Grind Arts Company is a new student theater company on Princeton campus dedicated to creating productions that push the boundaries of the art form to discover new ways to tap into soul and induce catharsis. Our love of risk and creative storytelling is what inspired us to take on Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street as our premiere production. With your help we are going to bring to life a reimagined Sweeney Todd for our time, to move young and old audience members alike. The show will perform April 24th through the 27th.
Please help us create an affecting, exciting reinvention of this timeless musical by donating to our Kickstarter fund. 100% of your donations will go into making this production as riveting and professional as possible so we can introduce new audiences to this show and illustrate to young people that musical theater is an alive and relevant art form. Beyond this specific production, your generosity will help a group of aspiring artists take a vital step towards becoming the professionals they hope to be; professionals that will one day not only be helping theater evolve on Princeton campus, but all over the world. So please, support Grind Arts Co. and receive some awesome rewards and the deepest, most honest thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
Sweeney Todd, with music and lyrics by American treasure Stephen Sondheim and book by Hugh Wheeler, was originally produced in 1979, but the striking tale is more relevant now than ever. The plot focuses on a kind, loving barber (Benjamin Barker) who has everything taken away from him by the lustful, power-hungry Judge Turpin. After losing his wife, his child, and his freedom he comes back to London as Sweeney Todd, a changed man bent on revenge and tormented by the memories of his old life and the oppression he witnesses all around him. With help from his twistedly cool downstairs neighbor and pie-shop owner, Mrs. Lovett, he uses his renowned barber skills to lure in the aristocracy before slitting their throats and sending them down a shoot to the basement where their flesh is cooked into meat pies and sold to the public. It’s a macabre story about the lengths we will go for love and how an unjust society can lead to chaos.
The team of artists working on this show is unreal. Their passion, professionalism, and previous credits make it hard to classify these guys as amateurs. Musically directing is Emily Whittaker (class of 2015), a Sondheim genius who just got off of working on the critically acclaimed Fiasco Theater production of Into the Woods, which Ben Brantley of the New York Times "fell head over heals" for. Reinventing the role of Sweeney will be Ben Taub, a senior at Princeton who you may have seen on Cee Lo Green's team this season on NBC's The Voice or on Jamie Cullum's The Big Audition. He has also just released an award winning photo exhibition entitled “Displaced: Syrian refugees on the Turkish-Syrian boarder.” Opposite Ben is Olivia Nice, a senior that just starred in her thesis performance as Beatrice in Much Ado about Nothing. Playing Antony is Graham Phillips, who you may know from starring in Jason Robert Brown's 13: The musical on Broadway, The Little Prince at the Met, or from playing Zach on CBS's The Good Wife. He has also starred in films such as Goats and Evan Almighty. Playing Johanna, his love interest, is the sultry Deirdre Ricaurte who is bringing an edge and sexuality to this character that has never been seen. The entire cast is filled with respected and seasoned actors, and we can't wait to see what a group with this much talent and intelligence will bring to the table.
What we find so exciting about this epic musical is Sweeney Todd's capacity to be both villain and hero. The grey area between right and wrong becomes ever so palpable as the audience finds itself rooting for our serial killer. To forward this idea we are presenting this show through the lens of blue-collar workers toiling away within a meat-processing plant. As they sweat through manual labor, our ensemble reveres Todd as the hero who did what they only contemplate doing, killing the oppressors that reap the rewards of their hard work. Through their admiration they bring him to life, and are given a purpose that other productions have lacked. We feel that this industrial aesthetic will introduce titillating themes such as the deterioration of the soul, the animal nature of man, and our futile struggle to control one another.
To bring the factory to life, we are producing this show in a space that has never been used for theater before. The Jadwin Gym loading dock is a grungy, concrete space complete with multiple levels, a giant dumpster and three industrial sized recycling grinders, the perfect setting to get creative and make new discoveries about how one can approach this text.
As amazing as the loading dock is, it requires some work on our end before it can be show ready. This is where you come in, generous patron of the arts! Any donation you give, from $1 to $100, will help this amazing group of artists achieve their dream of producing this brilliant show in a truly unique way. We will use your donation to transform this space into an industrial, horrifying meat-processing plant that will allow for the creative usage of shadow art and pulley systems. Your financial help will also contribute to costuming our actors and musicians, renting lighting and sound equipment and of course paying for the rights to the show so no one gets sued!
Thank you for reading and thank you for your support. We hope that you can see how passionate about this production we are here at Grind Arts Company and that any help in making this dream become a reality would be met with sincere gratitude. Let’s make new theater! Grind on.
Risks and challenges
Our challenges come from using an unconventional outdoor space. There is not very much access to power. A large portion of our lighting however will be handled using industrial flashlights. Having the actors light themselves is not only helpful in terms of using less power, but it also adds to the aesthetic we are trying to achieve. As actors take on production aspects such as lighting, their roles become more laborious, which pushes our "factory worker" idea. This can also relate to sound design. There may be moments when further amplification is necessary, especially during musical numbers where a cast member sings against an orchestra. If this turns out to be the case we will have series of microphones on stands that will be moved and handled by cast members. Personal, hidden microphones would eat our whole budget and the microphones on stands have a certain authority to them that would serve some characters well. There is also the danger of weather. The start time of the production depends on when it's dark enough to begin, and this rule can extend to when it is dry enough to start the show. If a drizzle won't let up the team is looking into a black umbrella option and a tarp option. If it is heavy heavy rain we would move to our back up space within the tunnels of the Princeton University football stadium.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)