A Professor-Mother And Student-Son’s Journey “Into The Woods”

*Editor’s note: The Department of Theatre at Hope College will present “Into the Woods” on Wednesday-Saturday, Nov. 14-17, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available at the Events and Conferences Office and at the door on performance nights.

My life has always been marked by the productions that I have designed. I know exactly what I was working on when I learned my best friend was getting married, when I learned my father had cancer, when I fell in love, and yes, when I was pregnant with both my children.

Production team for “Into The Woods” in 1995: Daina Robins, Director; Michelle Bombe, Costume Designer; Terri Lynn Vaughn (Forte Filips), Choreographer; Mary Kay Samouce, Scenic Designer

Hope College Theatre Department and Hope Summer Repertory Theatre have occasionally produced the same play over the years, but the Theatre Department has rarely repeated a title. In fact, it has only happened once in the 28 years that I have been at Hope.  “Into The Woods” was first produced at Hope in the fall of 1995. I don’t need to look this date up as this is one of those milestone productions for me. I was pregnant and about to give birth in January.  Anne de Velder, the costume shop manager at the time, made a baby quilt for my newborn made out of all of the fabrics I had selected for the costumes in the production.  It is a cherished possession.

I remember the production resonating with me about parenthood, the desire to have a child, and the fierce protection a mother feels about her offspring.

Griffin and me outside DeWitt Theatre

Time passes, dozens of productions grace the stage at Hope, and the baby that was born after the production of Into The Woods is now a senior majoring in theatre at Hope.  What goes around comes around.  The department decides that the time is right to once again produce Into The Woods.  Griffin, who will be 23 in January, is playing Cinderella’s Prince and the Wolf.

My husband and I took Griffin to see this production at Utah Shakespeare Festival the summer before his first year of college.  I remember sobbing through most of the musical because this time, what resonated with me is sending your child out into the woods…..it is scary and frightening, but necessary.

Alexander Johnson, Rapunzel’s Prince, and Griffin Baer, Cinderella’s Prince, rehearse “Agony.”

As I watch the dress rehearsals this week, I think about the years that have passed.  It is time for my son to take his next journey.  He is graduating in December and will be starting a contract with the Missoula Children’s Theatre. It is an exciting program and he will be touring the country in the spring connecting with hundreds of young people.  This will be Griffin’s last performance at Hope.

Griffin Baer as Cinderella’s Prince

Every year at graduation, I am heartbroken when my students whom I have shared many hours of collaborative work and have become friends and colleagues must leave Hope. I am, of course, excited for their new adventures and am delighted that I stay in communication with most of them.   But the heart cracks a bit.   Just when I think I can’t do it again, the next fall an enthusiastic first year student appears in my office and I think, “Ok, here we go again.”

“Into the Woods” version 2018:  I will be the one crying in the audience when our beautiful Cinderella, Olivia Lehnertz, sings,  “You Are Not Alone.”

Mother cannot guide you
Now you’re on your own
Only me beside you
Still, you’re not alone
No one is alone
Truly
No one is alone
I wish…
I know
Mother isn’t here now
Wrong things, right things
Who knows what she’d say?
Who can say what’s true?
Nothing’s quite so clear now
Do things, fight things
Feel you’ve lost your way?
You decide, but
You are not alone
Believe me
No one is alone (No one is alone)
Believe me
Truly
People make mistakes
Fathers
Mothers
People make mistakes
Holding to their own
Thinking they’re alone
Honor their mistakes
Fight for their mistakes
Everybody makes
One another’s terrible mistakes
Witches can be right, giants can be good
You decide what’s right, you decide what’s good
Just remember
Just remember
Someone is on your side (Our side)
Our side
Someone else is not
While we’re seeing our side (Our side)
Our side
Maybe we forgot, they are not alone
No one is alone
Someone is on your side
No one is alone

Author Michelle Bombe, professor of theatre, serves as the resident costume designer and the director of theatre at Hope. As director of theatre, she is responsible for the production program of the theatre department.

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