Next up for MCT is Willam Inge’s BUS STOP which starts April 12. This production is a collaboration between MCT and UW-Parkside. Because of this we thought it would be interesting to sit down and speak with both the professional and student actors that are involved. We will be posting several of these interviews and today we are featuring Jamie Cheatham. Jamie is both a professional actor and the head of the acting program at UW-Parkside. In BUS STOP, he will be playing Dr. Lyman as well as serving as the fight choreographer.
What is it like “going back” to a semi-academic theatre setting with this BUS STOP collaboration?
I teach acting at Parkside, so there's no "going back" for me. I love academic theatre. At Parkside we call ourselves a 'company' instead of a department. It's great to be able to train together and produce together...a company in the true sense.
This is a great opportunity for our students to be exposed to a more professional setting. We keep equity hours, rehearsing 6-8 hours a day, 6 days a week, over a shorter time frame than we usually find in academic theatre. At school we rehearse in shorter blocks and shorter weeks for about a week or two longer. Either way, it's a challenge, I know, for our students to do all this rehearsing and stay on top of their work as students. Somehow they do it! I'm really proud of them.
Would you like to share any memories of your academic theatre experience?
When I was an undergrad, I occasionally acted with my teachers in shows. It was always a bit nerve wracking, but it also made you 'play at the top of your game.' I hope my presence in the cast is a positive experience for my students. I'm having a terrific time working with them, and watching their work.
What lesson do you hope comes out of this collaboration between UW-Parkside and MCT? Do you feel that you have learned something as well?
As a teacher of acting, I hope to learn something new about my work as an artist every time I act, direct or teach. The great and challenging thing about being an artist is that there is no 'right' answer. We have to trust and explore, and then put it all on stage without really 'knowing' if it will 'work.'
It's been a wonderful collaboration with MCT. I hope that many Milwaukee patrons and theatre folk will get a good chance to see the calibre of our students and continue to be interested in us as a program and a great source for young theatre artists. I'm glad that Michael came to us with such an exciting project.
Tell us your first reaction upon reading BUS STOP.
Well, this is the first time that I've read it looking specifically at Dr. Lyman. There are a lot of great lines and comic moments, but there are also terrific challenges. I read the script and thought...I hope I can figure out how to play this! He's something of a degenerate, he calls himself 'an old reprobate.' Inge is very kind to Dr. Lyman. Our modern sensibilities are more inclined to see him as a predator, which he is. However, Inge seems to be writing himself very much into this role (many of the roles, really, but Lyman especially). He acknowledges Lyman's guilt and self loathing, but also allows him to make an on stage confession. He is a terrific role, I think, because sometimes the audiences must sympathize with him, and at others, despise him, and then back again. A tricky balance!
I was also struck with how funny the script is while also having so much heart, and at times pathos. It's a really rich piece.