Leading the Charge
- By gentleguide
- On Tue 18 Apr 2017
For the next two weekends there will be a one-person show up in Boone, celebrating one of the great men of American history. Bully - An Adventure with Teddy Roosevelt presents the life and times of the former President and his escapades. John Hoffman portrays TR, the only character seen in the show. But there's plenty of people involved in ultimately charging up San Juan Hill... and putting on a one-man show.
Small community theatre groups aren't usually the ones to put on one-man shows. Thriving organizations usually have a number of people who want to take their turns onstage, and a full show with just one person is also an incredible investment in time and effort for that single individual. But Boone Community Theatre decided to try and make Bully work this spring.
Gathering the Army
I asked John what all really goes into this type of presentation. "People call it a 'one-man show', but really that's not true at all. It is the show with the smallest cast that I've ever been a part of, but it takes quite a few people to make the show happen and come off well."
"I have discovered that the smaller the cast, the more important the crew. Things like set, lighting, and sound are all really like 'extra characters' and make what would be a recitation into a full performance. This is really like any other play we produce, with a crew of people handling all of the usual things you have in productions with larger casts."
John wasn't the person to bring this show to Boone Community Theatre in the first place. "Susan Herrick is the director, and it was her idea to stage this production. She had seen it at the Guthrie Theatre in the late '70s with James Whitmore as TR, fell in love with it, and has wanted to produce it ever since."
"She had to do some convincing to get me to undertake the role, but I knew that anything that had stayed with a person of her quality for that long must be worth looking into. She gave me the script, and as I began to read it, I thought, 'how could I do this?' Then, the more I read, I began to think, 'How could I NOT do this?'"
"Once she got me on board, it was easy to pitch the idea to the BCT production planning committee. One of the things we try to do at BCT is have a variety of kinds of productions, and to my knowledge, we hadn't done a full-scale production with a cast of one before."
Just by virtue of his political career, Theodore Roosevelt was popular with many, and yet unpopular with others. Considering the current climate in our country today, I wondered how his career might reflect the way our country looks at present.
"One thing that has come to my attention in doing research for this show," says John, "is that politics has always been a 'contact sport'. In 1912, the political situation was a volitale as it is today; only the issues were different. TR provided strong leadership and clear direction when he was in the White House, and that's what got his face carved onto Mount Rushmore."
"He didn't see politics in terms of right and left, but in terms of right and wrong He had a strong sense of justice and his actions were guided by that internal compass. It didn't matter to him whether he allied with the liberals or conservatives as long as he was fighting for the right cause. Many times he would fight for what he felt was right regardless of what it would do to his political career. We could use more people like that in politics today."
"One thing I like about this script is that it does not present TR as a noble, perfect man with no flaws. He is definitely the protagonist, and the stories presented are all from his point of view, but he's not put on a pedestal. He's shown as a real person with real strengths and weaknesses."
Atop the Mountain
Ultimately, the audience will get to know Teddy through John's portrayal. The journey has been a long one, but hopefully worth the efforts of all involved. As far as John's work goes, it's been a satisfying process.
"I will say that this show is a great stretch for me as an actor. But I like to be stretched, to grow, to improve. I am excited about getting this show in front of an audience. I have really enjoyed getting to know TR in the past several months through studying for this role."
"I find that I actually have a lot in common with him, and the example of his life and passions does inspire me. I also have really appreciated working with Susan as my director, and getting her undivided attention to sharpen my abilities on stage. Doing a one-person show isn't for everyone, but it certainly has been a great experience for me."
Bully - A Teddy Roosevelt Adventure will be presented April 21-23 and April 28-29 at the Boone Community Theatre. Tickets available through the BCT website or at the door.