This is the first full staging of the piece, which features music by Alan Cancelino and book and lyrics by Jenne Wason. The White Rose is also the title and subject of a Lillian Garrett-Groag play, which is not the source material for the new musical.
The story of The White Rose resistance movement is better known in Germany and Europe than in the U.S., according to the university production announcement. "Led by brother and sister Hans and Sophie Scholl, students at the University of Munich in 1942-43 distributed leaflets throughout Germany trying to encourage their fellow countrymen to turn against Hitler," according to production notes.
"Working on this piece at a university is a great opportunity for us," White Rose author Jenne Wason said in a statement. "Not only do we get to experiment in a safe environment, but there's also a beautiful symmetry in seeing these real-life characters played by people their own age. It's amazing to think that in a different time and place, these students might be the exact people to start a movement like this."
W. Stuart McDowell, chair and artistic director of WSU's Department of Theatre Arts, "Producing the workshop production of The White Rose this January at Wright State has been an exhilarating experience for our students, who have been given the opportunity to take part in presenting this fresh, dynamic new piece of musical theatre. It's part of our mission to present new works, and to help develop new voices in the theatre. We're very, very fortunate to have these fine creative talents in residence." For the Wright State workshop, Leah C. Gardiner directs and Christopher Hamblin is musical director. Gardiner recently directed Topdog/Underdog at Philadelphia Theatre Company and Hamblin recently served as assistant musical director on the benefit concert of Stephen Schwartz's Children of Eden in New York City.
Gardiner has been with the piece since 2001 when she directed a reading of it at The Public Theater in New York City. "I am drawn to The White Rose," said Gardiner, "because it tells another side of the story of Nazi Germany. As beautifully told in this musical, these were just ordinary college kids who dared to speak out, and ultimately brought hope to a desperate, frightened nation."
The White Rose focuses on nine months in the life of Sophie Scholl, played by Kimberly Finch. "Time shifts back and forth cinematically between events like Sophie's arrival at University on her 21st birthday and scenes of her interrogation when she is captured and tried for her work with The White Rose movement," according to production notes.
Joining Finch in the cast are Christian Duhamel (Hans), K.J. Hippensteel (Alex), Debra Rico (Traute), Aaron Vega (Christoph), Ashley Hannan (Willi), Matt Neal (Mohr), John Faas (Huber), and an ensemble of 13 students.
Cancelino and Wason originally met and started writing The White Rose in the BMI-Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop in New York City.
In fall 2003, Wright State worked with Ricky Ian Gordon and Tina Landau on their new musical States of Independence. Gordon and Landau were brought to Dayton for a six-week workshop of their show, which culminated in a mainstage production.
WSU has also hosted Broadway writers and performers. Composer Jason Robert Brown helped the WSU students prepare for the university premiere of his Tony Award winning musical Parade and numerous artists including Michael John LaChiusa, Malcolm Gets and Judy Blazer have participated in various workshops and master classes.
The musical, The White Rose, will play four performances at WSU's Herbst Theatre Jan. 30-Feb. 1 (8 PM Friday and Saturday, 3 PM Saturday and Sunday). For tickets and more information, call (937) 775-2500.