Truman Students Make Theatre a Family Affair
Stage chemistry can make or break a theatre production. A cast that comes together well has the ability to whisk audience members away to the farthest corners of their imaginations where they lose themselves in the story. By all indications, the cast of “Seussical” did just that during a five-show run in November. Audience members from children to adults packed the Severns Theatre to watch a production of the Broadway musical featuring the classic characters of Dr. Suess.
The Truman students performing in the production had a bit of head start on forming their stage chemistry. Two of the lead roles, those of the Cat in the Hat and Horton the Elephant, were played by brothers Cole and Mitchell Flottman.
Mitchell, a senior theatre major, encouraged younger brother Cole, a freshman studying linguistics, to try out for the musical. Although they have been acting since childhood, they have rarely performed together.
“This wasn’t the first time we worked on a show together, but it was the first time in a while, so it was interesting getting to explore that side of our relationship again,” Mitchell said. “It was just a lot of fun to play off of each other’s energies because we know each other’s energies quite well.”
With each brother landing a lead role, they were more than just fellow cast members.
“Part of the excitement came from not just me getting a role, but from Mitchell also getting one of the leads,” Cole said. “I thought it was going to be one of the coolest shows to work on because we were both leads and we would be able to interact so much.”
Natives of Columbia, Mo., the Flottman brothers never had the chance to share the stage in high school. Mitchell attended Hickman High School. By the time Cole was a freshman, he was enrolled in the newly opened Battle High School.
“He was sort of the head honcho at his high school,” Mitchell said. “He had a lot of leads there.”
Cole has reciprocal feelings toward his brother’s body of work. A veteran of Truman theatre, Mitchell has performed in nearly a dozen productions, including several on the main stage.
“I always feel a little bit of pressure to impress Mitchell,” Cole said. “He’s put kind of a standard up for us.”
As brothers are known to do, Cole and Mitchell had their share of arguments and fights in their younger years, but they have become closer with age. Mitchell was an influencing force when it came to his brother’s choice of colleges.
“I definitely pushed Cole to come to Truman,” he said. “He had a couple different programs he was looking at, and I thought it would be fun to have him up here.”
The encouragement did not stop once Cole arrived on campus.
“He made me tryout for ‘Suessical.’ I wasn’t going to, mainly because I didn’t know anybody, and I was a little worried,” Cole said. “He kind of made me do it because he knew I could.”
The brothers mutually agree that Mitchell is the more laid back of the two, while Cole has been described as enthusiastic. Their distinct personalities determined the roles for which they auditioned.
“Horton is just one of the most compassionate people out there. He’s also kind of meek, and lets himself get stepped over. It’s just someone I sort of identify with,” Mitchell said. “Cole surely has to identify with being the Cat as well. He’s just that kind of prankster in real life.”
Audience members might interpret the Cat as having fun at Horton’s expense throughout the show, and Cole was able to use that to his advantage. Although any significant feelings of sibling rivalry may have faded long ago, he did exact a little revenge on Mitchell for some childhood slights.
“I kind of saw it as a way to get back at my brother for all of his years of being kind of a teasing older brother,” Cole said. “It was just fun to play around with him.”
The November production of “Seussical” was the popular “Theatre for Young Audiences” version. An 80-minute adaptation of the original Broadway musical, it was presented through arrangements with Music Theatre International. Due to the renovation of Baldwin Hall, “Seussical” was also one of only three Truman Kohlenberg Lyceum Series events scheduled for the 2016-17 school year.
In addition to being well received by University and community audiences alike, there was one particularly engaged fan at most of the shows. Ellen Flottman was in attendance for four of the five shows featuring her sons.
“When the cast list came out, it was a lot of fun to call my mom and be able to say we both got the parts, because she was so worried she was going to have to console one of us and congratulate the other,” Mitchell said.
While it was a special time for the Flottman family, the moment was also fleeting. Mitchell will graduate in May, and “Seussical” marks both the first and last time the siblings will ever share the stage at Truman. As one brother completes his collegiate career, the other is only beginning. Despite majoring in linguistics, Cole will carry on the Flottman name in University productions.
“One of the cool things about Truman is that it’s so open to non-theatre majors that I was able to audition for the play and even get a lead, even though I’m not as involved in the program,” Cole said. “I wasn’t sure at first whether I was going to fit in here or not, but I know that I’m very welcome here, and I’m definitely going to be pursing more theatre things here.”
Mitchell plans to explore a career in theatre, most likely as a director. He is looking into options for internships, and he is keeping open the possibility of graduate school. He may have participated in numerous Truman productions, but “Seussical” will always hold a special place in his heart.
“I always love doing shows here at Truman, but this show was just particularly fun and exciting to get to work with my brother again,” he said.