The Blue & Gray Press

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

UMW Theater Performs William Finn’s ‘Elegies’

2 min read


The University of Mary Washington Theater and Dance department opened their first production of the year with “Elegies, a song cycle” by William Finn. It is  a 2-week long show from Sept. 25-Oct. 5, performed in the Klein Theater on College Avenue at Thornton Street.

William Finn is the original composer of this song cycle. The performance, which consists of only five characters, tells multiple stories through a series of songs that deal with tragic events involving William Finn’s family and friends.

This cycle of songs was written in memoriam of loved ones who have passed and in response to the Sept. 11 tragedy. Most of the songs sung were in memory of Finn’s friends, several of which have died of AIDS. Three of the songs specifically deal with the death of William Finn’s mother, Barbara Finn, and the final set of songs expresses the emotional aftermath of the collapse of the World Trade Center.

“Elegies” director Greg Stull provided insight into why he chose directing as his passion.

“Directing was a gradual transition for me from studying acting to eventually deciding that I enjoyed the act of telling the whole story instead of one character’s piece of that story,” Stull said. “I enjoy the collaboration with all of the artists that work to fulfill the promise of a text. I seek inspiration every day in the people I work with, the people I meet and the students I teach. Directing requires a synthesis of so many moments of every day life; I try to make the connections between what happens outside of the theatre with the stories we tell within it.”

“Elegies” focuses on tragedy, but in light of it all, it has its joyous moments. Many songs are about memorable times with family and friends. Although his friends’ deaths are tragic, Finn’s motive in writing this song cycle was to always remember and pay his respects to them.

Songs that have festive moments such as “My Dogs,” show their happiness through humorous props with pictures of different dogs in the background. The song brought laughter and smiles to the audience when performed.

“These friends and colleagues of the composer’s who have died over the last two decades are resurrected in playful lyrics bursting with internal rhymes that remember them in all their quirky vitality,” read one New York Times review.

Finn not only expressed tragedy and joy in this song cycle, but he celebrated life and what it has to offer.

However, the five characters in the performance showed deep emotion for the roles they were playing. They each stuck to their characters and put their main point across.

“I really enjoyed the performance and the singing was very good,” said audience member and UMW sophomore Alicia Grolbert.

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