There are literal bridges and there are metaphorical bridges. “The Bridge,” a new musical celebrating the construction and legacy of the Brooklyn Bridge, tackles both kinds.
The production explores the lives of the Roebling family — John Roebling, his son Washington Roebling, and daughter-in-law Emily Warren Roebling — who designed and engineered the bridge, through the eyes of poet Hart Crane, who wrote about them decades later.
“In the play, his poem is being constructed while the bridge is being constructed,” said co-writer Liv Cummins, who wrote the show with her partner Matt Marks. “It is a look at the tight-lipped Victorian world through the eyes of the 1920s crazy jazz age world. It questions time and architecture and form and the value we place on gender roles.”
By all accounts, Emily Warren Roebling was the brains behind most of the bridge construction. She took over as head of engineering after her father-in-law died and her husband became bedridden.
“She was so under fire, figuratively and literally,” said Cummins. “There were calamities, fires, explosions, and people dying. Meanwhile, she had to charm all these men.”
In “The Bridge” — which runs Oct. 15–17 at the Brooklyn Historical Society — an actor plays Crane as the narrator of the story. When Crane wrote his poem — also called “The Bridge” — in the 1920s, he was living at 110 Columbia Heights in Brooklyn Heights — where Washington Roebling had also lived while the bridge was under construction. In the musical, Hart becomes inspired to write his epic work after bearing witness the family’s monumental achievement — just as Cummins and Marks were some 80 years later.
“He sees what we saw and becomes inspired and excited by the story, just like we did,” Cummins said.
“The Bridge” at the Brooklyn Historical Society [128 Pierrepont St. at Clinton Street in Brooklyn Heights, (718) 222–4111, www.brooklynhistory.org]. Oct. 15–17 at 7:30 pm. $10 ($5 for Brooklyn Historical Society members).