“A Semi-Autobiographical Response…” at Union College
The spirit of Bruce Springsteen returns to Union College  

Nearly 45 years ago, Bruce Springsteen played Union College in Schenectady, NY, and his spirit came back to town last night in a new form. Union College Department of Theatre and Dance presented  When The Promise Was Broken, short plays inspired by the songs of Bruce Springsteen, running through the weekend. The original collection features 13 short plays written by various playwrights, each taking an individual Springsteen song as inspiration.

For last night's official premiere, nine of these plays were performed, included Valhalla Correctional, inspired by "We Take Care of Our Own"; Bloody River, inspired by "American Skin (41 Shots)"; Object Permanence, inspired by "Terry's Song"; Drive All Night, inspired by "Drive All Night"; A Semi-Autobiographical Response…, inspired by "I'm on Fire"; Gospel Hour, inspired by "State Trooper"; Merry-Go-Round, inspired by "Cover Me"; Pick Up Beds, inspired by "When You're Alone," and Glad For the Company, inspired by "Nebraska."

Yulman Theatre is an intimate venue, seating fewer than than 100 patrons.  Pre-show music featured music by Springsteen and included "Your Own Worst Enemy," "Sugarland," and "This Hard Land." As the performances began, each play either began or ended with the song it was inspired by. The acting was excellent, and the rapid-fire pace of each act kept the evening moving along.  

The theme of each play did vary, with some representing a song fairly literally, and others that required a bit more thought to discover the connection. None of these short performances recreated the lyrics word-for-word in live action — the key phrase is "inspired by." The Magic Rat driving his sleek machine was not to be seen. 

In fact, some of the characters may not exist at all: while a protagonist in Drive All Night seemed real enough at first, two women in the play wind up debating whether he was just an image they had created, one they wanted to be true. In "Object Permanence" ("Terry's Song"), the character is talking to the ghost of her brother, whom she has to eulogize, but she's having difficulty because his death was not supposed to happen. And yes, he broke the mold.

What made the evening particularly impressive is that the actors are all of college age, 18-22 years old, born around the time the reunion tour was underway. To see these undergraduates not only embrace Bruce's music but create and embody new characters that take his lyrics one step further is a real joy. And hearing the words and themes put forward in a different light brings a new appreciation to these songs.

If you are within driving distance of the Capitol Region, this performance is well worth checking out and will continue through Sunday, February 10 — see union.edufor details. 
- February 8, 2019 - reporting and photographs by Howard Kibrick


“I’m on Fire”: Springsteen-inspired play in Production

Springsteen inspiration
for winter theater production

January 24, 201

“When the Promise Was Broken” is a collection of 13 plays inspired by the songs of Bruce Springsteen, each by a different American playwright. 

The 90-minute production pieces together nine plays in a seamless evening that celebrates the all too human experience of longing, heartbreak and promises broken in working life, relationships, families and the American dream.

Performances run at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 7 through Saturday, Feb. 9 and 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 10 in Yulman Theatre. Tickets are $10 for general admissions and $7 with a Union ID, alumni and seniors. 

“For over 45 years, Bruce Springsteen’s music, lyrics and performances have been an ongoing conversation with his audiences worldwide,” said Joan Herrington, editor of the production. 

Director Patricia Culbert, senior artist-in-residence for the College’s Theatre Department, stated: “When I first read through the plays eventually chosen for our production, I made note of the central themes, looking for the linkages.” 

“These pieces are remarkably light in touch, enormously funny in many places and recognizably human in the searching, the yearning, the need for community and hope and redemption and forgiveness and opportunity,” Culbert added. 

The plays include:  

“A Semi-Autobiographical Response to Feelings of Sexual Inadequacy Prompted by Repeatedly Listening to Bruce Springsteen’s ‘I’m On Fire’ for Four Hours Straight” by Gregory S. Moss, inspired by “I’m On Fire” 
Cast: Haoyu (John) Jiang ’21, Sarah White ’21, Sophie Hurwitz ’21 and Abdul Raafey Shoukat ‘22

“Valhalla Correctional” by Peter Ullian, inspired by “We Take Care of Our Own” 
Cast: Helen Smith ‘22 and Etienne-Marcel Giannelli ‘20

“Bloody River” by Elaine Romero, inspired by “American Skin” 
Cast: Amber Birt ‘22, Haoyu (John) Jiang ’21 and Rochelle Nuqui ‘22

“Object Permanence” by Jennifer Blackmer, inspired by “Terry’s Song” 
Cast: Dan Gottlieb ‘19 and Aly Silbey ‘20

“Drive All Night” by Steven Dietz, inspired by “Drive All Night” 
Cast: Chloe Savitch ’22, Helen Smith ’22 and Zachary Christian ‘20

“Gospel Hour” by Dan and Drew Caffrey, inspired by “State Trooper” 
Cast: Etienne- Marcel Giannelli, ’20, Aly Silbey ’20 and Rochelle Nuqui ‘22

"Merry-Go-Round Man” by Edward Baker, inspired by “Cover Me” 
Cast: Abdul Raafey Shoukat ’22, Zachary Christian ’20 and Sarah White ’21

“Pick Up Beds” by K. Frithjof Peterson, inspired by “When You’re Alone”
Cast: Chloe Savitch ’22 and Sophie Hurwitz ’21

“Glad for the Company” by Tucker Rafferty, inspired by “Nebraska” 
Cast: Emma Youmans ‘20

Box office hours are 12:30-1:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and reservations can be made by calling 518-388-6545.