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The cast of "A New Brain," Pauper Players' latest production, aims to promote a simple message:
"You gotta have heart and music to make a song."
The musical production debuts today at 8 p.m. in the Student Union Cabaret and returns March 6 to 9 at the ArtsCenter in Carrboro. "A New Brain" is the group's premiere winter show and one of four productions Pauper Players will put on this season - the most, organizers say, the group has ever put on.
The play centers on the trials of Gordo, a composer who struggles with the competing desires of making money and creating inspirational music. When Gordo has to undergo brain surgery, he is forced to re-evaluate his life with the help of his friends, family and his own conscience - represented by an actor dressed as a frog.
"There are big numbers that are fun and goofy, but they all carry meaning. This show runs the gamut when it comes to emotions," said Abby Manekin, who plays the role of Lisa.
The majority of "A New Brain" takes place in the hospital where a bed-ridden Gordo creates music while cast members assemble at three microphones to sing back-up.
"To me, the themes of this show are heart, time and music. Two of our main songs are actually called "Heart and Music" and "Time and Music," Manekin said. "The main character, Gordo, goes through a tremendous ordeal in order to realize that he has so many songs within him and that he needs to appreciate the things and people around him."
Many of the actors credited the show's director, graduate student Eric Kallin, with bringing a clear, collaborative vision to the show.
"Eric is just a genius when it comes to set and design," said senior Katie Curtis, the show's producer. "He is very interconnected to all the aspects of the show."
The show's choreography was designed to interact with both the audience and the set. Many of the props become a part of the dances, such as the hospital curtains, which are carried on stage and used to facilitate the passage of time and place.
Curtis said such choreography makes the play's message more relevant to the audience.
"The thing I take away from this show every night is how music can affect everyday lives and effect relationships and heal sickness," said junior Sara Abernethy, who plays Rhoda.
"The different people in your life play a part of who you are, and they can shape what you believe in."
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