Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson is The Highwood’s Theatre‘s first mixed-cast production, featuring professional and student actors. The production will play at the Katzen Arts Center at American University on Saturday, March 8 at 5:00 and 8:00 PM and Sunday, March 9 at 1:00, 4:00, and 7:00 PM. The show is co-directed by Kevin Kearney (the Executive Director of The Highwood Theatre), Leora Cherry (a 10th grader at School for Tomorrow), and Dylan Kaufman (an 8th grader at Takoma Park Middle School).
Joel: What is your vision for this production?
Kevin: Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson is a ridiculously hilarious, energetic, and riveting production. Taken at face value, it’s an unforgettable evening of theatre. But start to strip away the flashy lights, pounding drums, and incredible vocals, and you’re left with a timeless story about human emotion. We are exploring the different levels of ourselves – from the side only our loved ones see, to our public persona, our ridiculous and crazy side, and, of course, our inner rock star. We hope to break down the barriers between the untouchables in the world – the politicians, celebrities, rock stars – and ourselves. There’s no difference; we’re all human. In that vein, this production has been such a community effort. While we are the three directors, so much of the creation of the characters and the piece as a whole has come from the cast and crew, incorporating our own emotions and experiences.
What has it been like working with both professional and student actors on such a mature production?
Kevin: Honestly, working with both students and adults has been one of the best parts of this production. We have some really talented actors in this show, both student and professional and watching them work together, completely breaking down the barriers of age, has been incredible. It’s a great learning opportunity both for the students and professionals to work together, help each other, and create together. Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson is a really easy show to get wrapped into – the music is energetic and catchy, and the characters are surprisingly relatable – we really wanted to challenge the students (and adults) with this show and watch them work together to create a fantastic production.
How has working with the cast aided you and the other directors in executing your vision?
Dylan: I feel our vision for the show has been influenced a lot by the cast. Our vision is all about humanity and human emotions, so the actors’ emotions, lives, talents, and ideas have been a big part of the blocking and character work.
What have been the challenges telling a historical story set in modern times?
Leora: I would say that you have to think about how you approach it. I mean you have to think about the historical aspects, yet think about how to approach them in modern time. You can’t have full out nineteenth century petticoats and corsets, so the trick is striking a balance between the circumstances and points of view of historical characters and modern dress, language, and music. The trick is really striking a balance between the language and the design; the emotions are the same in both times.
Why did you want to join the directorial team for The Highwood Theatre’s Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson?
Dylan: I joined the directorial team because I’m usually on stage acting in shows. However, directing is something I always enjoy doing, and this was a great opportunity for me to gain some more experience in the field of directing. It also impacted my decision that there were other directors. I find it a lot easier to direct with other people, because it’s nice to have others to bounce ideas off of.
How has Donna Zdan your Musical Director supported your vision for the production with her work?
Leora: Donna has been faithfully working with the cast since day one. The different levels of emotions are especially clear in the music. You have the full-on rock songs, and the very real, emotional ballads. The style of song is very reflective of the tone of the scene, the emotions of the characters, and how they’re portraying themselves to those around them.
What are some of the challenges and positives of directing and performing in the round?
Leora: Performing in the round gives us a lot more flexibility and allows us to use very natural movement without having to worry about turning your back to the audience, cheating out, etc. On the other hand you have to make sure you include all of the audience and that each moment plays well from all sides. It’s a challenge for actors because you have to be constantly thinking about your body language so that even those looking at your back can understand the intended emotion.
Why should audiences come see Highwood’s Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson? What do you want audiences to take with them after seeing Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson?
Dylan: I think that while Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson is one of the most unique musicals that I’ve ever worked won, it is relatable, and I think that is one of the best qualities a show like this can have. The show is set in modern time and focuses on issues that have been a part of many peoples’ lives from Andrew Jackson’s time to modern time. In addition, the show explores many sides of our emotions and attitudes from the side only our loved ones see to our wild and crazy side. Everyone in the audience will find something to relate to at Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, and the show will leave you thoroughly entertained and also thinking about history, your life, and the power of emotions.
Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson plays on Saturday and Sunday March 8th and 9th at The Katzen Arts Center at American University – 4400 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, in Washington, DC. For tickets, purchase them online, or at the door.