Western Reserve Playhouse staging ‘excellent’ ‘Cuckoo’s Nest’

By David Ritchey

Starring in Western Reserve Playhouse’s production of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” are, from left, Vince Sarowatz, Ryan Rasnick, Craig Webb, Dennis Burby, Andrew Gordon, Ryan Dyke, April Deming and Joe Turner.
Photo: Chris Douglas

Western Reserve Playhouse (WRP) continues its run of successful performances with “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” which runs through May 26.

The script, written by Dale Wasserman, is based on the book by Ken Kesey.

The story is set in a psychiatric hospital in Oregon. The men locked in the hospital have few choices in the world. They have been incarcerated in the hospital because of things the world has done to them. Enough medicine makes them quiet, gentle and obviously controlled. The men are tamed by Nurse Ratched (April Deming) and a few male attendants. Everything runs smoothly until McMurphy (Ryan Rasnick) is assigned to the ward shared by the other patients.

McMurphy wants to take care of the men in his ward. He wants the men to get afternoon TV privileges so they can watch the World Series on TV. McMurphy wants the men to have the freedom to gamble, which is against hospital rules and regulations. Hard liquor, wine and beer in any form are not permitted. With McMurphy’s encouragement, the men have campaigned for a party. Nurse Ratched is opposed.

Much of the success of this production belongs to Director Brian Westerley, WRP co-artistic director. Westerley selects scripts to challenge himself as a director and to challenge the audience. He carefully casts performers and works to bring out the best in each actor.

Westerley brought out the superb difference between McMurphy and Nurse Ratched. McMurphy is masculine and strong and Ratched is almost soft spoken, but strong and tough. The director keeps the patient and the nurse ready to fight a war against each other.

The change in Chief Bromden (Dennis Burby), a Native American chief who was destroyed by the treatment in the psychiatric hospital, illustrates the excellent work that can be done by a good actor as he works to change his character.

This is an excellent production. One actor is not better than the other. The actors are simply dedicated to telling an excellent story and telling it well.

The show is running during Mental Health Awareness Month. WRP partnered with Portage Path Behavioral Health and is featuring talkbacks after the performances on May 20 and 25. The talkbacks include the ability to talk with the cast and director, as well as different clinicians who specialize in mental illness. On May 12, the talkback was informative and helpful. Try not to miss this added feature of the performance.

For tickets, call 330-620-7314 or visit www.westernreserveplayhouse.org.

David Ritchey has a Ph.D. in communications and is a professor of communications at The University of Akron. He is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association and the Cleveland Critics Circle.

Teen Acting & Coaching Workshop Announced

The class is open to high school age students for a four week run of 1.5 hours each class. The cost is $100.

The class starts July 5th 10:00 AM – 11:30 AM

Week 1: Intro & expectations
Week 2: Choosing projects
Week 3: Analyze, develop, discuss
Week 4: Justify results, perform, critique

“I have made theatre my life. As a former professional Equity actor, I have performed from New York to California & in most of the regional & community theatres in Northeastern Ohio, starting with the Cleveland Playhouse as a child. Western Reserve Playhouse has become a favorite theatre of mine after performing in six shows here in the past eight years. Teaching & sharing some of my theatre knowledge & experiences will hopefully benefit young people with similar interests.” (Harriet DeVeto).

Western Reserve Playhouse Offers an Intense Examination of Timeless Drama ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’

April Deming (center) with castmates from Western Reserve Payhouse’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”
 
