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From Princeton to New York, the show goes
A group of Princetonians found the Prospect Theater Company
By David Marcus '92
Cara Reichel '96 and Peter Mills '95
Peter Mills '95 took
up an unusual challenge as an undergraduate: He set Princeton's
honor code to music. A member of Triangle Club, Mills used the words
of the code as the refrain in a song he wrote as a freshman for
Triangle's 1992 spring show.
His creativity in setting
the pillars of Princeton's academic life to music didn't stop there;
Mills wrote his senior thesis about the musicals Carousel, A Little
Night Music, and My Fair Lady. Mills has continued to combine Princeton
and the musical both in his most recent work, The Flood, and in
the Prospect Theater Company, which performed The Flood in New York
City in May.
The work details the
efforts of the citizens of Meyerville, a fictional town on the Mississippi
River, to save itself from a 1993 flood that destroyed numerous
towns along the upper Mississippi. Cara Reichel '96, who cowrote
the musical with Mills, began to consider the events surrounding
the flood as the basis for dramatic material in a class she took
at Princeton in the spring of 1995. The class researched the flood
and its effect on one town in particular, Valmeyer Illinois.
Though students wrote
scenes based on their research, they did not produce a finished
play, said Reichel. She revisited the subject after reading a newspaper
article about a 1997 shooting in the U.S. Capitol by a man from
"The article reminded
me of some of the people we interviewed who were suspicious of the
government and its role in the 1993 floods. It was easy to let my
imagination go and wonder how this guy might have been motivated
by the flood," Reichel said. In 1998, Reichel, Mills, Melissa
Huber '96 and Tony Vallés '97 started Prospect Theater Company,
which they named in honor of their alma mater.
The first thing they
did with the troupe was road-test it; in the summer of 1999, they
led a group of 24, including 16 Princetonians to Rome, Georgia,
Reichel's hometown, for a season of musicals, Shakespeare, and educational
outreach in an place not often frequented by thespians.
Prospect returned to
Rome last summer, during which time Mills and Reichel put together
a version of The Flood. The duo revised the work this past fall
and as part of the ASCAP Musical Theater Workshop presented a version
to songwriter Stephen Sondheim, who, Mills said, "was nicer
to me this year than he was last year," when for the same program
Sondheim critiqued Marco Polo, a musical that Mills helped write.
The chance to interact
with such luminaries is valuable, but Prospect's desire to perform
new works is even more critical for young artists like Mills, who
noted the struggles of students he'd met in the NYU Graduate musical
theater writing program, many of whom have been working on shows
for years without having them performed. "It's a struggle to
get your work out there in any way," he said. "To have
a connection to a theater company is hugely beneficial."
David Marcus is an occasional
contributor to PAW.