Musical journey to forgiveness

Last modified: Wednesday, April 17, 2013
From strange parties to hell and back, one college-aged student’s journey to forgive his dead father is fraught with resentment and despair. But the student’s search for the truth isn’t easy, especially when he’s living in an incredibly untruthful world.

Franklin Pierce University Professor Bob Lawson’s original musical “Vanishing Point” was inspired by the real-life relationship between him and his father, who Lawson lost more than a year ago. Lawson said in a recent interview with the Ledger-Transcript that his experience in Athens, Greece, with FPU students in the fall of 2012 gave him the opportunity to explore the topic, but in an abstract and unusual way.

“I knew I didn’t want to make a biographical play out of my life,” Lawson said. “What started to emerge then was a lot of fairy tale-like stuff — humans who had animal heads and all kinds of weird characters.”

Fables portray a fake reality, but there are elements of truth, Lawson said: “There’s something about telling a true story in an incredibly untruthful place like the dark forest that is really interesting to me.”

Text fragments and characters from the popular fairy tale “Alice in Wonderland” and Homer’s epic poem the “Odyssey,” as well as snippets from German fables and Shakespearean plays make brief appearances in “Vanishing Point” and help advance the plot.

But don’t expect a linear storyline, Lawson said, explaining that the plot spans many years and follows no chronological order. The play is hyper-compressed, taking place in just 90 minutes.

“When I was in Athens, I convinced myself that the entire play took place in a big gold picture frame, but when I got back to Rindge I realized I had it all wrong,” Lawson said.

Lawson’s father had worked for the railroads his entire life, and that classic image of train tracks off in the distance, coming together at a vanishing point, is one he said he could not ignore.

“The metaphor of traveling, waiting for something, going somewhere, etc., just fit,” Lawson said.

FPU senior Kyle Mulcahy, 22, of Orlando, Fla., who plays the lead role, Telemachus, became involved with the production before the casting auditions and helped Lawson develop the concept. And with Mulcahy’s input, Lawson changed Telemachus from a straight to a gay man.

“I was inspired to move in that direction because I felt it could add a new depth to the character and the production as a whole, and it is something that I have some experience with,” Mulcahy said.

Mulcahy said he hopes the lead character can help educate audiences about the struggles an individual goes through when they are not accepted for who they are, and how that can leave a person devastated.

Forgiveness and the acceptance of death are two major themes that Mulcahy said make “Vanishing Point” a relatable piece. Telemachus deeply resents his father, and must ultimately decide whether or not to forgive his father for all of his faults.

“The entire play is essentially set within Telemachus’ mind and everything that happens is a manifestation of his internal battles,” Mulcahy said.

And for the college-aged audience the music in “Vanishing Point” will be somewhat recognizable, although there are some creative twists. Lawson said his oldest son, Finley, loves electronic dance music and often goes to concert festivals in New York City.

Lawson frequently listens to the music genre on long car rides from New Hampshire to New York State, where Finley attends college, and Lawson felt the music fit his vision for “Vanishing Point.”

Lawson has adopted a couple of Bob Dylan songs as well, including “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” and “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall.” Lawson also wrote some of his own music, with the help of Carl Hovagimian, an FPU music student and roommate of Mulcahy. “Vanishing Point” opens at the Warehouse Theatre on the FPU campus on April 23 at 7:30 p.m., with additional evening shows running through April 27 at the same time. Saturday and Sunday matinees are at 2 p.m.

Alyssa Dandrea can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 228 or adandrea@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @alyssadandrea.