WHO: Western Reserve Playhouse
WHAT: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Dale Wasserman, based on the book by Ken Kesey; directed by Brian Westerley
WHEN: Now through May 26
WHERE: Western Reserve Playhouse, 3326 Everett Rd., Bath, OH 44286
HOW: To reserve tickets, please visit the company website atwww.westernreserveplayhouse.org
It is fitting that Western Reserve Playhouse opened their latest production, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, during the weekend of Mother’s Day. You should definitely bring your mom to this show, but warn her ahead of time that she’s about to witness the mother of all psychological dramas.
In a way, this play is about a no-nonsense matriarch who nurtures and disciplines her children. It’s just that the matriarch is a no-nonsense nurse and her “children” are mental hospital patients.
Director Brian Westerley and actress April Deming carefully collaborated to make the character of Nurse Ratched less institutional and more maternal, softening her appearance as well as her initial reaction to newcomer McMurphy. This makes her later actions all the more chilling, giving Deming an impressive showcase in the role.
Written by Dale Wasserman and based on the book by Ken Kesey, this story of one man against the system takes on a timeless quality, especially considering Westerley’s modern touches. The director has also partnered with Portage Path Behavioral Health to provide clinical talkbacks on May 12th, 20th and 25th that coincide with Mental Health Awareness Month.
In addition to Deming, the rest of the Cuckoo cast delivers with their quirky, heartfelt portrayals. Ryan Rasnick shines in his stage debut as showoff McMurphy, and Ryan M. Dyke is equally compelling as vulnerable Billy Bibbit. They lead the talented troupe, which also features Joe Turner, Dennis Burby, Andrew Gordon, Marc Dusini, Craig A. Webb, Irv Korman, Abby Morris, Vince Sarowatz, Bradley Haramis, David Wagar, Mikhayla Wilkins and Annette Fernandez.
WRP’s creative staff, under the guidance of technical director Jim Gremba, turns the theatre into a hospitable hospital. Westerley teamed with Artie Fizz on the set design, TL Codella handles lighting duties, Hazen Tobar provides sound, and Kelsey Tomlinson supplies the costumes.
Review by Rich Stimac of inthelandofcleve blog

Multi-Tasker Ryan M. Dyke Lands In Western Reserve Playhouse’s ‘Cuckoo’s Nest’ Before Entering Millennial Theatre Project’s ‘Little Shop of Horrors’

Ryan M. Dyke (Photo credit: Shane Wynn)

If you don’t see much of Ryan M. Dyke the next few months, don’t worry — he’s just going to be spending a lot of time at a mental hospital and a flower shop. From May 11-26, Ryan will be portraying Billy Bibbit in Western Reserve Playhouse’s upcoming production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Then he will be joining Millennial Theatre Project at the Akron Civic Theatre from August 8-10 as The Dentist in Little Shop of Horrors.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest — written by Dale Wasserman and based on the book by Ken Kesey — is being helmed by WRP Co-Artistic Director Brian Westerley. The classic play will be presented at the venue, located at 3326 Everett Road in Bath. To reserve tickets, visit the website atwww.westernreserveplayhouse.org.

The production will run during Mental Health Awareness Month. As part of their commitment to community awareness, WRP is partnering with Portage Path Behavioral Health to bring you this show. In doing so, WRP & PPBH will be holding talkbacks after the performances on May 12th, 20th and 25th. These talkbacks will include the ability to talk with the cast and director, as well as different clinicians who specialize in mental illness.

The Cuckoo’s Nest cast also features April Deming, Ryan Rasnick, Joe Turner, Dennis Burby, Andrew Gordon, Marc Dusini, Craig A. Webb, Irv Korman, Abby Morris, Vince Sarowatz, Bradley Haramis, David Wagar, Mikhayla Wilkins and Annette Fernandez.

Ryan M. Dyke (fourth from left) with castmates from 
Western Reserve Payhouse’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”

 


LandOfCleve: Describe yourself in 25 words or less.
Ryan: I like to stay busy — like really busy! I do community theatre, perform with my improv troupe, play in a band, and co-host a podcast!
LandOfCleve: Where were you born, and where did you grow up?
Ryan: #justakidfromakron
LandOfCleve: Where do you live now, and where do you work?
Ryan: I live with two roommates, two cats, and one crazy puppy in Norton, and work at The Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank.
LandOfCleve: What are your other Northeast Ohio connections?
Ryan: I’ve lived in this area my whole life. I love this city, and the eccentric people in it. There’s always something to do and something to see, so I try my best to stay busy and meet as many new people as possible.
LandOfCleve: How did your background and education prepare you for a career in the theatre?
Ryan: It really didn’t — I started college, but I didn’t graduate. I got my trade school degree in CNC machining, and worked in factories and machine shops for seven years. I didn’t do theatre in high school, and had no interest until about six years ago. Eventually, I got dragged into theatre by a friend, and fell in love with it. I’ve been performing ever since!
LandOfCleve: Tell us about a few of your favorite past local stage and/or screen experiences.
Ryan: I’ve had the great fortune to be part of many fantastic shows over my short career so far, and I’ve learned something from all of them! One of my favorite roles was Lumiere in Beauty and the Beast. It was my first musical, and I had so much fun with it! I also recently performed as Rod in the sold-out run ofAvenue Q at the Akron Civic Theatre, and again in the revival of it a year later. Following that, I got to do the “Time Warp” in The Rocky Horror Show as everyone’s favorite faithful handyman, Riff-Raff, which was part of the Millennial Theatre Project –the same with Avenue Q. A few other favorite parts I’ve played are Juror #10 in 12 Angry Jurors, Peter in Diary of Anne Frank, and Mr Hilltop in Young Frankenstein.


