This is the fifth in a series of interviews with the cast of The Masqueraders’ production of Translations. Meet Ward Ellis Scott, III.
Joel: Introduce yourself to our readers and tell them what other shows you have appeared in and some of the roles you have played.
Ward: Hi! My name is Ward Ellis Scott, III (but everybody calls me Bubba) and I am a firstie at the Naval Academy. I’m from Plymouth, New Hampshire, where the state motto, Live Free or Die, is more than just a saying – it’s a lifestyle. I have four sisters and two brothers, both of whom graduated from the Academy (Class of ’07 and Class of ’14). My father is a retired colonel of Marines now practicing law in Afghanistan, and my mother is a lawyer practicing back home in New Hampshire. I sing in the Men’s Glee Club here at the Academy, and am a part of the comedic doo wop group, the Skivs, one of the club’s three specialty groups. I am majoring in English and minoring in Spanish and French.
I have been acting since I was seven years old; I mainly performed in musical theatre. I was in the original Frindle (Trish Limberg’s musical adaptation of the book by Andrew Clements), Flapper, My Fair Lady, and The Lady Pirates of Captain Brie. I played the lead roles of Pinnocchio/Carl in No Strings Attached and Jack in Into the Woods. While I love singing and musicals, my favorite role (which was actually my first attempt at a dramatic role) was as lead defense attorney, Senator Matthew Harrison Brady in my high school’s production of Inherit the Wind my junior year. In my acting career, there has been nothing more satisfying that successfully showing the internal development of a dynamic character—such was the challenge presented to me with my role in Inherit the Wind.
Why did you want to be in Translations produced by the United States Naval Academy’s Masqueraders?
I had always wanted to get back into acting at the Academy. I played club squash for two years, and between that and the Glee Club, I never had enough free time to do so. When I had Professor Stanlake as my Shakespeare teacher junior year, we had to recite a Shakespearean monologue from memory. I really wanted to recite the Aaron’s Act V, Scene I monologue from Titus Andronicus, wherein he reveals his evil side to Lucius after being captured by the Goths (“nothing grieves me more heartily indeed, / But that I cannot do ten thousand more [evil deeds]). But I figured that would be a little intense, so I chose Nick Bottom’s performance of “Pyramus and Thisbe” in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, when Pyramus mistakes Thisbe for dead. I modified my uniform in class, wearing my ike jacket as a cape and the Midshipman insignia bearing band from our combination covers as a crown. I borrowed a five foot wooden broad sword (the weapon with which I would pierce “that left pap”) that some company mates had made for an engineering project (see? Even engineers can support the arts!). I did my best to capture Bottom’s ass-inine nature, if you will. Afterwards, Professor Stanlake told me that she wanted me to try out for the play the next year. I was pumped that she enjoyed my petit-oeuvre artistique, and I excitingly accepted her offer!
What does this production of Translations say to your generation?
Our production of Translations specifically says a few things. First and foremost, I believe that we succeed in getting across much of the meaning and suggestions of Brian Friel’s play, which is incredibly important. If we were not to succeed in this, then our production would be meaningless. Secondly, I believe that the unique situation and setting of the play provide a hugely important point for today’s generation. This production of the play is performed by Midshipmen—future officers in the United States Navy and the United States Marine Corps—and is being put on at the Academy, itself—a place rich with a history of service, Service, and of defending our great country’s principles. In our generation, in our ever increasingly technological world, there is a swelling emphasis being put on the study of Engineering, of math and sciences (STEM). That one of the top engineering schools – where every graduate (yes, even me! the English major) gets a bachelor of science – boasts a five star theatre program forces those who find themselves in the STEM-IS-BEST school of thought mentioned above to question their beliefs of the relative unimportance of the study of theatre, of literature, and of the arts in general. The Academy’s support of this production suggests the “Big” Navy’s belief in the importance of the study of the Humanities for a broad education and the development of future leaders— after all, the head of the Humanities Division every year is the highest ranking Marine on the Yard.
Further, in our generation, the definitions of existential beliefs are often generated for us to consume without question, be it through the media, movies, sports, et cetera. Many subscribers of this mass-media popular culture mindlessly accept these definitions— definitions that are more often than not generated through unsubstantiated stereotypes.
