When I was first notified that Parker Players was putting up One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, I was excited and knew immediately that I would audition for it. Not having worked with either Parker Players or Richard previously, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Fortunately, at that time, I was working with Guy Sullivan (McMurphy) on a production of Glengarry Glen Ross and he had worked with Richard and Parker Players on 12 Angry Men. He told me not to expect to audition in my ‘audition’, but that it was more like an interview. This helped a great deal as it took some of the pressure off. Also, as luck would have it, Richard came to see Glengarry on our opening weekend and I was fortunate to have met him, albeit briefly, after the show. This fired me up even more for the audition/interview.
Luckily, I had an old copy of Cuckoo’s Nest on my bookshelf and started getting familiar with the play. Now, I had seen the movie once many, many years ago and only vaguely remember bits and pieces from it. So one night, my girlfriend, who had never seen it, and I watched the movie so that we could analyze (it’s what we do best!) the various aspects of the story. Having re-watched it with fresh eyes, I was amazed at how many levels this story has. The one main aspect of the story that I latched on to is the parental element: Nurse Ratched being the maternal figure and the embodiment of all of the issues with women that the patients struggled with (Billy Bibbitt and his mother, Dale Harding and his wife, Chief Bromden’s mother, etc). And then McMurphy enters and is seen as the father figure as he stands up for the other patients and challenges Nurse Ratched. This begins the classic “mother vs father” struggle with the patients caught in the middle. This is the element that I kept going over in my mind as the day of the audition arrived.
My meeting with Richard, in my opinion, could not have gone any better. He told me how much he enjoyed watching my character in Glengarry and he seemed very happy that I was interested in being a part of this production. He asked me what part I was interested in playing and I was very honest with him. I told him that although I could not understand why at that point, the character of Scanlon fascinated me. Every time I picked up the script, I was focused on him. I was beyond thrilled when I got the email offering me the role of Scanlon. So thrilled that I immediately responded and accepted. There was absolutely no hesitation at all!
Now it was time to get down to business…
Instead of preparing a character in the weeks leading up to our first rehearsal, I more or less just focused on getting into Scanlon’s mindset; to get a better understanding of why he is the way he is and why he does what he does. To the Library! I started doing research on serial bombers to understand their modus operandi and to answer the questions that I had as to their motives. Other than that, there was no other character development done at this point. I basically went into our first rehearsal with mostly a tabula rasa mindset to the character. My hopes and expectations were that as we progressed through the rehearsal process, discoveries were going to come out to help shape the character. I was not disappointed! In fact, some of the elements that have come out early on took me by surprise. These weren’t conscious decisions, but unconscious ones that came out from playing the character. Each rehearsal would energize me because there seemed to be something new that was ready to come out and become part of this seemingly simple, yet extremely complex, individual. I can already say, without a doubt, that Scanlon will be high on my list of favorite characters that I’ve had the privilege to bring to life!
Derek L. Cook plays Scanlon