Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Jewish Theatre Ensemble’s Song Cycle aims to shine a healing light on community

Shun Graves / The Daily Northwestern
Jewish Theatre Ensemble premiered this year’s Song Cycle production, “Shine Like a Lake,” at the Wirtz Center on Friday, Oct. 13.

Fully rehearsed only a day before its Friday premiere, the Jewish Theatre Ensemble assembled 15 continuous songs emblematic of the theme “Shine Like a Lake” for its annual Song Cycle concert Friday and Saturday.

Still, producer and Communication sophomore Millie Rose Taub said the stress paid off.

“A chaotic tech week makes for a great show,” Taub said.

This year’s production wove through more than a dozen songs, showcasing the skills of  the 12-person cast. The song cycle format, a continuous string of songs, paced the show around the theme of shining a warm light for others.

Taub said Jewish Theatre Ensemble sought to select songs that both highlight the performers’ talent and adhere to the quote “shine like a lake” from Polish poet Anna Kamienska. 

Alongside 12 covers, the production included three student-written songs. Communication sophomore Sydney MacGilvray opened the show with “Head Rush,” a self-penned evocation of growth and creativity, singing, “I want to breathe in the light.”

“When you have so much creative inspiration and creative energy, it almost feels like it’s bubbling out of you,” MacGilvray said. “It feels very physical and in your body and motivating.”

Themes of motivation and helping others appeared throughout the production, in songs like ABBA’s “Chiquitita” and “Shine” from the musical “The Spitfire Grill.” But the cast also tried to bring in humor, Communication junior Becker Spear said. 

Spear performed “Icarus” from the musical “Myths and Hymns,” which describes the figure from Greek mythology who aims for the sun –– only to fall to his death. The Spartan set design evoked a nighttime campsite gathering, which forms the crux of the storyline. According to the program, each song, whether entertaining or vulnerable, involved “acts of courageous expression.”

The design also required some improvisation, Taub said. Song Cycle is usually performed on the Lakefill, but because of rainy weather and some technical issues, this weekend’s three showings of “Shine Like a Lake” were staged in the Virginia Wadsworth Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts.

Even so, the indoor setting still used a camping-inspired storyline.

“A lot of what this show is about is how we can come together to help each other shine,” MacGilvray said. “When people are going through hard times and it’s harder to find that light, we can take it in from the people and the environment around us.”

The show’s enduring motif — shining a light as expansive as a lake — might also offer a comment on how art can heal and illuminate, Spear said.

“If you look at the energy after the show, everybody is smiling,” he said. “I just heard from a couple of people, ‘I needed this.’”

Clarification: This story has been updated to reflect the Jewish Theatre Ensemble’s production role in the event.

Email: [email protected]

X: @realShunGraves

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