LandOfCleve: Tell us about your past involvement with Western Reserve Playhouse.

Ryan: I was previously part of the Ensemble in Dogfight, so this is just my second production with WRP. I got to dance, sing and dress in drag — it was a lot of fun! Dogfight was different then anything I had ever done before… I told friends coming to see that it was “heavy.” The production was a fantastic experience, and I’m glad I was able to take part in it!
LandOfCleve: What character do you play in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and what is your approach to your role?
Ryan: I play Billy Bibbit: the lovable, stuttering young man who has had a hard life. Without giving too much away, I’ll say that Billy goes on a journey in this story that has consequences for all involved. My approach to playing this complex character is to keep him as fun as I can for as long as I can!
LandOfCleve: How have the director, cast and crew collaborated to bring this show to life?
Ryan: The cast of this show is filled with amazing actors, both young and younger, who are a joy to watch! Each and every one of them brings life and love to their character, and I’m honored to join them. Brian Westerley, our director, and Jeff Bixby, our stage manager, have done a fantastic job researching this show and helping us find the moments that’ll really connect with the audience.
LandOfCleve: What can audiences expect when they come see the show?
Ryan: A fantastic rollercoaster of emotion — filled with laughter as well as moments of sheer panic, you don’t want to miss this one!
LandOfCleve: What are your dream roles or types of characters you’d like to play in the future?
Ryan: I’ve only recently started doing musicals and it’s been a challenging experience. I would love the chance to play more characters that stretch me as an actor and makes me try new things.

As for future roles, I would love the opportunity to be in the musical Once. In it, the actors play their instruments, dance, and sing, all at the same time, so it’s a multi-tasker’s dream role!

LandOfCleve: What other upcoming projects and productions are you working on?
Ryan: My comedy troupe, Just Go With It Improv, has an upcoming tour in July. We will be performing at various public libraries, bringing our Ankle Biters short-form Improv show and workshop. It’s kid-friendly and a great time for the whole family! For more information on that, check out our Facebook and website: www.justgowithitimprov.com for more details.
I also have another upcoming production with Millennial Theatre Project at the Akron Civic Theatre in August. I will be portraying The Dentist in Little Shop of Horrors. I’m really excited for this show and can’t wait to bring that crazy sadist to life — get your tickets now for August 8th, 9th and 10th!
LandOfCleve: What advice do you have for aspiring actors and actresses?
Ryan: Get out there and make friends, meet new people! They don’t even have to be specifically in the theatre world.

Everyone has experiences and stories, and you can learn so much about what makes everyone unique. I think that has helped me understand some of the characters I’ve been.

I also think it has made me a better actor, because it taught me that what we do matters to people — we’re not not just playing characters when we act, we are playing people (or a puppet, or a candlestick, or a murderous alien)!

One more piece of advice — take an improv class! It’ll help your stage presence and give you more confidence on stage.

LandOfCleve: Anything else you would like to add or promote?
Ryan: Like previously mentioned, come check out Just Go With It Improv! We have plenty of upcoming shows. Also, my band, Copper Pennies, has a couple of gigs this summer that you can find on our Facebook page. And finally, don’t forget to come see Little Shop of Horrors at the Akron Civic Theatre on August 8th, 9th and 10th — tickets are on sale now!

OPENS FRIDAY!!!! GET YOUR TICKETS TODAY!

