Dale Wasserman

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

February 12 - 28
Ivy Tech Waldron Auditorium

H-T Previews

The Cuckoo’s cast for Cardinal Stage

By Marcela Creps 
February 7, 2016

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Constance Macy is Nurse Ratched in the Cardinal Stage Company production of Ken Kesey’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” Jeremy Hogan | Herald-Times

The decision to stage “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” couldn’t have been an easy one. Finding the right actors to take on some very iconic roles can be a challenge.

When Cardinal decided to perform the play this season, director Randy White immediately cast Mike Price in the lead role of Randle McMurphy. White was also able to cast Constance Macy, who has performed key roles in “August: Osage County” and “The Diary of Anne Frank,” in the role of Nurse Ratched.

All the actors are aware of the popularity of the movie and book, but everyone is committed to creating a unique performance.

“People are familiar with the movie, but the stage play is a bit different,” Price said. “It’s an ensemble work that is demanding of everyone, so everyone has to really step in there and work hard at it. Everyone’s doing that. It’s not an easy show, but its very rewarding.”

Macy, who lives in Indianapolis, has been working to understand her character. She said Nurse Ratched is an “iconic villainous role,” and she had to try to figure out what would motivate such a person to do what she does.

“I have to justify all that for myself and find an arc for her and find her journey through it. It can’t just be one note for two hours. That’s been the challenge, and I’m still figuring that out,” Macy said.

Macy has a friend who knows Louise Fletcher, the actress who played Nurse Ratched in the film. Her friend offered to get her in touch with Fletcher, but Macy declined.

“I didn’t know how that would help me. You need to find these things for yourself and go to that dark place in yourself to look for the seeds of this person. I really admire what she did, but I think mine’s going to be quite different,” Macy said.

Macy said she spent many early rehearsals focused on being jovial so she could separate herself from her character for the other actors.

“I think playing a character that’s so villainous, it does take a toll early on, but we’re getting into a place now where I feel comfortable,” she said.

To help, Macy remembers what she learned in a workshop with Olympia Dukakis. The famed actress encouraged the actors to have a feeling and let it go. Dukakis reminded actors that feelings are a dime a dozen and to not dwell on them.

“That’s how it works. You’re up there. You’re living it in that moment, but then a break is called or you stop and it goes away,” Macy said.

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Left to right, Ian McCabe is Billy, Constance Macy is Nurse Ratched, Jeremy Proulx is Chief Bromden and Mike Price is McMurphy, in the Cardinal Stage Company production of Ken Kesey’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” Jeremy Hogan | Herald-Times


Jeremy Proulx, who plays Chief Bromden, was a few steps ahead of the rest of the cast. Proulx, an actor from Toronto, Canada, performed the role of Chief Bromden last fall in Atlanta, Georgia.

“I was surprised how fresh it was in my bones and my mind doing it last September,” Proulx said.

The actor heard about the audition through backstage.com, and he liked the idea of revisiting the character through a new director. As rehearsals got underway, Proulx said he had to practice a lot of patience as the rest of the actors came to grips with their characters. He also had to make tweaks to his character based on what White, as director, was expecting.

“It was challenging, but I was really, really impressed in terms of the support in the room,” Proulx said, adding that he was intrigued to watch White work with the actors, saying the director was very hands on.

Plus the chance to revisit the character gave Proulx a chance to deepen his understanding of the character with White’s help.

“With the one here, I feel like I’m delving even deeper into the character and into the journey,” Proulx said, adding that it was exciting to do that.

For actor Ian McCabe, the play is a great opportunity to play Billy Bibbitt, a role he’s always wanted to do.

This will be McCabe’s debut performance with Cardinal, and he wasn’t sure he’d get the chance to play one of his dream roles.

Bibbitt is a young man who McCabe said seems much younger. Based on the character, McCabe thought he might not be right for the role.

“I’m 27, and I’m a pretty tall, broad-shouldered bigger guy,” McCabe explained. Being in a college town, McCabe figured there would be huge competition for the role.

“So I was like, I have to give it a shot,” he said.

His first audition didn’t seem to go well. He auditioned with Price, who greeted McCabe like he was an old friend. But McCabe admits he was still nervous and shaking. McCabe said he also nervous as White typed on his computer that created an “intimidating mechanical edifice between you and the other person.”

