The Jewish Theater Ensemble produces “Islander” by Finn Anderson

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Coming from an island off the Scottish coast, the Jewish Theater Ensemble’s Autumn Quarter musical ‘Islander’ features two cast members playing 27 characters, a live audio loop and a dedicated behind-the-scenes crew. to achieving all of this.

[music]

MIKA ELLISON: From the Daily Northwestern, I’m Mika Ellison.

MARGOT AMOUYAL: And I am Margot Amouyal. Meet Podculture, a podcast about arts and culture on campus and beyond.

MIKA ELLISON: This episode is part of “Behind the Scenes,” a series about the inner workings of student theater shows at Northwestern.

[music]

MIKA ELLISON: The Jewish Theater Ensemble’s Fall Quarter musical performed at the Shanley Pavilion on Friday, October 22 at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. and Saturday, October 23 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. during the show.

MARGOT AMOUYAL: “Islander” centers on a young girl named Eilidh, a resident of Kinnan Island. The show documents Eilidh’s struggle as she watches her home change due to the impacts of climate change.

ADELINA MARINELLO: “Islander” is really a story about community, about loss, about mourning and about the search for love and friendship in this strange middle space of an environment of mourning.

MIKA ELLISON: It was the second year of Communication Adelina Marinello, one of the two stars of the show. Adelina studies theater and environmental politics and culture.

ADELINA MARINELLO: It’s the hardest show I’ve ever done, technically, because, I mean the looping and a cappella stuff is – I’ve never done anything that hard before. And adding harsh elements like that, as well as Scottish dialects, was such a fun and interesting task to tackle.

MARGOT AMOUYAL: “Islander “uses loopback technology to evoke the setting of a remote and stormy Scottish island.

ADELINA MARINELLO: So basically to create a soundscape under our lead vocals, like you hear us doing different harmonies and stuff, which we then have with Mitchell Huntley and Wes D’Alelio, who are our musical co-directors. They are awesome and they operate what is called a loopback station. And so they will loop it, and then the sounds will overlap, creating, for example, a fuller sound in space.

MIKA ELLISON: Loopback technology allows the show to be completely a cappella. It’s one of the favorite aspects of the show for second-year Weinberg producer and “Islander” producer Griffin Minster.

MINSTER GRIFFIN: So, throughout the show there will be different looping hooks and different things that the actors sing on their own to create these really beautiful soundscapes and backing tracks for themselves.

MARGOT AMOUYAL: And, of course, a lot of work goes into producing a top-notch production like this, from rehearsals for nearly six weeks to moving into the Shanley Lodge and creating the set in one week.

[nat sound from rehearsal]

MARGOT AMOUYAL: We visited the show during Tech Week and took a behind-the-scenes look at how quickly student theater is moving in Northwestern.

MINSTER GRIFFIN: There’s like 17 different things going through my brain all the time, uh, especially during tech. I have to know where the people are and where they need to be and what work needs to be done and anything that needs to be completed by the end of the day or by the end of the week for the show to be a success. It’s a fun job. It is a very rewarding job. But it’s a lot of work – keeping track of it all and making sure things go smoothly.

MARGOT AMOUYAL: However, all of that hard work and passion is worth it to create a stunning performance that makes an impact on audiences, including first year in communications Julie Monteleone, who watched “Islander” live.

JULIE MONTELEONE: I cried for a good part of the show. I found it to be very moving. And so impressive to see two students put on a show that literally looked like a professional show.

MIKA ELLISON: Julie said the show also improved her understanding of how to approach social issues through art.

JULIE MONTELEONE: Accessing an issue like climate change is really powerful through art forms, because it adds to it, for example, an emotional attachment. And so, in the room, as an aspect of it, one of the characters tries to save this dying whale and you start to develop – like it has a very heavy emotional connection to it. And it’s out of the realm of science, politics, and people arguing, and instead it’s like this really physical, visceral thing that these two young women go through, experience loss in this way. And so I think for me that advances environmental activism because, in many ways, if we are to progress, we have to reconnect with the physical and emotional relationship we have with the natural world.

MARGOT AMOUYAL: Julie also thought that the fact that the actors were playing multiple characters alongside the voice loop technology added an important layer to the show.

JULIE MONTELEONE: It’s cool to see how, for example, the characters are all interconnected, and because they’re played by one person, they’re inherently similar to each other. And so the community feels a lot closer and a lot more “one thing” rather than a bunch of different people who maybe don’t fit together as well, or something like that. Everything comes from within.

MIKA ELLISON: Lily Feinberg, Communications Officer, Executive Director of NU’s Jewish Theater Ensemble, helped select the show. She said that “Islander” – and good theater, in general – is a way of getting away from it all.

LILY FEINBERG: You walk into Shanley, which is this tiny little black box, and you’re really transported and you live in another story for an hour and a half. And I think even if it’s your first show here or your 100th, it’s still magical and special. And I think if you’re having a tough week or a good week, that’s just as important and can help you in different ways, but just as powerful.

[music]

MIKA ELLISON: From the Daily Northwestern, I’m Mika Ellison.

MARGOT AMOUYAL: And I am Margot Amouyal. Thanks for listening to another episode of Podculture.

MIKA ELLISON: The music used in this episode was written by Finn Anderson and performed by Mariana Leone and Adelina Marinello.

MARGOT AMOUYAL: This episode was reported and produced by Mika Ellison and myself. The Daily Northwestern’s audio editor is Jordan Mangi, the digital editors are Alex Chun and Sammi Boas, and the editor is Isabelle Sarraf. Be sure to subscribe to Daily Northwestern podcasts on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or SoundCloud to hear more episodes like this.

E-mail: [email protected]

Twitter: @ MikaEllison23

E-mail: [email protected]

Related stories:

Captured: “Islander”, an a cappella musical with two actors and 27 characters

Drama, a cappella and dance groups take the stage with in-person performances at “Rock the Lake”

How to navigate the Northwestern theatrical scene



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