North Central’s Student Director Series presents “Erlkönig”

May 12, 2014

North Central College’s Student Director Series features an original play titled “Erlkönig” by senior Cullen Rogers on May 22-24.

Three performances will be presented at 9 p.m. on May 22 and at 7:30 p.m. on May 23-24 in North Central’s theatre at Meiley-Swallow Hall, 31 S. Ellsworth St. Tickets are $5/adults and $3/students and senior citizens; call the North Central College Box Office at 630-637-SHOW (7469) or visit This play contains strong language and may not be suitable for young audiences.  

Rogers, of North Aurora, proposed directing “Erlkönig” for the Student Director Series as a part of his senior honors thesis, undertaking an interdisciplinary study between his psychology and theatre majors. “My goal was to modernize and expand the Elfking legend [of “Erlkönig”],” Rogers says, “but I wanted to make sure I did so in the most effective way.”

This original play is based on Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s 1782 poem “Der Erlkönig,” a tale that’s widely popular for its ambiguity. Rogers’ script explores the many possible interpretations of Goethe’s supernatural tale in a modern context. According to Rogers, the word “Erlkönig” is a German term that loosely translates to Elfking, a legendary creature that preys on human children and can only be seen and heard when it wants.

Rogers’ play transforms this popular German myth into a modern, moving meditation on children, parents and factors impacting mental health. His reimagining of the story is set in modern day, with an expanded story line, as well as many additional characters. “The tone of the piece, while very reliant on the talent of the cast, draws strongly from the contributions of the designers from our production team, too,” says Rogers.

In developing this interdisciplinary study and theatrical production, Rogers conducted an experiment in cooperation with the College’s psychology department. He wanted to determine the manner and degree that he could modernize the story without compromising its traditional and, some may say, essential literary components. He explains, “I used the results of this study to inform the writing of ‘Erlkönig’s’ script and to guide the rehearsal process.”

The cast for “Erlkönig” includes (role, name, hometown, year, major):

Young Ben: Miranda Harris of Normal, a freshman majoring in musical theatre
Lilith: Taylor Calderone of Mishawaka, Ind., a junior majoring in sociology and theatre
Dave: Alex Moerer of Waverly, Iowa, a freshman majoring in theatre
Ben: Mark Yacullo of Naperville, a sophomore majoring in musical theatre
Paige: Tina Naponelli of Crystal Lake, a junior majoring in theatre
Rider: Jack Morsovillo of Franklin Park, a freshman majoring in theatre
Therapist: Shermara Fletcher, an international student from England
Girl: Emilia Benassi of Winnebago, Ill., a senior majoring in theatre and sociology and anthropology
Conductor: Mac Willaert of St. Charles, a senior majoring in music
Medic: Rachel Rodewald of Hampshire, Ill., a freshman majoring in musical theatre
Ensemble: Abe Vences of Berwyn, a junior majoring in music and musical theatre
Ensemble: Joshua Lahey of Orland Park, a freshman majoring in organizational communication
Ensemble: Cody Talkie of Joliet, a freshman majoring in musical theatre
Ensemble: Enya Wenk of Naperville, a sophomore majoring in musical theatre
Ensemble: Amanda Peck of Woodridge, a junior majoring in theatre
Ensemble: Maddie Burke of Monroe, Mich., a freshman majoring in musical theatre

In North Central’s Student Director Series, members of the College’s theatre faculty invite students to submit a proposal to direct their own theatrical productions and the best are chosen.

North Central College offers majors in theatre or musical theatre and a minor in dance. A full range of acting and dance classes is available, as well as opportunities to direct a full-length production. Students of all majors can participate in musical and nonmusical performances, actor showcases and one-act plays and performances in the College’s four theatre venues. Full-time professors and active professionals who are artist-teachers serve as faculty.