April Deming Rules the Roost as Nurse Ratched in Western Reserve Playhouse’s ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’

Cleveland-born actress-director April Deming moved back to Ohio in 2011, and has made herself right at home again on area stages. She will be spending the next few weeks away from home and in the hospital, but thankfully not as a patient. From May 11-26, April is portraying the steel-nerved Nurse Ratched in Western Reserve Playhouse’s upcoming production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

Written by Dale Wasserman — based on the book by Ken Kesey — the WRP production is being helmed by WRP Co-Artistic Director Brian Westerley. The show will run during Mental Health Awareness Month, May 11-26. As part of their commitment to community awareness, WRP is partnering with Portage Path Behavioral Health to bring you this show. In doing so, WRP & PPBH will be holding talkbacks after the performances on May 12th, 20th and 25th. These talkbacks will include the ability to talk with the cast and director, as well as different clinicians who specialize in mental illness.

In addition to April, the ensemble also features Ryan Rasnick, Joe Turner, Dennis Burby, Andrew Gordon, Marc Dusini, Craig A. Webb, Irv Korman, Ryan M. Dyke, Abby Morris, Vince Sarowatz, Bradley Haramis, David Wagar, Mikhayla Wilkins and Annette Fernandez.

The classic play will be presented at Western Reserve Playhouse, located at 3326 Everett Road in Bath. To reserve tickets, visit the company website at www.westernreserveplayhouse.org.

LandOfCleve: Where were you born, and where did you grow up? 

April: Born and raised in Cleveland Ohio but moved away when I went to college.

LandOfCleve: Where do you live now, and where do you work?

April: I live in Cuyahoga Falls. I am sort of a professional volunteer.

LandOfCleve: What are your other Northeast Ohio connections?

April: I have three daughters that live in the area now. One sister and one brother on Cleveland’s west side.

LandOfCleve: How did your background and education prepare you for a career in the theatre?

April: My degree is in theatre with a concentration in acting and directing. It is what I have always done.

LandOfCleve: Tell us about a few of your favorite past local stage and/or screen experiences.

April: Most of my current favorites have been at Weathervane Community Playhouse in Akron where I am a member of the Board of Trustees. In 2016 I played Sonia in Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike and I played Julia Budder in It’s Only a Play last fall.

LandOfCleve: Tell us about your past involvement with Western Reserve Playhouse.

April: I have only been an audience member so far. This is my first time on the WRP stage.

April Deming (center) with castmates from WRP’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”

 
 

LandOfCleve: What character do you play in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and what is your approach to your role?

April: I play Nurse Ratched. I approached the role by deciding for myself why she is so controlling and demanding. I think her control stems from emotional abuse where SHE was controlled (most probably by a demanding father). No one is this obsessive without cause.

LandOfCleve: How have the director, cast and crew collaborated to bring this show to life?

April: Brian Westerley (our director) has worked to keep us developing a character rather than presenting “caricatures.” The partnership with Pathways has given us a real-life view of mental health issues beyond the hints present in the script.

LandOfCleve: What can audiences expect when they come see the show?

April: It’s a good script and I hope the audience feels the confines of what life is like for these men. “The ward” is a little claustrophobic and there is a very real power struggle between Nurse Ratched and R. P. McMurphy.

LandOfCleve: What are your dream roles or types of characters you’d like to play in the future?

April: I have been so lucky to play so many “dream” roles already. I love new material and keep my eyes open for new parts that might appeal to me.

LandOfCleve: What other upcoming projects and productions are you working on?

April: Weathervane Community Playhouse is gearing up for our 8 x 10 Festival. Eight, new ten minute plays (submitted to Weathervane) are chosen to be performed the weekend of July 19 – 22, 2018. The audience gets to vote on which play they like best. The top three receive a cash prize.

LandOfCleve: What advice do you have for aspiring actors and actresses?

April: Do what you love. If you have a career in something besides theatre you can still pursue your love of Theatre in your spare time.

LandOfCleve: Anything else you would like to add or promote?

April: The Cleveland/Akron area has an abundance of arts and theatre. Take advantage of that and go see all that you can.

And kudos to Western Reserve Playhouse in putting forth a complete season. Good theatre benefits all of us.

‘Cuckoo’s Nest’ strives for authenticity at Western Reserve Playhouse

Western Reserve Playhouse director Brian Westerley decided there was no better time to produce the searing drama One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nestthan during Mental Health Awareness Month.

The classic play by Dale Wasserman, based on the book by Ken Kesey, follows the rebellious McMurphy, who plans to spend a short sentence in a mental institution rather than prison. He clashes with Nurse Ratched and soon leads the other patients out of their introversion in a revolt to watch the World Series on TV as well as a late-night party with booze and women. Catatonic character Chief Bromden (Dennis Burby) is the story’s narrator, speaking only to the audience.

