Alex Eisen knows how to find his way in the dark.
This semester’s Blackbox Theater production, “The Dark I Know,” was performed from Friday, Oct. 26 to Sunday, Oct. 28. The original musical, written and directed by Eisen, a fourth-year theater performance major, takes place in 1930s Germany. It tells the story of Hannah, a German journalist who moves to Frankfurt and begins a relationship with a Jewish man named Aaron, who is connected to her past.
The musical started as a short story Eisen wrote in 2008, and has since been performed as a staged reading in New York City. Eisen, who wrote the lyrics and some of the music, said the 32-song musical is about “70 percent sung and 30 percent spoken.”
“It falls short of an opera,” he said. “It’s a healthy amount of singing, but I think [in] a show like this, it really helps move the story.”
John Watts, Eisen’s friend and a third-year music education and composition major at New York University, composed and arranged the music. He said for his first musical the idea of composing so much music was “unbelievably daunting,” but he saw the songs evolve over time.
“The process went from lyrics coming first to music coming first…about halfway through,” he said. “I think you can hear the difference.”
Watts said the production did not feature a live orchestra, but pre-recorded tracks the actors sang over, which included both live and electronic instruments. For example, the piano was live-recorded, while strings were created with software.
Loren Moslin, a third-year theater performance and psychology double-major who played the main role of Hannah, said she thought the music “definitely informed her character.” She also said she did not personally relate to Hannah but studied history to prepare for the role.
“I prepared by analyzing the script, getting familiar with the time period, listening to the information that the dramaturg provided for us,” she said. “On a more technical note, I paid attention to how women of middle age in Germany during that time would walk, how they would sit — would they cross their legs or cross at the ankle with knees touching?”
Eisen said the production involved extensive research over its four-year development, but emphasized that he loved “engulfing” himself in the historical backdrop.
“My first obligation is to historically stay true to the time period,” Eisen said. “The reason why I chose this time period is because I love studying [it]. If I wasn’t a theater major I’d probably be a history major.”
Eisen said he is submitting the musical to festivals in New York City, including the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival, and wants to see it succeed.
“It’s something I’m never going to forget,” he said. “I just hope this is only the beginning.”