Jazz Student Finds Musical Inspiration in Steppenwolf

Steppenwolf, the dense psychoanalytic novel by Hermann Hesse, might not be the first place one would look to for inspiration when creating a musical drama.

But for Jochem le Cointre, Jazz ’16, its tale of one man’s spiritual journey towards self-knowledge provided a wealth of inspiration for his original production, based on the novel written in 1927.

“In my experience, when reading Hesse, I feel like I am reading about a part of myself, a part of my inner soul,” says le Cointre. “Hesse’s work is always about a protagonist searching for truth and discovering the self, which is why it speaks to many adolescents.”

The show will have two performances on Wednesday and Thursday, May 11 and 12, at 7:00 p.m. at The Auditorium at 66 West 12th Street.

Steppenwolf revolves around a middle-aged author, Harry Haller, who finds himself lost in the world and on the brink of suicide. One night, as he wanders around the deserted streets, he notices a strange sign on a wall: “Entrance to Magic Theater.” This curious discovery is the start of a journey of self-discovery, music, love, dance, sex, war, despair, and humor. Neither the story of a madman nor the saga of a depressed artist, it is “the tale of us all”—a modern myth about the tragic and comic forces of life.

“We live in a time that is, much like Hesse’s own time, in desperate need of this inner journey,” says le Cointre.

The show is a collaborative effort between schools, with performers and key crew members from the School of Drama, the School of Jazz, and Mannes School of Music all participating.

In addition to the actors, a live chamber orchestra led by Mannes graduate Nell Flanders will perform in the show. Composer le Cointre has drawn from a variety of musical forms to create his core – not only jazz, but also opera, classical orchestral music, music-theatre.

Tadej Brdnik, a former principal dancer of the Martha Graham Dance Company, choreographed the show, which will be directed by Samantha Tella and stage-managed by Lindsay Stringfellow.

Hermann Hesse (1877–1962), an outcast of his own culture and time, became the guru of the counterculture revolution in the United States after his death, giving rise to what was dubbed the “Hesse Boom.”

“Challenging the status quo in political, cultural, and literary life, Hesse reveals the individual’s relationship to the self and the outside world like no other. Throughout the decades, Hesse’s themes resonated with minds that searched for true meaning and true freedom,” le Cointre says. “These themes remain relevant today, in a time where the journey of self-discovery is becoming increasingly rare. This mystical search is why Hesse resonated so deeply with young people during the hippie, anti-war, counterculture era. But I want to also point out that Hesse, though not usually known for it, was also a great believer in the place of humor in a person’s balanced life, something I have also tried to honor.”

Le Cointre’s show is sure to resonate deeply with New School students and alumni for the same reasons.

Register for the event here.