ISU Theatre students to perform new musical about climate activism

Baba is a new musical that will be performed by ISU Theatre students this weekend at Fisher Theater. 

Courtesy of ISU Theatre

“Baba” is a new musical that will be performed by ISU Theatre students this weekend at Fisher Theater. 

Ella Hawkins

The ISU Theatre Department showcased “BABA: A New Musical” for the first time Thursday night at Fisher Theater.

After 10 weeks of preparation, students in the Advanced Theatre Seminar class and other Iowa State students will come together to tell the story of a teenage climate activist and her magical journey to save a forest. 

Sylvie, the main character, takes on the task of venturing into a forest in Appalachia, where she meets Baba Yaga, the mythical witch of Russian folklore. With limited time, Sylvie and Baba Yaga must learn to trust each other in order to stop deforestation. 

When searching for a musical for ISU Theatre’s next project, “BABA” turned out to be the perfect production for students to workshop. “BABA” was created in collaboration with New York-based composer Elliah Heifetz and librettist Jessica Kahkoska.

Cason Murphy, an assistant professor in the music and theater department, said workshopping this production was a unique experience for students and gave them the opportunity to replicate the working environment of the theatre industry. 

“‘[Workshopping a play includes] discovering and shaping characters [and] interacting with writers who may implement their feedback, rather than getting a published script they have no input on,” Murphy said.

Students have been working on this production daily since the middle of March in order to properly tell the story of Sylvie and Baba Yaga the way it was intended. 

“We all got to create our role from the ground up with the script, the help of our trusty creative team, some character descriptions, and previous Russian fairy tales to reference,” said Abbigail Markus, a senior playing Baba Yaga. “We couldn’t google ‘The Broadway version of BABA’ in order to get inspiration for the way we sing our songs or say our lines. Every word we speak and movement we make is original. We are learning so much about this process and ourselves in the midst of this.”

ISU Theatre aims to mold citizen artists and encourages students to use their talents and artistry to raise awareness about issues of extensive social importance. The message of “Baba” about climate is presented to the audience through acting, a variety of musical arrangements and behind-the-scenes support. 

BABA performances will have shows at 7:30 p.m. April 7–9 and 2 p.m. April 10 at Fisher Theater. General admission tickets are $25 and can be purchased through the Iowa State Center Ticket Office, any Ticketmaster or at the door. Admission is free for Iowa State students and youth.

For more information, visit the Department of Music and Theatre website.