Sam Claude’s senior theater project astounds

By Isaac Steward

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of watching Sam Claude bring Lauren Gunderson’s 2014 script, “Bauer,” to the Alford Auditorium. This play tells the story of German painter Rudolph Bauer, over a decade after fellow artist and Bauer’s ex-lover, Hilla von Rebay, tricked him into signing away ownership of all his works to Solomon Guggenheim, including anything he creates in the future. Rudolph Bauer hasn’t painted since, and now, thirteen years later, is waiting to die of lung cancer as a bitter and broken man. Hilla has asked to speak with Rudolph, to which his loving wife, Louise, encourages Rudolph to accept to find peace. Throughout the show, Bauer wrestles with being forgotten, whether art stands a chance against greed, and what it really means to be free, telling a beautiful story of rebellion, love and redemption.

The show’s three characters were wonderfully portrayed, through Rudolph’s miserable cynicism (played by Sam Claude), Louise’s concern and affection for her husband (played by Rosie Hernandez-Smith), and Hilla’s abrasive bluntness. (played by Autumn Riddle)  These performances bring the charm of this show to life right before the audience’s eyes, blending drama and comedy like coffee and cream, right up until the final curtain call.

The depth of the show was particularly impressive to me, as I’d had a chance to speak with Sam Claude and Rosie Hernandez-Smith a few days before the performance  to see just how much work had gone into this project.

As this performance served as Claude’s acting capstone, Sam Claude starred in the show as Rudolph Bauer, but he was also tasked with producing the show. This was no easy task as Claude gathered a nine person volunteer crew, an empty auditorium, and anything else he could get his hands on. 

“All senior theater projects are funded by students,” Sam Claude said. “We have to pay for the rights [to perform the show], we have to pay for costumes, and any additional set pieces. If I have to get an HDMI cable for the projector, that’s on me.”

When asked about the set, Claude told me it took about five minutes, to which his castmate, Rosie Hernandez-Smith, weighed in on. 

“We should give credit to Sam Acosta, who redesigned the set,” she noted. “He did a wonderful job adding more dimension and depth to it.” 

The entire show takes place in Bauer’s old art studio, long forgotten by both Bauer and time alike. The final set that Claude and Acosta came up with was brilliant, creating an air of broken dreams and abandoned hopes trapped in a dreary atmosphere to perfectly set the stage for the actors to shine in. 

“It will change you,” Claude said when asked if he had any advice for future seniors considering a similar project. “Get involved in shows. You can do all the shows in the world and none of them will be the same. Each of them will provide a different challenge for you. Each of them will test you in different ways. Dive in from day one when you get here.”

Nearing the end of his senior year, Claude enjoyed the experience of being part of a senior theatre project but is already looking to what his future may bring after graduation.

“I want to be a playwright one day,” said Claude. “I don’t intend on acting forever, I love acting but I’d love to be a part of the acting process in a way that contributes to the future and by teaching the next generation of theater students.”

While Claude may not be writing his own plays yet, the way he brings a character like Bauer to life has already impacted many who were in the audience of his performance, including me. This is where the uniqueness of the senior theater projects shine, as passionate works that tackle themes and stories not seen on the mainstage at Cedarville.

I can’t wait to see more.

Isaac Steward is a sophomore BDMJ student and an A&E writer for Cedars. He enjoys analyzing good stories and making cool things. Isaac has never been to the moon or enjoyed peanut butter. Most likely, he never will.

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