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College employee writes adaptation for Spring musical

April 14, 2022

COURTESY OF ALEX CORNELL DU HOUX
BACK TO THE STAGE: Professor of Theater Davis Robinson and Budget and Equipment Manager Delmar Small collaborated to bring “Hook, Line, and Sinker” to stage following input from students in the production.

Thursday was opening night for “Hook, Line, and Sinker,” a musical spin on the fabled play “Ondine.” Concert, Budget and Equipment Manager Delmar Small wrote the musical and Professor of Theater Davis Robinson directed the show, which will run until Saturday night.

“Hook, Line, and Sinker” tells the story of a betrothed prince named Hans, played by Will Rackear ’22, who falls in love with a naiad, Ondine, played by Louise Cummins ’23. The two sign a pact declaring Hans’s death if he is unfaithful to Ondine.

“It’s a comedic play with a tragic ending,” Small said.

This is not the first time Robinson and Small have worked together—they’ve collaborated on three projects over the course of a decade.

“Delmar has a beautiful lyrical touch and melodies that no one has ever heard before,” Robinson said. “These actors are creating original roles, and it’s very exciting for them to experience working with a living composer.”

Robinson believes that the musical has a lot to say about the negative impact humans have had on the environment.

“When Ondine decides to join the human world, it’s built out of plastic and full of traps, lies and betrayals,” Robinson said. “For us, it became a story about how nature gets betrayed by humanity.”

Robinson is passionate about divorcing theater from the male gaze and sees “Hook, Line, and Sinker” as an opportunity to do so.

“I didn’t like the patriarchal undertones of the original play,” Robinson said. “What was more interesting to me was comparing the innocent quality of Ondine to nature and the jaded quality of Hans to the human race.”

Working with an original spinoff of a 1938 play was a unique learning experience for Robinson as a director and for students as cast members.

“Doing original shows is hard because there’s no roadmap for them,” Robinson said. “We could have done something simpler, safer and smaller. [But] it’s moving to see students play parts that stellar actors like Audrey Hepburn have played.”

Robinson and Small consider “Hook, Line, and Sinker” to be a truly collaborative production.

“Ideas from students were things Robinson and I could have never envisioned,” Small said. “For example, students proposed a dance sequence of Hans and his horse. There are so many things that I never thought of. It’s so fun to see the show take on a life of its own.”

This is Small’s first experience composing for a musical. He’s looking forward to what might follow the premiere of “Hook, Line, and Sinker.” “I’ve composed before, just not a musical … I’m just looking for what the next thing might be,” Small said. “I’ve always had an opera in the back of my mind.”

Robinson and Small hope for a big audience as Pickard Theater welcomes in-person productions following two virtual years.

“I want cast members and crew to experience the great payoff of a full audience appreciating the work they’ve done,” Robinson said. “There are so many beautiful moments and surprises in performing live.”

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