Kenyon Grads Perform in Politically Incorrect Rock Musical
Published: Thursday, September 27, 2012
Updated: Thursday, November 15, 2012 01:11
Revisionist history has never sounded this good. Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, the latest musical from the Columbus theatre company Available Light, turns history on its head, boldly smashing politics and rock ‘n’ roll together with a good dose of humor and irreverence.
The production brings together two Kenyon alums: Robyn Rae Stype ’12 and Pam Welsh-Huggins ’83, a theatre veteran and the musical director of the show.
Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, described by Welsh-Huggins as a hybrid of Schoolhouse Rock and the Sex Pistols, tells the story of the seventh U.S. president, casting him as something of a rock star. Alex Timbers and Michael Friedman wrote the musical, which made its Broadway debut in 2010. The show is equal parts Western and emo rock show, but it is also politically relevant during such a charged election year. “It plays fast and loose with the facts,” said Stype. “It’s more about the truth of the matter than the fact of the matter.”
Stype, who graduated this past May from Kenyon, first heard about the show through her sister and was immediately drawn to the musical’s originality and flair. “I remember being taken aback by how politically incorrect the show was willing to be,” she said. “Then, after I listened to more of the soundtrack, I started to see how this would appeal to a wide variety of people who may be sick of the crazy things people do in American politics.”
Stype interned in Columbus with the New Players Theatre this past summer and was cast as an understudy in their production of King Lear.
“I think its important to keep in mind that you can do theatre anywhere,” said Stype, an Ohio native herself. “In a city like Columbus, there are always opportunities. You may have to work hard to make them opportunities, but if you do the research, they’re there.”
Welsh-Huggins, on the other hand, took a decidedly different route than Stype, pursuing an English major before entering the world of performance. Now 50, Welsh-Huggins dabbled in acting after graduating from Kenyon before realizing she wanted to work behind the curtain. “As the musical director, I assemble the band and train the singers, acting as the midwife of a director’s vision of what the show should be,” she said. “Basically, I’m there to make it sound awesome.”
Welsh-Huggins said her time in Gambier taught her a way of life more than anything else. “My education from Kenyon prepared me to be a professional curious person, opening me up to new things in so many different venues and areas.”
She encourages current drama majors and potential entertainers to embrace the curves in the future ahead. “Middle Path is that straight line, right down the middle, through everything we do at Kenyon,” she said. “Real life meanders more. Once you leave Gambier, there are no more straight lines.”
This philosophy also seems to hold true for the project that brought the two graduates together. Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson isn’t afraid to bend the rules and blur the boundaries between fact, fiction and parody. “The show asks a lot of really compelling questions about who Jackson was, but it asks these questions in ways that are extremely entertaining and uproariously funny,” Welsh-Huggins said. “And if I may say so, badass.”
Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson runs from Sept. 20 to Oct. 31 at Riffe Center Studio One in Columbus.