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February 14, 2013

Biting into an interesting character | Pitt-Johnstown Theater Department will stage 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest'

JOHNSTOWN — An upcoming student production will go hand-in-hand with acting classes.

“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” will be presented by Pitt-Johnstown Theater Department at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 21-23 and Feb. 28- March 2 in the Studio Theater at Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center in Richland Township.

This will be director Kate Castner-Davis’ first production at Pitt-Johnstown. She has taught theater classes at UPJ for two years.

She also has directed plays for (un)Apologetic Productions and Band of Brothers Shakespeare Company.

Castner-Davis chose “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” because discussions within the theater department pointed toward a need to make sure student productions supported the curriculum that was being taught.

“I wanted to apply what they were learning in class, physicality and character development,” Castner-Davis said. “The characters in this play are rich and have a lot of physical and psychological development. That’s the main reason I chose it.

“This is a strong opportunity for the actors to bite into an interesting character.”

The play is based on a novel written in 1962 by Ken Kesey and is set in a psychiatric hospital.

The patients in the ward are all males and ruled by Nurse Ratched.

“The novel questions individuality and is an anticonformist manifesto,” Castner-Davis said. “The way we conform to society today is through technology and social media. We’re so busy, we follow Facebook and Twitter and forget about ourselves.

“We need to celebrate who we are. Just because you’re different or don’t fit, you’re not crazy,” she said.

“We need to learn to connect with people, to care and get to know people.”

At five weeks, rehearsal time has been short, but Castner-Davis said her student actors have jumped right in and are giving 100 percent.

All the psychiatric patients will be males, while all the nursing staff and doctors will be females.

“We wanted to explore emasculation,” Castner-Davis said. “Each man in there has a woman who destroyed him.”

She said the character of Nurse Ratched is not really doing anything wrong, but she’s going about it in the wrong way.

“She calls them little rabbits, and they do what she says,” Castner-Davis said. “They can’t stand up for themselves, ever.”

She said the female staff is helping to bring out this concept more by being brutal and nice and mean.

“Opposites show how much control the women can have,” she added.

Going with the idea that technology controls us today, the set is going to be set up inside an oversized computer, with the nurses station serving as the mother board.

To make the characters seem small, the walls will be 14 feet high.

“The drama is tragic and sad, refocusing on the notion of what is important,” Castner-Davis said.

“The character of Murphy sacrifices himself by standing up to be who he is. That message is powerful.”

If you go ...

What: “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”

Who: Pitt-Johnstown Theater Department.

Where: Studio Theater at Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center, Richland Township.

When: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 21-23 and Feb. 28-March 2.

Tickets: $10 for general admission and $5 for students.

Information: 269-7200.

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