YOUNG ALUMS CONTINUE COMMITMENT TO THEATER ARTS
Hilary Leichter ’07 and Brendan Wattenberg ’06 are producing a show for the NYC International Fringe Festival, a natural next step to their successes in the theater arts at Haverford.
7 Stories High, written and produced by Leichter ’07 and directed by Wattenberg ’06, is a play hinged on the liminal space between time, memory, and dream. A mother, a young girl, a teenager, and a painter all live in a building that has burned down. Though they have died in the fire, they continue to “live” in a state of vulnerability and repetitiveness. Their lives are wrapped in mystery and sometimes absurdity as they try to piece together “what happened?” Born out of Cul-de-sac, a play written during time spent at Haverford, Leichter likes to think that “7 Stories High has taken the best parts of Cul-de-sac and amplified them: the absurdity, the weaving of different threads and props and memories through the plot, the characters’ effusive wonderment towards their surroundings, their home, and each other.”
Wattenberg saw Cul-de-sac when it first ran at Haverford's Marshall Auditorium in November 2006 and was excited to hear about its acceptance in the NYC Fringe Festival. He and Leichter reexamined the script and explored all its possibilities for a second run. “The theme of play, which in Cul-de-sac was very much about culpability and, on the part of one character, responsibility, became, in 7 Stories High, about posterity and fact-finding: the characters are now obsessed with writing a ‘Book of Facts,’ a book listing all of the things that cannot burn,” says Wattenberg.
As director, Wattenberg finds achieving the right tone for Leichter’s “vivid and fascinating characters” a challenge. He is tasked with “finding an earnest absurdism, a cautious charm--anything but wistfulness, melodrama, or regret.” Though the play is far from a tragedy he is careful to steer clear of flippancy and cliché. “Whether the characters are murderers, lovers, dancers, or lonely tenants of an apartments building,” Leichter relates, “they're on stage for a reason; give them a voice and make it resonant - don't hold them back. I think that this attitude definitely comes from my Haverford education.”
Both Leichter and Wattenberg were English majors while at Haverford. Together they produced two plays on small budgets, taking what Wattenberg calls “a very ‘intellectual’ approach to plays.” Leichter most admires her collaborative partner’s professionalism. “Brendan takes theater seriously,” she says. “I really think he’s raised the bar for student-driven arts at the College.” Wattenberg realizes just how ambitious their goals at Haverford were, but credits their dedication to “independently-driven directing and acting” as well as the extremely supportive campus community as the greatest boosts to their confidence as they begin their careers in professional theater.
“It’s absolutely wonderful to be working ‘in the real world’ with Hilary, my Haverford colleague and close friend,” acknowledges Wattenberg. “We've also got a Bryn Mawr alumna in the cast, Caitlin Duffy '07. And aside from having excellent rapport, I think we've proven that Fords can—and SHOULD—become successful in performing arts after college.”
7 Stories High is currently running in the New York City International Fringe Festival at the New School for Drama Theater, 151 Bank Street in New York City. Visit http://www.7storieshigh.com for more information.