For most people, self-assembled artificial intelligence robots, flying bikes, a chimp who speaks American Sign Language and a world-destructive antimatter squirt gun are sci-fi fever dreams. As for the Northwestern Theatre Department, it’s simply been a way of life the past month.
This year’s children’s show at NW is “Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor,” adapted from the children’s book written by John Scieszka into an hour-long theatrical production. The show is about kid genius scientist Frank Einstein, his side-kick Watson and their two AI robot friends putting their brains together to win the science fair prize in order to save Frank’s grandpa’s “Fix-It! Shop” from the clutches of their arch nemesis, T. Edison. As sophomore, Tabitha Thatcher, said, the play has “a strong message of friendship and trusting each other,” as well as being a great way to get kids excited about learning.
When asked about the show, many of the cast members explained their excitement from the process. Thatcher is interested in the show’s special effects. Senior Skylar Tumbleson, is excited to show off her puppetry skills. Others, such as freshman Ailee Moquist and junior Talea Errington, are simply grateful for the community they have built through the show. “I like working with the other people,” Errington, playing Einstein, commented. “It’s better than when we work alone.”
This show has not only been exciting to get ready for, but has been in the works for nearly ten years. When Drew Schmidt, associate professor of theatre and worship arts and director of the show, began directing shows at Northwestern, he wanted this to be one of the first stories he told. However, there wasn’t any script at the time Paramount Pictures had the movie rights. Though there were the bumps in the road, Schmidt was diligent. “So, every year I email them again. Every year I ask once more. And this year, the rights were released!”
Though the ensemble is excited about the show itself, they’re especially eager for the show’s intended audience: kids. Many members of the cast are excited to share a curiosity for science while also giving them a love of theatre, as junior Madison DenHerder would call it.
Schmidt dug into his excitement for young audience members. “Children are the best audience. Their imagination muscles are so much stronger than ours as college students or as adults. We can hold up a vial of blue water and call it ‘Antimatter’ and they say, ‘OKAY!’ Or wave colorful ribbons and say it’s a laser and they’re all in. This means we can be big and bold and bright with our storytelling – and the kids will eat it up!”
Schmidt also opened up about the possible rejection kids may get when wanting to pursue the arts or STEM. Like his own kids, children may have their dreams smothered due to personal obstacles, pressure of getting a “real” job or being told that they “don’t have what it takes.” Schmidt hopes to remind the audience to see the vitality in both subjects. “Both the arts and the sciences are about recognizing how little we know about ourselves and about our world; they’re about asking questions; they’re about seeking answers. Both are vital for a flourishing culture. So, we should be encouraging ourselves, young and old, to courageously fall in love with God’s world and to faithfully chase after the passions He’s gifted us.”
“Frank Einstein” will be holding student preview night on Sept. 29 at 7 p.m. Public performances will be Sept. 30 at 7 p.m., Oct. 1 at 4 p.m. and Oct. 22 at 2 p.m. Performances will be held in the Keith Allen Black Box Theatre.