Something wonderful happened at our final preview performance of The Hampton Years last night; a family came and saw their patriarch long since passed, brought to beautiful dramatic life, and the family recognized, identified, spoke back and it was good.
Viktor Lowenfeld is the protagonist of Jacqueline Lawton’s wonderful new play which covers seven years in the life of Margaret and Viktor Lowenfeld at Hampton Institute. The characters go out of their way to make frequent mention of their son John–or “Johnny”–who grows from age 7 to 14 as an off-stage character in the play. On Sunday night, Dr. John Lowenfeld was present at our theater to take in the story of his parents, joined by eight other members of his family. Dr. Lowenfeld is a psychologist in Akron, Ohio. He was joined on stage last night by his son, David, a project manager at NASA. The conversation that was shared before a post-performance audience of 70 or so (out of the 140 in the house for the show) touched on wonderful memories of growing up both in Hampton, VA and at Penn State University, where the Lowenfelds moved next.
While the conversation touched on Viktor’s teaching, his writing, and Margaret’s work as physical fitness instructor and singer, the most rewarding part of the warm conversation took place between cast members and the family, principally involving the actors who play Margaret and Viktor on stage, Sarah Douglass and Sasha Olinick. For the actors, it was perhaps a first time playing real-life characters whose family members were still alive and who could contribute valuable insights and details into what the people the actors were playing were actually like! “Think back to Hampton,” Sasha asked Dr. Lowenfeld, “what do you remember as a 7 year old most prominently? What smells? Tastes?” John remembered a back yard filled with bamboo, stalks of which would be regularly cut down and sections made into pea-shooters. The actors and the family members couldn’t get enough of each other, even after the discussion came to a close, the big group lingered for another half hour, not wanting to leave the on stage Lowenfeld home.
Let’s enjoy a little video excerpt of last night’s discussion, principally moderated by Associate Artistic Director and HAMPTON YEARS director, Shirley Serotsky.