The show, which has long been on Westerley’s bucket list to direct, runs Friday through May 26 at the theater at 3326 Everett Road, Bath.

Sean Blake, a licensed professional clinical counselor who is vice president of clinical outpatient services at Portage Path Behavioral Health, will be a part of talk-backs with the cast after the Saturday show, as well as the May 20 and May 25 performances. His organization will have an informational table at the back of the theater.

“Hopefully, it’s to educate people that mental illness is an illness, it’s not something to laugh at,’’ Westerley said. “It’s not funny. The humor comes from the writing of the script but it shouldn’t be caricatures bouncing all over the walls. I always say these are people with mental illnesses, rather than mental illnesses masquerading as people.”

The drama contains adult language and themes. Leading this story of a battle of wills is Ryan Rasnick as McMurphy and April Deming as Ratched.

“As soon as he walked in the door, he had this charisma,’’ Westerley said of Rasnick, who plays a charming rogue.

The director said he also looked the part because he has red hair as specified in the book.

Rasnick, originally from Monroeville, Ohio, is making his stage debut. He is an Army veteran who saw combat in Iraq and has experience with spoken word poem readings and open mic comedies.

Westerley encouraged his cast to read Kesey’s book and look for clues for their characters’ diagnoses. That research was followed up by seals of approval from Blake, in an effort to make the characters authentic. Blake helped Westerley key in on important staging details, including the fact that the mental institution would not have art on the walls because it could be used as a weapon.

The 15-member cast also toured Portage Path’s Psychiatric Emergency Services ward in Akron to see what a ward was like and to ask questions of both Blake and Candace Pallante, vice president of Psychiatric Emergency Services.

“I definitely wanted to make sure I did my homework on this one,’’ Westerley said. “It was sobering for a lot of us.”

Craig A. Webb Plays Sarcastic Patient Scanlon in Western Reserve Playhouse’s ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’

Craig A. Webb describes himself as “a retired highway worker, anti-war activist, circus clown, and old hippie with a B.A. in Theatre from Cleveland State University.” Now he can add mental patient re-enactor to that list, as he is currently tackling the role of Scanlon in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

The psychological drama will be presented May 11-26 at Western Reserve Playhouse. The venue is located at 3326 Everett Road in Bath. To reserve tickets, please visit the company website atwww.westernreserveplayhouse.org.

Written by Dale Wasserman — based on the book by Ken Kesey — the WRP production is being helmed by WRP Co-Artistic Director Brian Westerley. The cast also features April Deming, Ryan Rasnick, Ryan Dyke, Joe Turner, Dennis Burby, Andrew Gordon, Marc Dusini, Irv Korman, Abby Morris, Vince Sarowatz, Bradley Haramis, David Wagar, Mikhayla Wilkins and Annette Fernandez.

Craig A. Webb (left) with castmates from WRP’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”

LandOfCleve: Where were you born, and where did you grow up?

Craig: I was born in a Bay Village hospital and grew up in East Cleveland and Willoughby Hills


LandOfCleve: Where do you live now, and where do you work?

Craig: I live in the Old Brooklyn neighborhood of Cleveland, and (being retired) currently dabble in writing, acting, motorcycle riding, and general geriatric mischief.

LandOfCleve: What are your other Northeast Ohio connections?

Craig: I attended Kent State University until the National Guard used us for target practice, then I graduated from CSU and worked at many area theatres until marriage and fatherhood required a real job.

LandOfCleve: How did your background and education prepare you for a career in the theatre?

Craig: My theatre degree from CSU included work in acting, playwriting, directing, designing, and theater technology. I also spent 7 years (on & off) performing with B.I.T.E. (the Bezerko Improvisational Theatre Ensemble) and hosting Praise the Ford, a satirical radio comedy on WCSB 98.3 FM. I also toured nationally with The New Shakespeare Company of San Francisco, California, The George Matthews Great London Circus of Martinez, California, and Kelly Brothers’ Circus of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

LandOfCleve: Tell us about a few of your favorite past local stage and/or screen experiences.

