The Hype … and How to Use It is an original play written and directed by Dr. Bill Kennedy, professor and director of university theatre, and is set to take the stage for the first time this weekend at the Cabaret Theatre.
The story is a comedy focusing on a family, their failing Italian restaurant, their close friends, and a card game called Three Card Monte. “The Hype” is a trick used frequently during Three Card Monte by Frankie, the family’s close friend, to swindle unsuspecting players out of their hard-earned cash. The play features lost and new love, family drama, and an assortment of slapstick comedy and hijinx, meaning it has a little bit of something for everyone.
Kennedy said the idea for the play came from a few different places, including inspiration from the Italian street comedy form called commedia dell’arte, which features stock characters and stock situations.
“I wanted to update [the form] and reverse genders in the play … That’s what I started with,” Kennedy said in an email.
This is not the first time the Cabaret has featured an original work, and it also isn’t Kennedy’s first time writing a play. He said he’s been writing shows since he was a junior in college, and the final product is always “thrilling and a bit frightening” to see his script come to life.
“You work on some lines and you hear them in your head and then these wonderful actors … come along and find a whole new way to say the lines and it works so much better than anything you considered,” he said.
Michaela Clem-Jacobs, a sophomore theatre studies major, said that working directly with the writer of a play has given her less freedom and more freedom at the same time.
“With Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, obviously we cannot call up Tennessee Williams and be like, ‘Hey, what did you mean by this?’” Clem-Jacobs said. “With [Kennedy] directing it, he can tell us exactly what he wants from it.”
Clem-Jacobs said her role as Sophie, the restaurant’s cook with an elusive background, has given her the chance to explore acting with accents and playing the role of an older character.
“This is the role that I’ve had the most freedom to use my voice and my body to embody [the character],” Clem-Jacobs said.
Katie Haught, senior theatre studies major and public relations minor, said having Kennedy write and direct the play gave the actors a deeper connection to the piece.
“[Kennedy] knows us really well as a cast, so he kind of almost put some jokes and stuff in there that we can really relate to,” said Haught, who takes the role of Frankie. “… it almost gives us a deeper connection to the show, so it’s been a pretty good time.”
One of the nods to his students within the play is a sword fight between two female characters.
“[Kennedy] promised Lauren [Payne] and I that we would get to sword fight at some point in our academic career, and we finally get to do it in this one,” Haught said.
For seniors Haught and Lauren Payne, theatre studies major, this play brings their collegiate theatre careers full circle; both participated in Kennedy’s stage adaption of A Midwinter’s Tale during their first year at the university.
“The second play that I did here at Capital was also an original script by Bill Kennedy, and it’s the one that really got me super hooked into the theatre program,” said Payne, who plays Maria, one of the daughters in the family. “… I’m seeing the similarities between the beginning of my theatre career at Capital to the end of my theatre career at Capital, and that’s just something that’s really special.”
As another homage to the senior students, Kennedy dedicated the show to Haught, Payne, and
“We were really pleasantly surprised to see that when we opened the script,” Haught said.
Due to illness, Kennedy said he will be unable to make it to the show this weekend, but said he’s thankful for the work of the students and theatre staff who made the show come together.
“As is often the case, the best part of this production has been working with the production team and the actors,” Kennedy said. “People so willing to share their time and their talents to put on a show. It really is an amazing and humbling thing when you think of it.”
The Hype … and How to Use It makes its world premiere at the Cabaret Theatre Thursday, Feb. 14 at 8 p.m. There will also be showings Friday, Feb. 15 and Saturday, Feb. 16 at 8 p.m. and a 2 p.m. matinee showing Sunday, Feb. 17. Tickets to the show are free with a Capital ID, $7 for adults, and $5 for senior citizens. Tickets can be purchased by phone at 614-236-7174 or online at capitaltheatretickets.com.