Community production of 'Children of Eden' weaves family ties ever closer

Thursday, June 11, 2015

This weekend, a community theater company in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania, is staging "Children of Eden," a musical about parents and children.

It stars parents and their children.

It is produced by a parent and her daughter.

These levels of parenting unfold at the Bluett Theater, at St. Joseph's University, where the Wolf Performing Arts Center will perform "Children of Eden," a lesser-known musical by Stephen Schwartz, whose claim to fame is the Broadway hit "Wicked."

It tells two stories from the Old Testament -- Adam and Eve, and Noah's Ark -- and spins them as conflicts between parents and children. As a parent, God must balance his protection and punishment of his curious children, Adam and Eve. As a parent, Noah must let his children go off into a dangerous world.

"For me, the show is about choices and parenting," said Merri Lee Newby, who will be performing in the pit as a member of the musical's orchestra as her three kids perform onstage above her.

"There are moments where there are these struggles between children and parents. 'I would like to venture out on my own, and what's behind the waterfall?' And God says, 'Never mind what's beyond the waterfall, just do what I tell you to do!' Being a parent, I can really relate to that."

The Wolf Performing Arts Center (Wolf PAC) was founded 10 years ago by Bobbi Wolf, a former middle school teacher. Shortly after launching the company 2005, her daughter quit her own job as a teacher to work for her mother.

"What's happening there is absolutely art imitating life imitating art," said Betsy Wolf Regn, who is program director and choreographer.

This production was not designed to be a meta-parenting trifecta, but it was inevitable. Bobbi Wolf started the Wolf Performing Arts Center as a children's theater company in which parents are invited to participate.

"Wolf PAC tends to attract the most incredible people," said Wolf. "I really mean it. It sounds so sappy, but I'm genuine. These are the most dedicated, passionate kids about theater, sensitive about each other, and the adults only add to it."

Wolf is starting to teach her second generation of talent, as her theater kids are now having kids.

Zoe, Will and Wesley Bozeman, the children of Merri Lee Newby in the orchestra, have been performing in the Wolf PAC for years.

"It brings us together," said Will, 12. "We have something to talk about. In the wings together, backstage together, can go over songs and dances with each other. Stuff like that."

"Doing it all together is really fun," said his big sister Zoe.