The ability of humans to make their own choices is a powerful one, and the weight of questioning what we have been taught is heavy. Students at Thomas S. Wootton high school will illustrate these burdens in their performance of “Children of Eden,” a play that loosely retells the biblical stories of Adam and Eve and Noah and the flood.
“It’s about finding what we think is right versus what we’ve been taught,” said Yonatan Gebeyehu, who plays the God-character named Father in the play. The play follows the creation of Adam and Eve, their subsequent expulsion from Eden and the rearing of their children Cain and Abel, the death of Abel and then that of Eve in the first act. The second act tells the tale of Noah and his children, and their preparation for the flood in the midst of their son’s refusal to accept the wife that has been chosen for him. Both acts show the struggle of children to find paths separate from those of their parents while using the biblical tales as plot outlines to develop characters that the audience can relate to.
"There is never a point of hopelessness - in our families and in our world," said Carla Ingram, a choral teacher at Wootton who is directing the production. "The premise of the show is that we hold the power to change the world in our own hands."
“The biblical aspect is taken out of it,” said sophomore Josi Suslov, who plays one of the storytellers, who help to narrate the play. “It’s a story about family.”
The play was written originally by Stephen Swartz and adapted from a book by John Caird. The characters of Adam and Noah are played by senior Keith Swartz, while Eve and Mama Noah, Noah’s wife, are portrayed by Nellie Darling. The reason for the dual roles for the lead actors is to complete the theme of families and generations struggling to find their own paths towards happiness, according to Darling. Similarly, senior Jason Wallace portrays Cain, the son of Adam and Eve, and Japheth, the son of Noah who bears the same strong-willed, rebellious nature of first Eve and then Cain.
The character development extends to Father as well, as God is portrayed as having human characteristics and weaknesses.
“[In the play] God has flaws,” said Alex Tepper, who plays Abel. “He can be stubborn and bitter.”
The students acknowledged that the biggest hurdle in putting together this little-known production is tackling the biblical stories and making them appealing to the audience.
“We have to convince people that the Bible can be interesting,” said senior Gabbie Gannon.
“It’s not religiously specific — it’s for everyone,” said Wallace.
The theme of personal choice that runs throughout the plot extends to the staging of the play as well. The minimalist set features a projection display of a variety of natural backdrops — lush, rolling hills, misty valleys, barren deserts — and a prop apple tree but little more. It is up to the audience to use their imagination to flesh out the images that they see more fully in their minds.
“One person’s idea of Eden might be different from another’s,” said Tepper. “It’s up to the audience to complete the picture.”