Thursday, Oct. 16, marks the American premiere of The Ballad of Bonnie Prince Chucky by Wendy MacLeod ’81, James Michael Playwright-in-Residence and professor of drama. The play will run in the Bolton Theater through Family Weekend on Saturday, with performances scheduled Thursday at 8 p.m., Friday at 8:30 p.m., and Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.
The piece, co-commissioned by the American Conservatory Theater (ACT) in San Francisco and His Majesty’s Theatre in Aberdeen, Scotland, is a humorous glance into a Scottish boarding school riven by clan warfare on the rugby field. When the team captain declares himself the legitimate “Charlie,” the stage is set for a variety of characters to lay claim to the title and explore the nature of authority. Sprinkled into the theatrical stew of this contemporary Scottish drama are professionally choreographed swordfights and a chorus of bagpipes.
Henry Nash ’17, an undeclared major from Chicago, said the show “doesn’t take itself too seriously and takes as its subject the world that we, the cast, inhabit — precisely because it doesn’t take itself too seriously.” Nash, who plays one of the titular characters (the second Charlie), reflected that the role was unique compared to other colorful roles he has played such as Zeus and La Belle Epoque Paris dandies. “Charlie 2 is a kind of spastic, kind of slow-on-the-uptake, kind-of-awkward high-school athlete, but not really a jock-type dude — he’s really a lot like me,” Nash said. “Similarly, The Ballad of Bonnie Prince Chucky isn’t really anything like any other play I’ve ever been in. There’s a lot of room, in playing Charlie 2, for the regular everyday hamminess and general goofery I actually live in the day-to-day.”
Ballad is produced by the Kenyon College Dramatic Club and directed by MacLeod with assistant director Emma Miller ’15, a drama major from Shaker Heights, Ohio. Miller stresses the play is particularly well suited for families visiting during Family Weekend. “It has been such an outstanding opportunity to work on Ballad this fall — families shouldn’t miss it as it is freshly funny,” Miller said. “I’m lucky to be working closely with Professor MacLeod, from whom I’m learning so much about the creativity and energy it takes to dig in to work on a new play.”
MacLeod is celebrated for an expansive oeuvre, including The House of Yes, which has been performed in New York City at Soho Rep, London’s Gate Theater and Berlin’s Maxim Gorki Theater. In addition, the play’s film adaptation received a special jury award at the 1997 Sundance Festival. The following year, her play The Water Children was recognized as “the most challenging political play” by L.A. Weekly and earned six L.A. Drama Critics nominations.
For MacLeod, a hometown production has a special charm that the more hallowed boards her pieces have been performed on don’t quite capture. “It’s been fun to discover the play together with the students, and it’s been a useful opportunity to hone the script,” she said. “Although this is ‘just’ a college production, I want it to be particularly good for my hometown crowd — my students, my colleagues, my friends and my family.”
After the Family Weekend performances, the play will be performed at ACT’s youth conservatory in San Francisco.
Beginning Oct. 13, tickets are available by calling the Bolton Theater Box Office at 740-427-5546. Tickets may be purchased at the door if the performance is not sold out. General Admission is $7.50; groups of 10 or more receive a discounted rate of $5 per individual. Tickets for people over 65, non-Kenyon students and children under 12 are $4. Admission for Kenyon students is $2.
by Matthew Eley '15