It's a bird. It's a plane. It's Bat Boy!
Born half-human, half-bat, Bat Boy was a creature brought to life in 1992 in an issue of the Weekly World News, a fictional news tabloid infamous for its satirical tone.
Bat Boy has found his way to Oxford as the star of a musical created by Keythe Farley and Brian Flemming that looks at his fictitious origin story.
According to the tabloid, he was found in a cave in West Virginia, weighing 19 pounds and was two feet long. The character was originally created by the tabloid's editor Dick Kulpa and writer Bob Lind. Through his representation in Weekly World News, Bat Boy has been active in the public eye for years. In 2008, he endorsed John McCain and later Obama.
Worley Stidham, a sophomore theatre major with an arts management co-major and music theater minor, plays the lead role. Stidham believes that the character is someone people could relate to and that the musical is an important one for anyone who sees it.
Bat Boy desperately struggles to not be an outsider, and Stidham thinks that most people have had a point in their lives where they also yearned for acceptance into a community.
"Today, there's this idea of public opinion that's radically shifting and people turning against each other, especially with the political climate that has built up over recent years," Stidham said. "We are inspired by this and we try to help people connect to a story of people who have good qualities ... having others turn their backs on them."
Junior Kate Herman, also a theater and arts management double major with a minor in music theater, is another leading cast member in the show.
Herman plays Meredith Parker, Bat Boy's adoptive mother. The character is portrayed as a very sophisticated woman with many emotional layers. Herman was eager to get into her role and does not shy away from a challenge.
"She's a lot, for sure, but I don't think of this as pressure. It's more like an exciting challenge where I get to explore these different dynamics," Herman said. "She's a really fun character to play with that has a huge heart and always puts herself last to take care of others. The reason why these characters are complicated is because humans are complicated. To me, the act of being able to break this [complexity] apart and portray to an audience is really great."
The musical features heavy social commentary and complex characters, so actors like Stidham and Herman face a lot of challenges in delivering a quality performance. Preparation includes weekly rehearsals and vocal exercises. Herman is even involved in a voice class with the faculty from her minor program.
The production team has encountered numerous obstacles along the way, the toughest of which are duo roles, or where one person plays multiple characters. These require cast members to perform costume changes in a matter of seconds to fulfill their roles.
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Assistant production manager Megan Hayes alluded to an interesting production aspect that audiences can look forward to while breaking down one of the most intricate technical production in the musical: puppetry.
"Without spoiling too much, there's a portion of the show involving puppets, and there was a lot of work put into the process," Hayes said. "The production team has had to create right lighting and learn how to handle them to make them as realistic as possible, for them to come to life, almost."
In addition, the director and production team have put in efforts to carry out the original musical with their own personal touches, working to bring a story set in the 90s into modern day. They expect to give audiences a quality theatrical experience, filled with dark humor and critical social commentaries.
"I love coming to rehearsals because the cast and the production team and the director are amazing," Herman said. "It's a dream team and I couldn't ask for more. They are so loving and I am just having so much fun. I hope the audience will have just as much as fun as we do when they see this."
The musical comedy will be open at 7:30 p.m. from April 25-27, at 7:30 p.m. from May 2-4 and finally at 2 p.m. on May 5 at 2:00 p.m in the Gates-Abegglen Theatre.