McCabe said he left the audition and texted his girlfriend that he’d bombed the audition, but he felt alive. When he was called back for a second audition, he thought it was more of a professional courtesy. The actor, who was previously artistic director at the Brown County Playhouse, said he was “shaking at a slower rate” when he left the second audition.

McCabe was unsure how long it took between his audition when he learned he had the part. He left a business meeting and was walking when he looked at his phone and saw an email from White letting him know he had the part.

“That was right before Christmas, and that was like really exciting, and I like yelled out loud in the street,” McCabe said, admitting he’d probably embarrassed anyone near him when he reacted to the news.

During rehearsals, McCabe has learned to understand his character who he views as having a dependent personality disorder. Billy Bibbitt is often going back and forth between Nurse Ratched and Randle, who is a new person on the ward.

“It’s a really great opportunity as an actor to be in this situation of wanting to please and wanting to be loved or liked in favor of two opposing forces. And his motivations are very pure in the sense that he’s not after personal fame or wealth. He just wants to be loved, and he wants to love somebody. He wants to be connected. He just wants to have a positive relationship with these people, and he’s afraid of being alone in the world,” McCabe said.

Understanding their characters and what motivates them is a key to creating an authentic performance. Macy said in a recent rehearsal she was standing there when the stage manager gave her the next line. Macy knew the line, but she was focused on trying to find the right motivation.

“It would just be me saying words. It has to feel … very real for you, and if it doesn’t feel authentic to you, nobody’s going to buy it. That is a challenge,” she said.


Cardinal flies into the Cuckoo’s nest this month

By Joel Pierson 
February 7, 2016

Left to right, Ian McCabe is Billy, Constance Macy is Nurse Ratched, Jeremy Proulx is Chief Bromden and Mike Price is McMurphy in the Cardinal Stage Company production of Ken Kesey’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” Jeremy Hogan | Herald-Times

Ken Kesey’s 1962 novel, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” is a groundbreaking look at life inside an Oregon psychiatric hospital, exposing the challenges and flaws within the behaviorism process. Most people know it from the 1975 film of the same name, which helped ratchet (no pun intended) Jack Nicholson to stardom. Fewer know that in 1963, Dale Wasserman adapted it into a Broadway play. Now you get to know as well, when Cardinal Stage Company brings it to town starting this week.

Forgoing the spacious Buskirk-Chumley Theater, Cardinal takes you to the Waldron Auditorium this time, giving audience members a feeling of being right there with the patients in the institution. The play tells the story of rebellious Randle Patrick McMurphy (Mike Price), a convicted criminal who feigns insanity to serve his sentence in a cushy institution rather than in prison. Once he arrives, he incites rebellion among the patients, stirring them to rise up against the unjust and uncaring staff, led by the iron-fisted Nurse Ratched (Constance Macy).

Joining the pair is Toronto actor Jeremy Proulx, playing the story’s central character, Chief Bromden. Proulx is a First Nations actor who recently played the role of Bromden in Atlanta’s Alliance Theatre production. The portrayal earned him BroadwayWorld.com’s best actor award. There’s every reason to believe he’ll bring the same energy and intensity to Cardinal’s show.

Cardinal’s artistic director Randy White is still flying high after the success of “Mary Poppins,” and while this play is going to be 180 degrees from the last one, he’s looking forward to another big success. “This is a terribly strong cast — one of the best we’ve had. I was thrilled to get Jeremy Proulx on board as Chief Bromden, and to bring back Rick Peeples, who was such an exceptional Scrooge in our ‘Christmas Carol.’ And the rest of the company are experienced and wonderful actors in their own right. I chose ‘Cuckoo’s Nest’ for Mike and Constance. The potential for the production is extraordinary!”

He added that the play “is one of those remarkable American stories that pits a gang of misfits against an unbending authority. The results are complicated, and while I don’t always agree with Kesey’s point of view, it’s fascinating trying to figure out where my sympathies lie in this particular story. And that makes for exciting storytelling and great theater!”

A novel can take you inside the author’s mind, a movie can transport you to another place, but a live stage production puts you in the room with the characters. The Waldron Auditorium is a good choice for this show — just small enough to make the audience feel “locked in” with the patients, but still spacious enough to give the players room to do their thing.

“Cuckoo’s Nest” contains some adult themes, so it’s probably best for high school ages and up. The story is a classic of 20th century American literature, and it translates beautifully to the stage. If you’ve read it or if you haven’t, this is a great opportunity to see this anti-authoritarian story — and you don’t even have to worry about missing the Super Bowl!