Alumni Present 'The Happy Garden of Life' at New Ohio Theatre

BY Robbie Armstrong, October 28, 2019

After a successful run at Cherry Lane Theatre, The Happy Garden of Life by Playwriting Alumna Anna Jastrzembski ‘19 opened at New Ohio Theatre. The play has been in development for two years, with its first incarnation (titled A Modest Proposal) having a sold out three night engagement. Since it’s sold out run, The Happy Garden of Life gained a new producer, alumna Halla Tryggvadottir ’19, and a new script. With original music composed by Emily Erickson and sound design by current Columbia student Jacob Robinson, Jastrzembski rewrote the play into a new full length edition.


Set in a near-future utopia enforced by population control, The Happy Garden of Life follows the lives of citizens trapped in a system of government-encouraged suicide. The many storylines converge in a hospital waiting room where a woman is about to give birth to triplets, and must find people to die in order to allow her children to live. The Happy Garden of Life considers how one person's worth can be qualified over another's and the price of living in societal perfection. 


The show's director, Jenna Hoffmann, teamed up with Jastrzembski and the two spent a year and a half developing the piece. The piece developed from workshops with actors. In a statement Jastrzembski said, “We would participate in physical exercises to start building the world [of the play].” Inspired by Kurt Vonnegut’s short story, The Happy Garden of Life shows a world similar to the current state of the planet. Jastrzembski elaborated, “In the time that he was writing, there was hardly a conception of climate change and the catastrophic damage it would cause. Overpopulation seemed like a problem that would only happen in a world where people were nearly immortal.” Jastrzembski’s new script addresses the issues Vonnegut wrote about through the lens of today.

The Happy Garden of Life opened on October 18 and ran through October 27 at the New Ohio Theatre.