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Teen theater takes swing at political satire

‘Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson’ coming to Elmhurst

Published: Tuesday, July 15, 2014 2:50 p.m. CST
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Erica Benson-ebenson@shawmedia.com Cast members of "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson" including (left-right) Anthony Varzino of Chicago, Christopher Knudsen of Elmhurst, David Tomblin of Chicago and Brianna Maki of Elmhurst rehearse for their upcoming performance Tuesday July 8 2014. The performances will be held at Fitz's Spare Keys July 18th & 19th at 7 an 9:30 p.m.
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(Erica Benson - ebenson@shawmedia.com)
Cast members of "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson" rehearse Tuesday at Faith Evangelical United Methodist Church in Elmhurst for their upcoming performance July 18 and 19 at Fitz's Spare Keys.
Caption
(Erica Benson - ebenson@shawmedia.com)
Cast members of "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson" rehearse Tuesday at Faith Evangelical United Methodist Church in Elmhurst for their upcoming performance July 18 and 19 at Fitz's Spare Keys.
Caption
Erica Benson-ebenson@shawmedia.com Cast members of "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson" including Christopher Knudsen of Elmhurst rehearse for their upcoming performance Tuesday July 8 2014. The performances will be held at Fitz's Spare Keys July 18th & 19th at 7 an 9:30 p.m.
Caption
Erica Benson-ebenson@shawmedia.com Cast members of "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson" including Christopher Knudsen and Delena Obermaier of Elmhurst rehearse for their upcoming performance Tuesday July 8 2014. The performances will be held at Fitz's Spare Keys July 18th & 19th at 7 an 9:30 p.m.

ELMHURST – DIY Teen Theatre's upcoming production of "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson" is a far leap from last year's "Shrek the Musical."

"It's kind of raunchy, and there's a lot of bad language in it," Helen Knudsen said.

At 14, the Elmhurst resident started her own theatre company because there weren't any summer musicals or plays in town. In its sixth season, DIY Teen Theatre has grown and so has its artistic director and founder, Knudsen, who is now 19.

"I really wanted to do a show that would get more of the community involved," Knudsen said.

She's still directing a production of Peter Pan with a cast of 47 third- through ninth-graders, but added the political satire about America's controversial seventh president because she thought it might appeal to a wider audience.

"The really cool thing about this show is that it leaves you not knowing what to think, which is what I love about it," Knudsen said of the one-act musical with a cast of 15- to 20-year-olds.

Playing the temperamental leading role is Knudsen's younger brother, Chris. He won't be wearing collared shirt or coat tails, though. While the historical setting of the musical is America in the early 19th century, the cast will be decked out in post-punk fashions.

"Andrew Jackson, he grew up as America was growing up," Helen said.

In addition to the costumes, she explained the musical score runs the gamut from rock to country to melodramatic emo.

"The music does such an accurate job of portraying that kind of angst-ridden teen that America was at that time," Helen said.

Recent York graduate Delena Obermaier is one of three cast members who also performed in DIY's debut show "A Little Princess." The 18-year-old, who plays Jackson's wife, Rachel, plans to double major in history and film studies at the University of Pittsburgh beginning in the fall.

"I think comparing [Jackson's] counter-culture to today's kind of counter-culture, it matches so much," Obermaier said.

Helen explained that while there's a lot of history in the show, there's a good amount of bogus mixed in for humor's sake. Originally, performed on Broadway in 2010, the show was written to draw parallels between politics during Jackson's presidency and that of George W. Bush.

Still, the vocal performance student at Roosevelt University believes the questions raised are just as applicable to Barrack Obama's presidency and politics today.

"I think it makes us reflect a lot on: are the decisions that we're making now going to be remembered as really great things or really bad things?" Helen asked.

– – – –

If you go

What: Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson

Where: Fitz's Spare Keys, 119 N. York St.

When: 7 and 9:30 p.m. July 18 and 19

Tickets: $12, available at www.diyteentheatre.com or at the door

Ages: 13 and up due to strong language

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