Dawson D. Atkin, a graduate of Gateway Regional High School in his final semester at the Hartt School at the University of Hartford, tells the biblical story of Adam and Eve in his honors project.
The pair are reimagined as a domestic farm couple in “Escaping Eden”. It is told from Eve’s point of view and entirely through folksong.
The new musical from music composition specialist Atkin will premiere at the University of Hartford’s Auerbach Auditorium on April 15-16. Ludlow’s Stephani Bauduccio stars as Eve.
Directed by Hartt alum Omar Sandakly, the production is a lens to explore gender and gender roles. Exploring themes of gender, free will and unquestioned faith, “Escaping Eden” asks audiences to question the traditional interpretation of the biblical book of Genesis with which they might be familiar.
In “Escaping Eden”, Adam is responsible for maintaining the garden and Eve is responsible for household chores.
“In a way, they fit into the traditional patterns of the mid-century American home, with the man as the breadwinner and the woman as the caretaker,” Atkin explained. “The inciting incident of the story occurs when Eve begins to question her own creation and purpose, wondering if there can be more to life than the role she has been given.”
He sees this story as a metaphor that followers of Abrahamic religions can use to better understand their religion. “In creating this show, I found it very important to reduce the story to its most human elements, focusing on the characters and the rhythms of the story and moving away from the more spiritual elements,” said he declared. “In ‘Escaping Eden’, Adam and Eve and even the serpent are presented as very human, each with their own desires and emotions. Treating the characters or the story with too much respect would detract from the humanity of it that allows us to connect with the characters.
When Atkin started working on this show, he often thought of a homily he had heard in his youth on the story of Adam and Eve. “A priest who was new to our church used the story to justify the subjugation of women by their husbands,” he recalls. “He said history showed that men should be the head of their families.”
The show consists in pushing back this interpretation. “Eve is begotten for no other purpose than to serve a man. And, once you start to question that, the story makes so much more sense,” Atkin said. “Why wouldn’t she want to leave the garden? if she had no purpose but a man?So to me the story is very much about gender and gender roles, although that may be more in our interpretation than the original story.
Atkin is drawn to storytelling, especially creation stories: “I think creation stories have a unique way of showing us what we believe to be our purpose.”
He also likes small musicals. “While the influence of this story is huge, it mostly unfolds as the story of a couple who could be any couple, dealing with things that real couples deal with,” he said. “It’s a pretty intimate story, which the musical theater genre does well enough but doesn’t often get the chance to explore.”
He was drawn to this specific story because he saw the opportunity to reimagine a familiar story in a new way. “It’s a real trend in the world of musical theater right now, and I love the direction the art form is taking,” he said. “I can take a story that is familiar and important to so many people and ask them to look at it from an entirely new perspective. I think it’s important to question and examine our most familiar stories, and this was a way for me to explore that, especially in the context of religion.
The actors will use scripts, and the set and costumes will be minimal.
A 2018 graduate of Gateway Regional High School in Huntington, Atkin plans to attend an AmeriCorps program called ArtistYear after graduating from college. He will move to Queens and serve there as a music teacher at a Title I school.
His long-term goals are to continue writing music in all disciplines. “I work in the musical theater and singer-songwriter genres, but I also work in contemporary concert music, and I hope to continue to do everything,” he said.
“I’ve always admired Dawson’s drive to consistently release insightful and personal works across different styles and genres,” said director Sandakly. “Having the chance to create one of their musicals alongside our wonderful cast and creative team is something I’m thrilled to be a part of.”
“Escaping Eden” – featuring musical theater majors at the University of Hartford – premieres April 15 and 16 at 7:30 p.m. Admission is free, but tickets must be reserved in advance at tinyurl.com/escapingeden.
A livestream will be available via a YouTube page called “Escaping Eden: A New Folk Musical.” : This can also be found at tinyurl.com/edenlivestream. It will also be on a Facebook event page called “Escape Eden: A New Folk Musical”.