Daily Egyptian

First Friday presents “Hansel and Gretel”

Singing, dancing and gender-role bending are just a few of the moving parts to “Hansel and Gretel.”

“Hansel and Gretel” is a fairy tale opera produced by both the School of Music and the Theater Department. The 90-minute version of the show will be on display in the McLeod Theater on Feb. 26, 27 and 28.  

From 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. Friday, “Hansel and Gretel, First Friday Music at Morris” was presented at Morris Library.

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Timothy Fink, professor and head of opera and music theater from Carbondale, is the director of “Hansel and Gretel.”

Presenting a version for First Friday Music was difficult, but not just for him, he said. This will just be a couple selections from the opera itself.  The performers involved had to get used to a condensed “Hansel and Gretel,” Fink said.

The production also involves dancers from the Susan Barnes Dance Studio and 14 singers from the Southern Illinois Children’s Choir. 

“Hansel and Gretel” is perfect for those new to the opera as a medium, he said. The show is short in comparison to other productions and holds a wide variety of entertainment, including melodies, dancing, special effects and humor.

“It’s a lot of forces coming together,” said of the family-friendly piece. 

An interesting aspect of the show involves The Witch, who will be featured at the First Friday performance, Fink said.

Paul Hawkins Jr., a graduate student in vocal performance from Birmingham, plays the Witch and said this is a role unlike any other. His other characters have been straightforward; either he is a good guy or bad guy.

The gender role in this version bends, and with this change comes a different personality.

“You see her as the woman, nice and really sweet to the kids,” Hawkins said. “When she flips and becomes the man, it is the more evil, ‘I’m about to eat the kids now’ side.”

This adds a layer of gender dynamics to the play, Hawkins said. It talks about the roles men and women sometimes find themselves in.

He said this gives dimensions to a character that could easily be one note. It gives the Witch a way to grow as a role.

Besides playing a well-developed character, “Hansel and Gretel” has been fun for various reasons, Hawkins said. Opera is often looked at as this pretentious, classic format for theater. Producing a fairy tale shows that stereotype is not entirely true, he said.

“Opera is always seen as men and women on stage screaming their lungs out,” Hawkins said. “For us to do a child’s story, and in opera form, is really special.”

Kristine McGuire, the constituency development officer at Morris Librarysaid her job is to try and bring the library closer to the community. This was a big reason why she created First Friday Music.

The whole show is done at lunch time so students wandering in can come and check out what is going on, she said. It is a nice way to collaborate with the School of Music, though other artists are also welcome to come.

She said she attempts to pick a wide variety of music, and the last First Friday Music included a celebration of Native American music.

A big idea of the performance hour is to give an intimate and cultured experience to those at the library, she said. 

“We’ve had cases where people stand up and might want to dance,” she said.

The showcase is free to the public and tickets to the full performance of “Hansel and Gretel” can be bought at the SIU box office or McLeod Theater. They are $18 for adults and $6 for students.

Jacob Pierce can be reached at [email protected] or 618-536-3325

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