Saturday night I went with my family to see a local production of the musical, Children of Eden. As described in the program, it is “a musical about family and relationships inspired by the Book of Genesis,” with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz (who also did Pippin, Godspell, and Wicked).
The book (meaning the lines and story of the musical), however, was written by John Caird, based on a concept by Charles Lisanby. And I have to say that I found their take on Genesis rather intriguing, though not surprising when you consider how a writer might interpret the beginning of the best known book in the world. After all, writers are always looking for themes and cycles, as well as symbolism, and Genesis is chock full of all of that.
As presented in this musical, the development and eventual breaking up of families is all a part of life. It began in Eden, when Adam and Eve grew up to the point where they disobeyed authority, and had to leave their Father. They began their own family and tried to control the lives of their own sons, until one disobeyed, killed the other, and had to leave. The cycle looks as if it’s going to repeat yet again, with Noah and his son Japheth… until, with the flood all around, Noah forgives Japheth’s disobedience and the family remains united.
While the show’s interpretation doesn’t entirely square with my own understanding of Genesis, it did cause me to think about the Garden of Eden story as emblematic of how we are entrusted with our children only until they have lost their innocence. At some point, our children must go out on their own. They can call us from time to time (just as Adam and Eve prayed to God), but they are free to act for themselves and we have to learn to face that fact. Our love for them never ceases; only our control over them.