Craig: My favorite theatrical experiences include performing improvisational comedy, writing and performing two years of radio satire, touring with Shakespeare and the Circus, and an alumni appearance as Stephano, the drunken butler in The Tempest, which was the final performance in the old CSU Factory Theater where I spent my college years.

LandOfCleve: Tell us about your past involvement with Western Reserve Playhouse.

Craig: I became aware of Western Reserve Playhouse when they declined my one-act for their Short Plays Festival. I came down to see what type of plays they did accept and was enchanted by their old-school, “summer stock” atmosphere. Musicals aren’t my forte (I can’t dance, or carry a tune in a bucket), so I auditioned for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest instead.






LandOfCleve: What character do you play in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and what is your approach to your role?

Craig: I play Scanlon, one of the asylum patients who has very little to say but tends to represent a sarcastic, darker view of the play’s events. I hope to convey a slightly comic touch to the character’s worst observations.

LandOfCleve: How have the director, cast and crew collaborated to bring this show to life?

Craig: Our director Brian Westerly had us visit Portage Path Emergency Services to get some real world insight on mental illness, and despite some of the play’s inconsistencies with current psychiatric practice, has labored to ground our production in reality.

LandOfCleve: What can audiences expect when they come see the show?

Craig: I think audiences can expect to see an honest, authentic production without the Hollywood extravagance and embellishment of the well-known movie.

LandOfCleve: What are your dream roles or types of characters you’d like to play in the future?

Craig: As I am older now, and somewhat portly, the Bard’s most weighty comic characters — Bottom, Sir Toby Belch, and Falstaff — would be worthy roles to consider.

LandOfCleve: What other upcoming projects and productions are you working on?

Craig: I’m always writing, with a satiric novel based on my old radio show and a collection of short Cleveland horror stories already published and several plays up for consideration in various festivals. I’ve also been auditioning for some upcoming productions — so wish me luck!

LandOfCleve: What advice do you have for aspiring actors and actresses?

Craig: I’d advise young actors and actresses to concentrate on their chosen performance area, and not scatter your focus as much as I did. I’d go easy on the improvisation — it makes it difficult to stick to your printed lines. Also, take advantage of the growing opportunities for movie and Internet work in Cleveland.

LandOfCleve: Anything else you would like to add or promote?

Craig: I always like to encourage new work in the theatre, and two great places to see it and participate are Cleveland Public Theater’s Dark Room on the second Tuesday of every month (free beer provided), and Playwrights’ Local classes and workshops in the Waterloo Arts neighborhood.

Transplanted Actress Abby Morris Will Make the Rounds as Nurse Flinn in ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ at Western Reserve Playhouse

Actress Abby Morris is a recent transplant to Northeast Ohio, but she is already settling in nicely since moving here from Michigan in 2016. Speaking of transplants, Abby will be portraying the role of Nurse Flinn in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, which will be presented May 11-26 at Western Reserve Playhouse. The venue is located at 3326 Everett Road in Bath. To reserve tickets, please visit the company website at www.westernreserveplayhouse.org.

Based on the book by Ken Kesey, the classic drama by Dale Wasserman will be directed for WRP by Co-Artistic Director Brian Westerley. The cast also includes April Deming, Ryan Rasnick, Joe Turner, Dennis Burby, Craig Webb, Marc Dusini, Irv Korman, Andrew Gordon, Vince Sarowatz, Bradley Haramis, David Wagar, Mikhayla Wilkins and Annette Fernandez.

Abby’s previous credits include Eurydice at Pit and Balcony in Saginaw, MI, and The Taming of the Shrew at Cedarville University Theatre. When she is not onstage, abby can be found teaching high school English.

LandOfCleve: Describe yourself in 25 words or less.

Abby: I’m a wife, sister, daughter, and aunt. I follow Jesus, teach English, and travel often. And I love theatre.

LandOfCleve: Where were you born, and where did you grow up?

Abby: I was born in Saginaw, Michigan, and I grew up in that area of mid-Michigan. (I’m a Michigan State fan, though, so don’t get too worried. I cheer against maize and blue, too.)

LandOfCleve: Where do you live now, and where do you work?

Abby: I live in Cuyahoga Falls, and I’ve been substitute teaching this year. I spent September through March in the Nordonia district, and I’m finishing the school year teaching at Copley High School.

LandOfCleve: What are your other Northeast Ohio connections?

