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‘A Man Alone’ shines through in a remote-learning world

April 17, 2020

Chase Tomberlin ’20 took inspiration from the Frank Sinatra song “A Man Alone” for the title of his one-man senior studio show. Little did he know, this title would find new meaning in a world of social distancing and remote learning.

Tomberlin is a performance arts major with a concentration in theater. He acknowledges his luck compared to his performance arts classmates who will have to make major revisions to their projects due to remote learning.

“Because this is solo-performed, self-directed, et cetera, I get the luxury of being able to continue to work in basically the same capacity that I was before spring break,” he said in a Zoom interview with the Orient.

Tomberlin began work on the show last summer and he initially adopted a narrative style as he weaved together his own life with that of Frank Sinatra, using Sinatra’s songs to connect the two. But during the fall, his vision for the project shifted.

“As I wrote and revised and researched last semester, I started moving away from the narrative elements of it and moving away from a lot of the details of Frank Sinatra’s life,” said Tomberlin. “[I] started focusing much more intently on my own life, my own experiences in my personal relationship with performance and identity.”

Courtesy of Chase Tomberlin
NO MAN'S LAND: Chase Tomberlin '20 wrote and directed a one-man show which overlapped personal narratives with Frank Sinatra songs. The production's debut, initially scheduled for earlier this month, has been indefinitely postponed.

Tomberlin’s inspiration for the project goes way back, even predating the establishment of performing arts as a major in 2017.

“The idea to do something with Frank Sinatra music or Frank Sinatra’s life has been in the back of my brain—as just an itch—since high school,” he said.

Tomberlin’s admiration for Sinatra, along with support from the Department of Theater and Dance, were crucial in making this idea become a reality.

“I’ve definitely been trying to use it as a way to really put a button on my Bowdoin theater experience and kind of using all of what I’ve learned here as background for the project,” he said.

The writing process came in harmony with the other aspects of the show, although Tomberlin notes that it was not a linear progression.

“I wrote a draft of the piece and then started thinking about costuming, and then what I’d thought about costuming changed the draft of the piece,” he said.

As the sole writer, actor, designer, costume designer and director, Tomberlin has faced  limitations.

“Part of it is that you can’t go through your life alone; you can’t do everything alone,” he said. “So I created that kind of pressure on myself that would come out in the performance, whether people saw that or not. That’s part of the failure that I was building up for myself.”

This message of Tomberlin’s show is highly applicable in the world of quarantine and self-isolation, where many are realizing the importance of not being alone.

Like the rest of his senior studio classmates, Tomberlin is looking forward to coming back to Bowdoin sometime next year to perform “A Man Alone.” The theater and dance department continues to communicate with students and is still determined to make performances on campus possible at some point in the coming months or years.


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