From Inspiration to Fruition: Schrift ’12 Writes and Directs Original Musical

By schwartzsa | November 4, 2011

A plan that was conceived in Scotland and crafted in University Seminar is currently being realized. At the Corner of Bethlehem and Broadway is an original musical, written and directed by Honors student Lauren Schrift ’12, who is in the Pre-Physician Assistant Program. Soon it will be performed in Schrift’s hometown performing arts center at Eastern York High School.

The show is being produced by the Eastern York High School Performing Arts Booster Club. All proceeds will benefit the organization’s scholarship fund. “It took a lot of convincing,” says Schrift. “After I initially approached the Booster Club in May, it wasn’t until the meeting in August that they voted to produce the show if all of these ducks were in a row. They did their very first show, The Wizard of Oz, in which they elected me to be the Assistant Director.” It was in this role that Schrift gained the respect and trust of the committee. The idea came to Schrift while she listened to “I Know Him So Well” from the musical Chess during her First Year Study Abroad Experience (FYSAE) in Stirling, Scotland, in 2009.

“I had never heard [the song] before and I thought to myself, ‘this is a gorgeous duet. I want to perform this somewhere.’ Unfortunately, there weren’t a lot of opportunities to perform except in church. This song is about two women fighting over a man, how can I make this church appropriate? And I immediately connected it to the story of Leah and Rachel, the sister wives of Jacob.”

Schrift immediately thought of a myriad of songs that could correspond with biblical stories and hoped to turn them into a full-length musical. But in the midst of a full course load and unsure of how to move forward, Schrift put her vision on hold—that is until Spring 2011 when Schrift enrolled in The First Amendment Abridged, a University Seminar taught by Helene Klein, English Instructor. In connection with the course’s examination of first amendment freedom of speech issues, such as book banning, art censorship, and content restricted for religious or national security reasons, students were asked to complete a project called “You Could Be Censored Too.” It was the perfect opportunity for Schrift to write the dramatization and arrange the musical selections which includes songs from several popular musical productions.

A show for the community, produced and performed by the community, At the Corner of Bethlehem and Broadway features a chorus of approximately 65 individuals ranging in age from six to 65. The main characters include the biblical characters Eve, Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, Mary, Rachel and Leah. “It’s a glimpse into their characters—it’s not preachy at all—it’s just about the struggles and strength of women.” Schrift explains that the title she chose is meant to capture the intersection of the ancient stories with modern songs.

“The most interesting thing about it is that the songs are taken out of their original context and put in something new, however they still make perfect sense. So if you know the biblical stories, you can come and be entertained by them in a new way. If you’re familiar with show tunes, you can come and learn  a new story. You don’t know what you’re going to hear next or where it’s going to come from.”

The show will be performed Jan. 6 and 7 at 7 p.m. and Jan. 8 at 2 p.m. Admission is by donation. For more information contact Lauren Schrift.