From September 6 to 22, 33 Variations will bring one of Beethoven’s finest piano works and Moises Kaufman’s compelling contemporary play to the Church Hill Theatre stage. With Stephanie King LaMotte playing the grand piano, Director Michael Whitehill shifts fluidly between the 19th and 21st centuries, exploring musical, medical and intellectual enigmas.
In 33 Variations, musicologist Katherine Brandt, coping with an advancing case of ALS, pursues her research on the background of Beethoven’s variations on a waltz by Anton Diabelli. Her story alternates and intersects on the stage with Beethoven’s own reaction to his growing deafness and his fascination with a brief work by a minor musician. According to Kaufman, “It’s really a question about inspiration…what is it that Beethoven sees…it would be like if Philip Glass found a song by Britney Spears and decided to spend the next four years of his life studying and making variations on it. “
Photo: Clockwise from top left, Eddie Vance portrays Ludwig Van Beethoven, Ken Gresh is Anton Diabelli, Stephanie King Lamotte is the onstage pianist, bringing the music of 33 Variations to life, and Will Robinson plays Anton Schindler. Photos by Steve Atkinson.
Director Whitehill’s cast includes Kathy Jones as the present-day music expert, Katherine Brandt; Kendall Irene Davis as her daughter, Clara; Robbie Spray as Mike Clark, Katherine’s nurse; and Debra Ebersole as Dr. Gertrude Ladenburger, a German music librarian. In period costume, Eddie Vance plays Ludwig Van Beethoven, Ken Gresh plays Anton Diabelli, and Will Robinson portrays Anton Schindler, Beethoven’s secretary and business manager.
In a unique turn for a play, concert pianist Stephanie King LaMotte will be on stage throughout the performance, playing the often-complex pieces written by Beethoven. Trained by renowned professor Aiko Onishi, King LaMotte was a featured soloist for the Willamette Falls Symphony and a staff pianist for the prestigious Tuscia Opera Festival in Italy. She has played her original score “Remember” on the deck of the Battleship Missouri and locally, Sondheim’s intricate pieces for Sweeney Todd at Chestertown’s Garfield Center for the Arts.
Assisting in the production are Producer Sylvia Maloney, Stage Manager Ronald Lee “Speedy” Christopher, Jr., Dramaturge Shelagh Grasso, and Choreographer Cavin Moore. Doug Kaufmann is in charge of lighting and sound; Steve Atkinson is the photographer. The play is produced under arrangements with Dramaatists Play service, Inc.
33 Variations runs from September 6 – 22, with performances at 8 pm on Fridays and Saturdays and 2 pm on Sundays. 2-for-the-price-of- one tickets are available for the opening night performance. Reservations are strongly advised and can be made by calling the box office at 410-556-6003 or online at www.churchhilltheatre.org