“Tinytypes” shows the good and bad of American history

By Farah Bassyouni Mar 31, 2023

This past weekend, the Illinois Wesleyan School of Theatre Arts (SOTA) put up the second show in its three faculty directed show season. “Tintypes,” a musical depicting snapshots of American history through the American songbook, ran in the E. Melba Johnson Kirkpatrick Laboratory Theater from March 24-26, 2023.

 Many marveled at the beautiful scenic and props design work by junior Mars Mulvin, whose skillful incorporation of light up buildings and projected period imagery to the set fully immersed the audience in the world of the musical. 

The cast of nine all had moments that allowed them to shine, from Sophomore Olivia Daod’s “Meet Me In St Louis, Louis” to Sophomore Asante Anglade’s “Satisfied With Life.” 

The many aspects of the American songbook and vernacular were shown through the variety of songs presented, ranging from Senior Ryann Piker’s soulful “Jonah Man” to sophomore Timothy Burhouse’s commanding “El Capitan.” “Fifty Fifty,” the show’s suffragette song, was always a crowd pleaser, as it saw all the women of the company banding together to stand up for themselves in a place where they are often oppressed and placed in boxes. 

The same could be said for “Soapboxes,” where all five principles stood up on soapboxes to deliver famous political speeches from Theodore Roosevelt, Emma Goldman, Booker T. Washington, Eugene V. Debs and Susan B. Anthony in time to music. 

However, this author’s most memorable moments were Sophomore Lucy Harmon’s hilarious “If I Were On The Stage” followed by sophomore Marie Santogrossi’s gut wrenching rendition of “Nobody.” Both pieces perfectly balanced each other, portraying images of two women in two vastly different situations. One is white, famous, with wealth and a famous husband to boot, and the other is a poor, black woman who works as a dresser, seeking recognition and appreciation in the so-called “land of opportunity.” 

The piece, directed by SOTA alumni Andy Kreiss, was initially met with some trepidation by many in the student body. Students wondered why this piece for this audience right now. The answer to that lay in the snapshot moments found in the show itself. The piece showcased the good AND the bad sides of America at the turn of the twentieth century, drawing parallels between a bygone era and the one we are living in now. 

The show can be a reminder of the repetition of history and the call to action for change, as the racism, sexism and xenophobia common in that time period have merely changed form as time has passed, never fully going away. 

It came as a pleasant surprise to this author to hear such supportive feedback from audience members at the end of each show night, with many understanding the message the piece was trying to convey. 

This was also aided by the talkback between the creative team/cast of the show and the audience after the end of Saturday night’s show. Overall, the piece was often charming, with plenty of catchy songs and reminders of what our country should strive to be. I, for one, was grateful to experience the finished production. 

Don’t miss the next upcoming events from the School of Theatre Arts:

  • On Stars Not Falling: March 29-30 in the Phoenix Theater
  • The Unmasking of Serafina: A New Musical: April 1-2 in the Phoenix Theater
  • Dis•Joint•Ed (Faculty Choreographed Dance Concert): April 12-16 in the Jerome Mirza Theater
  • Celebration (Music Theatre Workshop Production): April 28-29 in the E. Melba Johnson Kirkpatrick Laboratory Theater
  • Philemon (Music Theatre Workshop Production): April 29-30 in the E. Melba Johnson Kirkpatrick Laboratory Theater
  • SOTA Shoppe: April 30 in the Phoenix Theater

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