5 Questions with Justin Anderson
A Meaningful Conversation with the Director of Children of Eden
Justin has served as Aurora Theatre’s Associate Artistic Director for the past 5 years. In that time, he has won multiple Suzi Bass Awards for his directorial work at the helm of many of the most successful productions in Aurora history. Including Mamma Mia!, In the Heights, Mary Poppins and Les Misérables as a few examples. Justin is a key contributor to the Aurora Apprentice program and spearheads many of our audience engagement activities. He represents Aurora abroad, participating on projects regionally, national and even internationally. Justin is also an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Theatre and Performance Studies at Kennesaw State University. Currently in rehearsals for the season opener, Children of Eden, we recently spoke with Justin about the show.
Aurora Theatre: What is Children of Eden about?
Justin Anderson: Children of Eden is based on the first 9½ chapters of the book of Genesis. Children of Eden is about the age-old conflict of parents and children through the generations. First, the Father (God) with Adam and Eve, then Adam and Eve with their sons Cain and Abel, and finally Noah and his family. The real heartbeat of this show centers on family and the tension between the want of a parent and the will of a child.
AT: So is it like…a church pageant meets family therapy?
JA: Short answer, no. Let me elaborate. Composer Stephen Schwartz (composer of Godspell, Pippin and Wicked) and book writer John Caird have shared that it was not their intention to create a “religious” show with Children of Eden. In fact, there is no specific religious doctrine explored or supported in the musical on purpose. This is solely an interpretation focused on relationship, not religion; family, not a specific faith. Although the title is not as well-known as some of Stephen Schwartz’s other creations, it is well documented that this is his favorite. I’m certain once audiences see our production they will agree.
AT: That is why the cast recording was giving me a Wicked vibe. I’m curious how faithful does the musical try to be to the Bible?
JA: Faithful? I see what you did there.
Getting back to the question… As you well know, the Bible has frequently been used as the basis for plays, musicals, screenplays and other forms of art because it provides such rich ingredients needed to create compelling narratives: stories that tend to have strong leading characters with big goals and big obstacles before them while also dealing with important themes. Because these stories are so familiar, this allows the authors to creatively interpret and put their own spin on them to express particular points-of-view.
AT: And is that true for this musical?
JA: This is certainly true in the case of Children of Eden, where the well-known stories from the book of Genesis have been adapted to address themes of family dynamics, the conflict between authority and self-expression, personal responsibility, love, hope, restoration, and so much more. The themes in Children of Eden are depicted in such a thoughtful and emotionally honest way that they will resonate with audience members who are intentionally pursuing a relationship with God while leaning into loving others around them.
AT: What makes Children of Eden timely for Aurora Audiences?
JA: Aurora is on the precipice of incredible growth with our upcoming campus expansion, selecting Children of Eden as the Season 24 opening musical was an obvious choice. It introduces the notion of dreaming beyond current circumstances, limitations and resources in order to embrace a more abundant and impactful future. In addition, it is our heartbeat and mission at Aurora to connect with as many different people in our community as possible. Because we serve so many individuals with so many different points of view, our aim is to grow our community in empathy and understanding of one another by programming stories that promote valuable conversations.