Fall 2017 Productions
AWAKE AND SING!
By Clifford Odets
SIDEWAYS STORIES FROM WAYSIDE SCHOOL
By Louis Sacher
Adapted for the stage by John Olive
Thursday, March 30, 5-8 pm
Open Call for Non-majors, BA and Theatre Education Majors
Black Box Theatre
Sign up for a reserved audition time on the sheet posted on the theatre callboard located in the lower level hallway of the Theatre Department
Prepare one dramatic, serio-comic, or comic monologue OR two contrasting monologues. Total audition time: 2 minutes maximum.
Friday, March 31, 10:30am: BFA Acting Majors
Saturday, April 1: Callbacks
Perusal scripts may be checked out from the Theatre Department Office.
If you have questions, contact the production directors: Dr. Matt Omasta (Sideways Stories From Wayside School) or Ken Risch (Awake and Sing!)
Awake And Sing! By Clifford Odets
Generally considered Clifford Odets' finest play, AWAKE AND SING! was originally performed by the notable Group Theater on Broadway in 1935. By turns starkly dramatic and vividly comic, it is the story of the Bergers, a lower-middle-class, three-generation Jewish family living in a Bronx apartment during the Depression. Odets, who described his play as "a struggle for life amid petty conditions," captures the frenetic, pressured existence in this crowded dwelling with robust authenticity. The vernacular Odets achieves in this play is precisely the vernacular of the kinds of people around whom he grew up and whose speech patterns imprinted themselves indelibly on his mind.
The Berger family members and their boarder, Moe Axelrod, all long for a better world for themselves. True to life in his depiction of the extreme economic hardships confronted by working-class immigrant families during the Depression, Odets documents their travails and their hopes, concluding AWAKE AND SING! on an optimistic if ambiguous note.
AWAKE AND SING! recalls that this country has been perceived as a source of opportunity for immigrants who re-root themselves in its cities and towns with an enduring belief in the American dream. Odets' characters are, in essence, the parents, grandparents, and children who sought refuge and forged new, sometimes better lives here. Such families around the globe continue to make their way here every day. (Lincoln Center Theatre, 2006)
THE STORY: Three generations of the Berger family live under one roof. The mother, Bessie, is the glue that has held the family together during difficult times. She is fearful that she, like an old woman on nearby Dawson Street, will be evicted from her home, her belongings put out on the street. Bessie, whose father, Jacob, a left-leaning idealist who lives in her house, has a subdued husband, Myron, and two children, Ralph and Hennie. Appearances mean everything to Bessie, who wants little more from life than respectability. Her decent existence is severely threatened. She has already coped with one assault on her family’s respectability, her daughter Hennie’s pregnancy out of wedlock, but she forces Hennie into a loveless marriage. The son, Ralph, is appalled by the shotgun union his mother has engineered. An idealist, Ralph sides philosophically with his grandfather. Jacob rails against families, saying, “This is a house? Marx said it—abolish such families.” Ralph complains that life should not be printed on dollar bills.
Bessie Berger, middle-aged
A working-class Jewish-American housewife struggling to hold her family together during the Great Depression of the 1930’s. Bessie values the appearance of respectability above all else. Her greatest fear is that she and her family might be put out of their home and thrown into the street, as an old lady who lived near them has been. Bessie is domineering and self-righteous. She does not think deeply. Her life is centered on her family, three generations of which live in a cramped apartment in the Bronx.
Myron Berger, middle-aged
Bessie’s husband, a follower rather than a leader. Myron is a broken man, completely controlled by Bessie, who is much stronger than he is. He once studied law at night school but did not complete his studies. He tries innocently to overcome the hardships of the Depression by buying chances on the Irish Sweepstakes and by betting a few dollars on a horse, convinced that the government would not let such enterprises be crooked. His chances of winning are his only tangible hopes for the future.
Ralph Berger, early 20s
Myron and Bessie’s idealistic son, who believes he’s in love with a girl who Bessie strongly disapproves of, but cannot entertain any realistic idea of marrying her because of his financial situation. Bessie’s moral posture, the appearance of respectability at any price, appalls Ralph, a decent person who has never had an even break. When he was a child, there was never money to have his teeth fixed or to buy him a pair of roller skates he wanted. Now that he is earning money, little has changed. He still barely survives economically on the sixteen dollars a week he earns and he cannot live his own life as long as he is forced to live at home. He contributes much-needed funds to the family coffers.
Hennie Berger, mid-20s
Myron and Bessie’s daughter, who has a streak of independence in her, although she is slowly being crushed by the same economic forces and insecurities that threaten the rest of the family. When it is discovered that Hennie is pregnant, Bessie, to preserve the appearance of respectability, forces her into a marriage with the unsuspecting immigrant Sam Feinschreiber, whom Hennie does not love. She finally abandons her family and compromises her child’s future by running away with Moe, thereby asserting her independence but also demonstrating her self-centered willfulness.
Jacob, around 70
Bessie’s father, who lives with the family. He and Ralph share a philosophical kinship. Jacob quotes the sayings of Karl Marx, using Marx to support his contention that families such as this one should not exist. Jacob and Bessie are at opposite poles, with Jacob the almost total idealist and Bessie the pragmatist. Jacob finally commits suicide by plunging off the roof of the Bergers’ apartment building, having written his small insurance policy over to Ralph so that Ralph can have a new beginning.
Uncle Morty, middle-aged
Bessie’s affluent, cigar-smoking, womanizing brother and Jacob’s son. He comes to the Bergers’ apartment so that his father can cut his hair. He represents the practical businessman who has ceased to be a person. He is what the people he does business with require him to be. He is loud, rich, and insensitive, a character corrupted by the very capitalistic system that has made him affluent. He refers to Jacob as a nut.
Moe Axelrod, early 30s
The Bergers’ sexually tempting boarder, a ladies’ man who lost one leg in the war and now lives on a decent disability pension. Moe is no more sensitive than Uncle Morty. He may not be rich, but he has the security of his pension, which is important in the bleak days of the Depression. Having impregnated Hennie and refused to marry her, he proceeds to destroy the marriage her mother arranged for her by virtually forcing her to leave her husband and baby to run off with him to an uncertain—and likely not very enduring—future.
Sam Feinschreiber, late 20s to early 30s
A lonely immigrant with whom Myron works. Myron brings Sam home to dinner to meet Hennie, who has no interest in him. Sam, however, is the vehicle through which Bessie can preserve her family’s respectability after Hennie becomes pregnant.
Schlosser, upper middle-age
The superintendent of the building in which the Bergers live. He informs the family of Jacob’s suicide. Schlosser is German. His wife ran away with another man twenty years earlier, leaving Schlosser to rear their daughter, as Hennie is about to do. The daughter did not turn out well, and Schlosser has lived a life of desperation and frustration for two decades.