In 1970, one musical offered methods of character exploration never seen before, thus revolutionizing future theater productions forever.
From Nov. 1 to Sunday Nov. 5, the Geneseo Department of Music held performances of Stephen Sondheim’s award-winning musical, “Company.”
The show is credited with being one of the first musicals to take on the issues of modern relationships and adulthood. It follows Bobby, a bachelor in his 30’s, who was originally content with being single. Due to the pressure of his friends, however, he begins to reevaluate whether or not bachelorhood is all it is made out to be. Throughout the play, Bobby engages in interactions with several potential suitors and witnesses the ups and downs of married life through his friends’ marriages.
“Company” features a series of disconnected vignettes that reject linear storytelling in support of character exploration. Each scene either shows Bobby out with a girlfriend or visiting his married friends.
“‘Company is a reflection on Bobby’s past experiences with those couples,” musical theater major senior Kimberly Cole, who played Sarah, said. “Because everyone is so different, they all have something different to offer him. It’s not a linear time sequence and he reflects on the different scenes before he realizes what he wants.”
“As an actor, it is interesting because we come in and out of the show at random points,” music major junior Maria Floriano, who played Joanne, said. “We each have our main scenes, but then we are also scattered across [Bobby’s] memories and his thoughts.”
Although the production was performed at Wadsworth Auditorium, it was unique because the audience sat on chairs that were arranged in a circle around the stage and a white wall blocked the audience from seeing the rest of the room. The stage provoked a casual atmosphere and compelled the audience to feel as though they were in the play.
“In a proscenium theatre, the audience gets lost in the darkness of the auditorium. But here we can really connect to specific people on a personal level,” musical theater major sophomore Brett Hammes, who played Bobby, said. “No matter what direction you’re facing, there’s an audience. It forces you to always stay in character and live in the moment.”
With the help of director and professor of English and theater Melanie Blood and music director Don Kot, the actors were given the opportunity to add their own contributions to the play.
“There’s a lot that’s not in the script at all,” Floriano said. “There’s nowhere in the script that says what my job is or how old we are. It’s fun that it wasn’t set in stone for us and we got to create a lot of our own backstory.”
Before the three weeks of rehearsal started, the actors examined their characters to understand their personal relationships with Bobby.
“It was interesting to see how our own individual processes came together as a group during our rehearsals, even though we all started so separate,” senior musical theater major Jessica Murphy, who acted as Jenny, said.
It is not uncommon for new concepts to be added to performances of “Company.” The 2018 London revival of “Company” will be modernized by changing the character of Bobby into “Bobbie,” a female role. Transforming the gender of the character may offer a new perspective on the musical regarding the societal norms of marriage.
The goal of theater productions is to create a connection between both the actors and the audience.
“It’s safe to say we have as much fun on stage together as we do offstage,” Hammes said. “I think the best part of being in a production is getting to create a story for an audience. I enjoy seeing the looks on audience member’s faces or hearing them laugh and react to what’s happening on stage, because that means we’re doing our job.”u