Abby: My husband is Akron born-and-raised. After attending Cedarville University, Stephen came home to the Akron area and I went home to Michigan. He proposed to me about a year later, and I joined him in Cuyahoga Falls after our wedding in June 2016.

LandOfCleve: How did your background and education prepare you for a career in the theatre?

Abby: I had many excellent opportunities to participate in high-quality theatre from high school through college. Although I never took a theatre class at Cedarville, I frequently participated in the Acting or Directing classes for my friends. After my theatre passion began in about ninth grade, I actively sought out opportunities to grow and learn as an actress and a thespian. And really, becoming an English teacher has helped me to read scripts closely, to do my outside research, to empathize with characters, and to listen well, both on and off stage.

LandOfCleve: Tell us about a few of your favorite past local stage and/or screen experiences.

Abby: Since I’m new to the area, I haven’t had too many local stage experiences. I did have the chance to participate in the selection process for the 2017 8×10 Theatrefest at Weathervane Playhouse in Akron. I was both slightly intimidated and truly ecstatic to sit in a room with local theatre legends, really, as we read through the top 16 scripts. Unfortunately, I was out of town during the rehearsal process, but I did thoroughly enjoy seeing the final product last July.

LandOfCleve: Tell us about your past involvement with Western Reserve Playhouse.

Abby: Well, a little over a month ago, I fell into a true theatre withdrawal. I recognized my desperation and found the Cleveland Stage Alliance website. After searching through local theatres with upcoming auditions, I saw that Western Reserve Playhouse 1) had upcoming auditions, 2) was doing a show I would love to be a part of, and 3) was not terribly far away. A triple threat. Before my internet search and audition, I had not known of Western Reserve Playhouse. I’m so glad I found it!

LandOfCleve: What character do you play in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and how are you approaching the role?

Abby: I am Nurse Flinn, the “vapid,” naive, deeply Catholic nurse who both admires and fears Nurse Ratched’s leadership style on the Psych ward. Part of why I was excited to audition for this show, is that I read this book for the first time in February, when some of my students selected it as an independent reading book. As I’ve become Nurse Flinn, I’ve drawn on what I know of her from the book, as well as what I imagine her background to be. What would cause a slightly incompetent nurse to stay at a job where she’s partially scared of both her patients and her boss? And what motivated her to apply for this job initially? I’ve enjoyed exploring these– and other– questions, knowing that regardless of stage time or lines, I have the chance to become a real person, “to climb into someone’s skin and walk around in it,” as Atticus Finch would say. And I love doing that.

LandOfCleve: How have the director, cast and crew collaborated to bring this show to life?

Abby: Brian, our director, has had infectious enthusiasm and great insights for us through the whole process. He instructed us not to watch the film between auditions and performance, so that we can create our own characters without being influenced by the famous performances in the 1975 classic. Our main inspiration has come from the original novel by Ken Kesey. Some of my favorite collaborating, though, comes from the spontaneous between-scenes conversations with cast members. “What would happen if I tried…?” or “Oh, what if you said it like this…?” or “So why do you think she feels that way?” Although I’ve enjoyed the few solo pieces I’ve done, I thrive on the collaboration of a full show.

LandOfCleve: What can audiences expect when they come see the show?

Abby: Please expect to laugh. Expect shocks and surprises, even if you know the story well. And most importantly, expect to think and to question what you might have assumed about these characters, their motivations, and the truths they reflect about fear, dignity, and sacrifice.

LandOfCleve: What are your dream roles or types of characters you’d like to play in the future?

Abby: As long as I can get on-board with the message of a show, I’m fairly content in any role. With that being said, I loved my previous roles of the White Witch, Kate (The Taming of the Shrew), and Eurydice. I think I would really enjoy a role along the lines of the White Witch– a female character whose primary motivation does not revolve around romantic love.

LandOfCleve: What other upcoming projects and productions are you working on?

Abby: I have my eyes on a few upcoming audition dates, but right now, I’m focused on Cuckoo’s Nest.

LandOfCleve: What advice do you have for aspiring actors and actresses?

Abby: Read books and watch movies and learn from the people in your life. To me, acting is empathizing. Consume as many stories as you can, and imagine how it would feel to be each of the characters.