A huge topic that comes up in today’s popular-culture that our generation struggles with is the question of what it means to be a man (I’ll avoid discussing what it means to be a woman simply in the interest of keeping this lengthy answer short). An answer to this question is readily proffered by today’s popular-culture, and much of our generation hungrily internalizes it. This answer includes the meat-eating, gun-shooting stereotypical depiction of the ideal 21st Century American Male. As members of our Armed Forces, we find ourselves in an even more competitive and hyper-masculine environment than do our civilian contemporaries. These questions, one could certainly argue, are asked perhaps even more frequently in the world of the Armed Forces. When our generation thinks of the ideal male, many subscribe to the stereotype described above, especially when thinking about the American Service Member. In their minds, he must be an even more intense version of the ideal male —he must be strong, virile, and pugnacious; he must eat steak and drive a pickup truck even if he lives in the city. This ideal American male Service Member wants to blow things up, not “go to the theatre” for a show. But our production of Translations questions that idea. How could these Midshipmen, American Service Members, be involved in theatre? Shouldn’t they be out blowing things up, eating steak, or hunting? The Academy’s support of this production (and the production itself) suggests no. The study of the arts is still important, and one can be a high-performing Midshipman and red-blooded American patriot and still appreciate the theatre at the same time, all while being just as masculine as the next guy.
When people think about the Naval Academy, they think about the football team beating Army for the past 12 years (soon to be 13), or about James Franco bludgeoning Tyrese Gibson. Midshipmen do of these things, but they do other things, too. Like act. This production, for our generation, questions the stereotypes forcefully suggested by today’s pop-culture and offers an alternative answer.
[These opinions are my own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the United States Navy or Marine Corps.]
Who do you play in Translations and how do you relate to your character?
I play Doalty, Dan Doalty. I actually relate a lot to my character. He’s boisterous, outgoing, and he loves telling stories. I’m the same way! He also has his convictions and is willing to fight to defend them. I like to think I hold those same values.
What do you admire about your character and what do you not admire?
The trait I admire most about Doalty is his dedication to protecting his ‘parish.’ He’s “got damned little to defend,” but the English “won’t be [him] out without a fight.” When it would be easy to just submit to the English Army—the most powerful in the world — Doalty operates under the table through his involvement with the Donnelly Twins. He risks his neck to protect what he believes in; I don’t think there’s a better lesson to be learned.
What I dislike about Doalty is his sometimes inappropriate and overly forward comments to women. He was never taught about the personal space bubble, I think. A year of good American kindergarten would have done him well!
What have been the challenges you have encountered while preparing for your role and how have you overcome these challenges? How did your director help you?
Easily the toughest thing about this role has been finding time enough to dedicate to memorizing lines and actually interpreting their meaning. Our schedules here at USNA are incredibly busy, and in some ways, I think I overextended myself this semester. But Professor Stanlake has been incredibly understanding and helpful. She’s given us a few critical days off (like for example, Halloween, a Friday, we didn’t have rehearsal), which has been huge in terms of getting some extra down time to study lines or even to square away work in other parts of our lives.
I would also say that Professor Stanlake has a unique ability to “read between the lines,” so to speak. Many plays provide a lot of stage directions; Translations does not. So Professor Stanlake had to come up with blocking with almost no assistance from the play itself. Through this blocking —as well as very well thought out note-giving — Professor Stanlake helped bolster our understandings of our characters and of our actions. With this stronger understanding, we have been better able to communicate the play’s intent.
What is your big highlight in the show and what do we learn about your character when you perform it?
While one could certainly argue that the story Doalty tells about Hugh’s exploits amidst the Army out in town is his biggest highlight, I would actually argue that his biggest moment comes in his last few lines on stage. While discussing the English occupation with Owen at the end of the play in Act 3, Doalty finally seems to grasp the levity of the whole ordeal, and he vows to protect Ireland to the best of his ability, hoping to stop the English from stepping on Ireland as they did when Doalty’s grandfather was a boy. This shift from the mischievous rebel-rouser to the soberly roused rebel is dynamic, and I think it provides insight into the Irish psyche.
What have you learned about yourself during this whole process?
I have learned that not every role is easy to play; to really do a role justice, you have to take the time to give it the diligence it deserves. I’ve learned that I am capable of the role (at least at times, but I’ll let you be the judge of that!), but I have to really work for it.
What do you want audiences to take with them after watching you perform in Translations?
I want them to take away the idea that we can’t just blindly stumble into another culture and step on it. Our own way of doing things is often times different than the way others do them — and ours might not always be the better way! If we want to actually make any progress in any endeavor we undertake, we have to be willing to learn from and respect each other. I also hope they note that while Lancey may be a real bad dude, Yolland is a great guy, even if he is incredibly socially awkward. While the English occupation of Ireland bore a lot of pain and destruction for the Irish people that may not have been the intent of every English soldier or Englishman. Yolland doesn’t want to destroy Ireland, even if his presence there brings about its destruction. Even within our enemies and rivals, there is goodness—even if just a shred—within us all.
What roles would you like to play in the future?
I would love to play Colonel Jessup in A Few Good Men. I can’t imagine a role that would be more fun to play!