This semester has brought many new opportunities for the Samford theatre department. “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” gave students a chance to use life-sized puppets and the last show of the fall semester, “Dragon’s Breath,” made its first ever premiere at Samford’s own Howard Theatre. This opera was commissioned by Samford in 2020 and debuted Nov. 16.
The show focused on a 12-year-old boy named Alan, learning how to handle his conflicting emotions while attempting to fight a dragon. After a fight with his parents, Alan is transported to an alternate world called Clearplane. He is guided on a journey by Somi and DeWitt. Somi is clearly an expression of Alan’s emotions, while DeWitt represents Alan’s practical side, keeping everything in balance. They are the ones who reveal that the dragon plaguing Alan’s life is his own anger. Throughout the show, Alan must learn to love the conflicting, frightening parts of himself.
“Dragon’s Breath” was an interactive children’s opera commissioned by Samford theatre from Evan Mack and Joshua McGuire. The theatre department collaborated with this team in the past to bring about “The Ghosts of Gatsby” in 2018. Kristin Kenning, Samford professor and director for “Dragon’s Breath,” believes that this new opera will not only impact their field of the arts, but also the performers themselves.
“The best way to have an impact on our field is to commission new art, and I believe the best way to train a performing artist is to hand them material they get to shape themselves,” Kenning said in the director’s note.
In addition to Mack and McGuire, the opera also collaborated with the Samford orchestra, led by conductor Brian Viliunas, who was also involved in the world premiere of “The Ghosts of Gatsby.” This gave the orchestra the opportunity to learn and perform completely original music never played live before. Grace Scott, the orchestra’s viola player, said she really appreciated the continued collaboration with the composer during the show.
“It was also really cool to have the composer come in and tell us, ‘Do this, do more on this part. I was thinking of such and such here and really get quieter here,’” Scott said. “That was really cool to have live feedback so that we were matching it to the composer’s idea in his head.”
“Dragon’s Breath” was a creative way to end Samford Theatre’s fall performances. Performers in this production are excited to see where “Dragon’s Breath” goes after leaving the university.
“We can’t wait to watch ‘Dragon’s Breath’ leave our campus and travel across the country to numerous elementary schools, other universities and professional companies,” Kenning said. “We hope Alan’s story means as much to them as it does to us.”
Arts & Life Editor