Last year, playing John Adams in “1776,” Madeleine Pendergast helped to create the United States.
This year, her sights are set a bit higher: She plays Father in the School of the Holy Child’s production of “Children of Eden.”
Father. As in Creator of All.
“It’s scary,” she says with a smile. “God is God, obviously, and it’s hard to figure out how exactly to play him, her, it, whatever. It’s daunting.”
At the all-girl School of the Holy Child in Harrison, a girl was going to end up playing the ultimate authority figure. And who better than Pendergast?
She’s the only senior in the cast, a veteran of several productions, and she’s the president of the upper school student government, the equivalent of student-body president.
If the part fit Pendergast, director Jeremy Quinn says the musical fit the school.
“They wanted something that was worldly, contemporary with a worldly sound to it,” Quinn says. “The music in this score has lots of different styles from different cultures and that’s one of the things that this school focuses on.”
To help the audience make the leap and get beyond the fact that girls will be playing Father, Adam, Cain, Abel and Noah – in Stephen Schwartz’s story of creation and parenting – Quinn has his cast start the evening as an all-female theater company, gathering costumes and props and preparing to perform “Children of Eden.”
“Then there’s less difficulty believing that it’s girls playing boys and more of ‘Oh, it’s just an all-female theater company putting on the show,'” he says.
While she definitely has ideas of what God is like, Pendergast says she’s been following Schwartz’s script closely.
“He’s a much more Old Testament God in the script and I’m a more New Testament God believer,” she says.
“He’s very human in the play,” she says. “He makes mistakes and he learns, and, by the end, he’s become what we know as God. But he has to go through that growth period.”
Pendergast likes that much of the dialogue is repeated: “When I have a conversation with Adam, Adam will have that same conversation with Cain, and Noah will have that same conversation with Japheth.”
Freshman Kaitlin Ferrara, from Crestwood, is new to the school this year and brings an outsider’s perspective to the role of another newcomer: Eve.
“In the beginning, she’s young, so I can relate to her in many ways,” says Ferrara, confident and outgoing at 14.
“She’s funky, a little bit curious and a little sensitive, too,” Ferrara says. “The challenge for me is the second act, when she has Cain and Abel and she gets older and she’s a mother. A little harder to relate to that.”
For research, she spoke with her friend, Christina Bryde, who’s also in the show and who performed “Eden” in middle school.
“She told me all about it, and then I started Googling it and YouTubing all the songs – and I fell in love with it.”
Mamaroneck’s Eugenie Coleman plays Adam, a part she says requires that she forget some of what she’s learned.
“You have to disregard what you’ve been told about the Bible, because this is a new portrayal,” she says, adding: “You have to react to what God and Eve are doing and reflect on those characters.”
The first man is not particularly hard to play, the 16-year-old junior says.
“He’s just a father who wants what’s best for his family and kids,” Coleman says. “Once you think about that, it’s pretty easy from there.”
Raising a rebellious Cain on stage has given Coleman, a self-described “rebellious kid,” some food for thought.
“As Adam, I get offended when Cain runs away. I take it to heart,” she says. “I just have to think about how that affects my parents in real life when I do that.”
Then there’s the whole Adam-Eve thing.
“Being Eve’s lover is a little difficult because I have to wake up and kiss her on the cheek and be her husband, which is definitely nothing I’ve ever done before.”
Coleman has a favorite moment in the show.
“Father sings about us when we sleep, singing about the glories of fatherhood,” she says. “I really think my dad will like that scene because he’s really close to me.”
PHOTO by Tania Savayan/The Journal News: Kaitlin Ferrara, left, as Eve and Madeleine Pendergast as The Father rehearse for “Children of Eden” at School of the Holy Child in Harrison.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Children of Eden”
Where: School of the Holy Child, 2225 Westchester Ave. in Harrison.
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Tickets: $10, $5 for students.
Call: 914-967-5622, Ext. 405.
With: Leslie Barnard, Meghan Barry, Tracy BrÃƒÂ¤tt, Lauren Brown, Christina Bryde, Eugenie Coleman, Erica Cuscina, Jean Marie Downey, Kaitlin Ferrara, Sophia Golec, Noelle Grieco, Kristen Hudson, Julia Loughlin, Kimberly McIntyre, Emily Pascual, Mackenzie Pendergast, Madeleine Pendergast, Mallory Pendleton, Caroline Pinkowish, Meredith Piro, Catherine Rinaldo, Liz Schanne, Ali Skamangas, Rebecca Mulqueen, Elizabeth Dragomir, Kristen Brauer, Annie Trotta, Jacqueline Noack, April Ruiz, Rachel Power.