play are on LPAC mainsatge at 8 PM on Thursday, November 13th through Saturday, November 15 with a matinee showing on Sunday, November 16 at 2:00 pm. Certain interesting things that the audience should pay attention to are the clown motif, purple backpack and an onstage kiss. For more information, contact Lwolk1@swarthmore.edu.