By Kimberly Bogers
Pensacola State College’s Performing Arts Department has put on many wonderful productions over the years, the most recent being “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” This production had four showings from February 26th to March 1st, and was a big success.
The director of the production Rodney Whatley has been very involved with PSC’s Performing Arts Department over the years. Since beginning his work with the department, he has participated in 48 productions.
“I first started out as an adjunct in 2002, and shortly thereafter began acting in plays, serving as Associate Director and Asstistant Director,” Whatley said. “I did seven shows in that capacity. I’ve acted in 3 shows since I became Director of Theatre and a full-time faculty member. I direct four shows per year, and that is since 2005.”
For Nancy Prescott, who played the intense roll of Nurse Ratched, this was her first time acting in a PSC production.
“This is my first production at Pensacola State as a student, although Dr. Whatley directs a workshop for high school students every summer which I have participated in.”
For Jerod Perez, who played the roll of Scanlon, this show was his second production with PSC. He previously played Sherlock Holmes in PSC’s production of “Sherlock Holmes and the Adventures of the Suicide Club”.
Perez was surprised at how quickly the show went from rehearsals to opening weekend.
“It was a very fast production. I’ve noticed that whenever I do PSC shows they always (finish) really quick; it’s in-and-out. We auditioned for this near the end of January and we’re already into February and (it’s) the show weekend.”
The show had rehearsal for five weeks before showtime, and Prescott says that she really enjoyed her time with the cast and crew during rehearsals.
“Rarely is a cast so welcoming and works so well together. It was an absolute pleasure to get to go to rehearsal every weeknight for the past 5 weeks. I was always looking forward to it.”
However, despite having a great experience with the production, Nurse Ratched was not an easy roll for Prescott to take on.
“Nurse Ratched, and the rest of 1960’s America’s understanding of mental illness, was incredibly flawed,” Prescott said. “The way Nurse Ratched tries to cure her patients through confinement and strict rule is a far cry from the more effective methods that we are beginning to employ today. There is still work to be done in the treatment of mental illness but improvements are being made. Knowing that, it was hard and exhausting to take Miss Ratched’s aggressive courses of action and to be so blatantly unsympathetic.”
Perez’s character was not an easy one to portray either, but he found that he really enjoyed researching Scanlon and figuring out how to give Scanlon a unique backstory.
“My favorite part about being in this play was probably doing the character research, because if you get a main character like McMurphy or Nurse Ratched you’re character’s kind of set in stone,” Perez said.”When you get like a side character…you’re able to go in and kind of do research and look at your lines and go, ‘Why would he be in a mental institution?’”
To try and understand what Scanlon and the other characters in the production were going through, Perez also researched what mental institutions used to be like, and how they have greatly improved over the years. The cast and crew did their very best to make the audience aware of mental health problems and how they are dealt with in today’s society.
“We had mental health specialists come in and sit in on a bunch of the rehearsals,” said Perez. “During the first opening night we actually had a Q&A with psychiatrists and psychologists with the audience where they wanted to know more and kind of talk to us more about mental health.”
Despite the difficult subject matter, the actors in the play made all the characters very compelling and entertaining to watch. Prescott feels very proud of her fellow cast members and the way they represented their characters.
“There was a moment in rehearsal one night where I think everybody in the cast came to the same silent conclusion. We all wanted to make sure that this underrepresented group of individuals was portrayed with utmost dignity. Although this show had punchlines, we wanted to bring life and truth to these characters and make it clear that we were not making fun of them. I was proud of everybody’s dedication to equality, empathy and accurate representation.”
Perez expressed his gratitude to the production’s tech crew.
“Overall it’s been a pretty smooth production, there have been no big hang-ups…give it up for all the tech crew pretty much pulling it all together in like one week, because we were running things on the stage and in Rodney’s classroom and stuff and it was like, ‘Ok, how is this going to work?’ We got here the beginning of tech week and it was if they had been with us the whole time running lights and running sound.”
Whatley feels proud of not only the cast and crew, but the audience’s reaction to the show as well.
“It made the actors and crew extremely happy to be so fondly embraced during all four performances. With all humility in myself and all pride in them, I am glad to say we had standing ovations for all four performances. I am also proud of the ensemble spirit developed by the actors; no one tried to steal the show and they became a real team, which is the spirit of theatre.”
The college’s next show will be the musical comedy “Zombie Prom.” This show will be presented from May 14th-17th. Whatley is currently working on the its pre-production. If you are interested in being a cast member, auditions will be held on March 23rd-24th.Have at least 16 bars of a song of your choice prepared, and it is recommended that you bring the sheet music for the song. Dress accordingly for choreography audition (no sandals, flip flops, etc.). For more information, contact Rodney Whatley at 850-484-1807 or email@example.com.