Wild Oats (2012)

Production Crew

 

 

Cast

 
DirectorChris Ulicny PianistSpenser Prichard
Stage ManagerErica Laufer Corporal CrowAnthony Feudale
DramaturgDr. Kevin Pry Colonel Croftus ThunderMatt Smith
Asst. Stage ManagerKeifer Kemmerly BartenderDan Brown
Hair/Make-up DesignJoe Chubb BargirlVicki Childers
Set CoordinatorTravis Hicks LibertyCarrie McFeaters
Costume DesignLaura Gingerich, Kathryn LewisWilsonKailah Buckwalter
Lighting DesignTravis Hicks Angel EyesMeg Tedder
Sound DesignAndy Kittleson Kate ThunderDee Bogert
Property MasterRosemary Bucher Harry ThunderAnthony Hoover
ProducerCarrie Becker MuzKadie Dasher
   Jack RoverAdam Abruzzo
   Innkeeper's DaughterVicki Childers
   Ike GammonShawn Briggs
   Sim GammonKeifer Kemmerly
   Jane GammonRachel Snavely
   Senor MoralesDan Brown
   Amelia MoralesVicki Childers
   SheriffAlexander Conrad
   Mr. KliegleChristine Sangco
   Mr. LeakoSuzette Madanat
   Ephraim SmoothNick Pantalone
   Ephraim UnderstudyJoe Chubb

 

Technical Crew: Travis Hicks, Chris Ulicny, Connor DeStefano, Dee Bogart, Christian McCardell, Nick Hessong, Andy Kittleson, Melissa Schielzo

Front of House: Katie Costolnick, Adam Rabenold, Liz Zeiner, Heather LaSalle, Jenna Parrilla, Kadie Dasher, Kathryn Lewis, Keifer Kemmerly, Kristen Zlogar, Krystal M. Steenwyk, Meghan Baron, Nicki Shepski, Andrew Ferrie, Rosemary Bucher, Laura Gingerich, Emily Osbourne

Hair and Makeup: Joseph Chubb, Dee Bogart, Jananne Ferrere, Kately Chamberlain, Nicki Shepski, Carrie McFeaters, Elise Wysocki, Heather LaSalle, Cheyenne Hostetter, Lisa Forgotch

Props: Rosemary Bucher, Katie Costolnick, Dan Brown

Costuming: Laura Gingerich, Kathryn Lewis, Katie Costolnick, Keifer Kemmerly

Lighting: Nick Hessong, Carli Weldon

The original Wild Oats was the comic masterwork of one of the 18th century's most prolific actor-playwrights, John O'Keefe (1747-1833). This colorful Irishman wrote some 70 plays between 1774 and 1800, and though he lost his eyesight in 1798, he continued to write for the stage. His published memoirs are a gold mine of anecdotes about the theatre folk of his day. In 1791 O'Keefe decided, with his sure sense of comedy, to produce Wild Oats. With this story of Jack Rover, the great-hearted, Bard-quoting strolling player and his bewildering adventures in search of love, fortune, and family, O'Keefe found his greatest hit. He employed many of the traditional tricks of the English stage, such as the "aside" to the audience and the multiple mistaken-identity plot, and he peopled his play with a gallery of comedic "types" still recognizable today.

Within a few years of its London premiere Wild Oats had been performed wherever the English language was spoken. It remained in the standard repertory of touring companies on both sides of the Atlantic until the last decade of the 19th century, and then lapsed into obscurity. Wild Oats was rescued from oblivion in 1976 when Ronald Bryden, literary editor of the famous Royal Shakespeare Company, brought the script to the attention of director Clifford Williams. The RSC production was a surprise runaway hit in the 1976 season, with Alan Howard as Rover, Jeremy Irons as Harry, and a young Ben Cross (Chariots of Fire) as one of the ruffians.

Highly acclaimed productions followed in New York and at Washington D.C.'s Folger Shakespeare Theatre (where John Neville-Andrews played Rover), and theatre managements and writers around the country were alerted to the durability of O'Keefe's merry mischief.

One of those alerted was the American playwright James McLure, author of Laundry and Bourbon and Lone Star, a dramatist deeply interested in the myth of the American cowboy and an admirer of the" ham-actor" strolling theatre companies that brought culture to the cow towns and mining camps of the Old West. For California's L.A. Center Theatre Group, McLure adapted the English characters and locales of the original to fit the rootin' tootin' shootin' Western climate he loved, and on 16 June 1984 the "Americanized" Wild Oats opened to a delighted public at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles. The adaptation has since entertained audiences throughout the U.S.; in McLure's words, "It is an affectionate tribute to the men and women of the late 19th century who toured the American West as traveling players."

With this production of McLure's adaptation of O'Keefe's Wild Oats, director Chris Ulicny's intrepid band of actors, technicians, and production staff kick off the 76th season of the Wig & Buckle Theater Company's life at Lebanon Valley College, a season the company has titled "Theatricality!" Wild Oats belongs to a genre of dramatic literature called metatheatre, plays which take as their themes the nature of dramatic art itself and comment on the process of theatrical performance. To bring these concepts to life, this cast and crew (half of whom are making their first appearances on the Leedy stage) have had to blend a complex mix of old-fashioned acting styles and present-day comedic tricks into a school of performance techniques known as "theatricalism," the point of which is not to make the audience believe that what they're seeing is "real;" instead these techniques—the "aside" and other types of direct address to the audience which break what show-folk call "the fourth wall," the live incidental musical accompaniment of (and ironic comment on) the play's action, the entrance and exit of actors through the audience, the cartoon violence in which no one is really hurt (over 50 rounds of blank ammunition are expended in each night's performance,) the extravagantly tangled explanations of the show's plots of mistaken identity and long-lost children—constantly remind us that what we're viewing is a performance.

This kind of metatheatrical work has required that Chris and his actors and production staff delve deeply into the folklore and mythology of the American West. The classic "Western" characters we all think of from Hollywood movies—the gallant cavalryman, the comedic sidekick Indian scout, the valiant cowboy, the greedy rich rancher, the dangerous desperado, the oily frontier preacher, the simple vaquero, the fiery Mexican beauty, the lovely heroine in peril—all are present in Wild Oats, but all possessed of an ironic self-awareness that makes us question the validity of the stereotypes we've accepted uncritically for so long. On top of the challenge of comically sending up our traditional perceptions of the Old West, these talented LVC students have also had to become familiar with the lesser-known history of America's 19th century travelling "ham-actor" players, who actually did tour dangerous "gunfighter" towns like Tombstone, Abilene, and Virginia City (talk about your "tough critics!") They brought a population hungry for live entertainment the great works of Shakespeare, which for most of the 1800s were the favorite material of American theatrical audiences. Recreating this second world of the strolling players has required our actors to learn the specialized vocabulary of 19th century Delsarte acting gestures and the mechanics and cadences of Shakespeare's language, which they display in a bewildering array of quotes from the Bard's many plays (how many can you identify correctly?)

In absorbing all this, the student performers and production staff of Wild Oats have taken part in a complex synthesis of interdisciplinary collaborative learning which is in the best tradition of LVC's mission of liberal arts education. I am honored to be able to work with such dedicated young men and women on a daily basis, and we hope you will be entertained by the end result of all their devoted efforts to achieve the live theater's most ancient goals—to delight and instruct you, our patrons. As Hamlet says, "the play's the thing!" Enjoy the show!



Dr. Kevin Pry,
Associate Professor of English, LVC '76, Dramaturg,
Executive Director/Advisor, the Wig and Buckle Theater Company