Committed Actor Andrew Gordon Shaken and Stirred as Martini in ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ at Western Reserve Playhouse

Andrew Gordon is committed — literally — to making his first show at Western Reserve Playhouse a memorable one. He will be portrayin the mental ward patient Martini in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, which will be presented May 11-26.

The classic drama by Dale Wasserman, based on the book by Ken Kesey, will be directed for WRP by Co-Artistic Director Brian Westerley. The cast also includes April Deming, Ryan Rasnick, Ryan Dyke, Joe Turner, Dennis Burby, Craig Webb, Marc Dusini, Irv Korman, Abby Morris, Vince Sarowatz, Bradley Haramis, David Wagar, Mikhayla Wilkins and Annette Fernandez.

The venue is located at 3326 Everett Road in Bath. To reserve tickets, please visit the company website at www.westernreserveplayhouse.org.

Andrew has worked in community theatre for over 10 years. He has played a variety of roles including Jesus/Stephen Hawking in End Days, Mike Connor in Philadelphia Story, and Pinocchio in Shrek. He has also been acting in film and TV for several years mostly in the Cleveland and Pittsburgh area.

LandOfCleve: Describe yourself in 25 words or less.

Andrew: Once you get past the sarcasm, I’m fun, witty and I love my family and friends (slightly more than beer).

LandOfCleve: Where were you born, and where did you grow up?

Andrew: Born and raised in Massachusetts. Grew up in Longmeadow and spent my formative years in Boston.

LandOfCleve: Where do you live now, and where do you work?

Andrew: I live in Twinsburg Township and my wife and I run a consulting business together called Pricing Empowered as well as a webs scraping service.

LandOfCleve: What are your other Northeast Ohio connections?

Andrew: I also work as an actor in local film, TV and commercials as close as Cleveland and as far away as CT.

LandOfCleve: How did your background and education prepare you for a career in the theatre?

Andrew: I was sucked into theatre by my kids. My background working in the music entertainment field in buying and promotions helped prepare me from being in front of large crowds and speaking in public.

LandOfCleve:  Tell us about a few of your favorite past local stage and/or screen experiences.

Andrew: I really enjoyed playing the dual role of Jesus and Stephen Hawking in End Days at River Street Theatre. It was a fun role and required some quick changes. I also recently did a short film called Worker Bea and have been lucky enough to be in several films as an actor and stand-in and enjoyed being on set and watching many great actors perform in film.

LandOfCleve: What character do you play in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and what is your approach to your role?

Andrew: I play the character of Martini. I take a method acting approach to my roles, which can sometimes drive my wife crazy. I researched the symptoms of my character and spend a lot of time practicing the physicality of my character in addition to my lines. I want my portrayal to be as realistic as possible and not come off as a caricature.

LandOfCleve: How have the director, cast and crew collaborated to bring this show to life?

Andrew: Our director, Brian Westerley, has immersed himself in reading the book and doing tons of research on mental health and went as far as to let us go to Portage Path Emergency Services to witness an actual facility and talk with the people there. We also had a charcter day where we given questions about our character to answer and then time to give our opinions on our own, and other, characters.

LandOfCleve: What can audiences expect when they come see the show?

Andrew: They will see a different show experience them they are used to. The characters will not be afraid to break the fourth wall nor will they feel the need to “cheat out” to the audience. They can expect to laugh, be sad, be mad, etc. They will be invested in these people’s lives.

LandOfCleve: What are your dream roles or types of characters you’d like to play in the future?

Andrew: Simple — Ash in Evil Dead!

LandOfCleve: What other upcoming projects and productions are you working on?

Andrew: I have a couple roles in different feature films and will be trying out for the 10-10 Festival with my daughter in Chagrin.

LandOfCleve: What advice do you have for aspiring actors and actresses?

Andrew: Don’t take things personal. Take criticism and grow from it. Don’t play a character, be the character. Research your and study your roles. Acting is much more than remembering lines. Have a thick skin and observe everything you can.

SHOW DETAILS 

WHO: Western Reserve Playhouse

WHAT: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Dale Wasserman, based on the book by Ken Kesey; directed by Brian Westerley

WHEN: May 11-26

WHERE: Western Reserve Playhouse, 3326 Everett Rd., Bath, OH 44286

HOW: To reserve tickets, please visit the company website at www.westernreserveplayhouse.org