Embers and Stars

Embers & Stars tells the story of a group of boys finding their voice in a Holocaust concentration camp through various art forms. While they primarily speak through a magazine featuring various poems and stories and a puppet-show allegory for Hitler, music also inevitably enters the play. Between gorgeous transition music, a cast of talented vocalists and clever use of pots and pans, Embers & Stars crafts nearly as much of a musical statement as plays like Hairspray and City of Angels did.

Photo courtesy of Wake Forest University

Photo courtesy of Wake Forest University

Let’s get this out of the way: the transition music is gorgeous. Violin by turns somber and buoyant fill the Ring Theatre between scenes, mixed with the occasional piano. A jarring violin piece that transitions into a rather dark scene is of particular note, as is the gentle piano that plays over the epilogue, delivered by Eva (senior Sarah Davis). Sound Designers Woody Hood and junior Bella Curry have outdone themselves.

The play also features some phenomenal vocal (and instrumental) work from the cast. Freshmen Jay Buchanan and Anna Margaret Roth join senior Halston Kirkpatrick to craft a pretty sound-braid beneath a poem in one scene, while freshman Keenan Brown and junior Natalie Michaels sing a prayer (in Hebrew!) towards the end of the play. Michaels also plays the flute (alongside fiddle played by senior Elizabeth Patterson) to lead a wedding song sung by most of the cast.

Some of the other sound effects are a little clunky. A “trainscape” crafted by the cast (meant to imitate a train headed towards death) is a tad inconsistent. The sound-effects accompanying the puppet-shows are rough around the edges, though purposefully so considering they’re crafted by washboards, pans and the like. The vocal sound effects performed by the cast members (senior Ryan Howard, sophomore Kurt Bray, junior Langdon Page and junior Jessica Wagner), though, are impressive ranging from silly boat imitations to even sillier jaguar imitations.

Ultimately Embers & Stars employs various sound techniques to craft a play about what’s possible through art. At once haunting and uplifting, sound and music overwhelm the darkness in a quiet roar. It’s good stuff.