Arts & Culture

UK Alumnus, Playwright's Work Bound for 3 Kentucky Stages

LEXINGTON, Ky. (March 1, 2019) It's never too late to follow your dreams and go back to school. When William H. McCann entered the University of Kentucky Department of Theatre and Dance to pursue a master's degree in theatre, he was already 55 years old.

“Most of my classes were filled with undergraduates, and even the other graduate students were a decade or more younger than I; there were times it seemed like I was living in the Fountain of Youth. I felt younger and was energized by the experience," McCann said.

Holding a bachelor's degree from Transylvania University and master’s degree from University of Virginia, McCann previously worked as an administrator at The Humanitarium and adjunct faculty at Bluegrass Community and Technical College before choosing to go back to school. And under the mentorship of Herman D. Farrell III, University Research Professor and Chellgren Endowed Professor in the Department of Theatre and Dance, McCann graduated with his second master’s degree in 2012.

“I had gone back to school to specifically learn how to write plays. I had tried to teach myself how to write plays with little success. But Herman Farrell taught me well. He gave me the tools, which now seven years after graduation, have led me to the modest success of having two plays open in the same month with the reading of a third one scheduled in between. I feel fortunate indeed.”

'Boats Against the Current'

McCann's first full-length play to have a premiere will be "Boats Against the Current."

The journey to this point has not been easy. Speaking of the production process, McCann said, “It seems a bit miraculous that the play is being produced.

“During the course of a five-day workshop production of 'Boats,' in the summer of 2018, I rewrote the play three times. Each day the actors and director would work with the material. And each night I would add, delete or change words, delete, rewrite or even add new scenes. It was grueling and exhilarating all at the same time. And it really allowed me to greatly improve the script.”

"Boats Against the Current” follows a modern family as they struggle to deal with the life-changing situation of a family member having Alzheimer's disease. The play takes place in the mind, memory and reality of Harrisson Morriss, who suffers from the disease, as the Morriss family offers loving support and encouragement through a wedding, a midnight game of flashlight tag, and the celebration of events both large and small, traditional and personal.

The Flashback Theater, located at 400 E. Mount Vernon St. in Somerset, Kentucky, will host the "Boats Against the Current" premiere. The play, directed by Sommer Schoch, runs Feb. 28-March 3 and March 7-10.

'There is No Wrigley Field'

McCann originally wrote "There is No Wrigley Field" while he was a graduate student at UK. In 2011, the Mid-America Theatre Conference hosted a workshop performance of the play.

"Since then, the play has largely sat in my computer,” McCann said. “I’m glad I dusted it off and entered it in the Spotlight Festival contest. I’m really looking forward to seeing it come to life on stage for the very first time.”

McCann's 10-minute play focuses on how a 20-year relationship can end in the length of time is takes for dinner rolls to bake. 

The Spotlight Festival of Short Plays, will run March 24-31, at the Spotlight Playhouse located at 214 Richmond Road North, in Berea, Kentucky. McCann's play will premiere at the festival 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 30. For more information about the festival and how to get tickets call 859-756-0011.

'Southern Gothic'

McCann's latest one-act play is "Southern Gothic." The play follows an old man suffering from dementia, who helps solve a decades-old murder mystery.

A reading of “Southern Gothic,” along with two other plays, will be presented in Winchester, Kentucky, on Sunday, March 17, at the Clark County Public Library, located at 370 S. Burns Ave. The event runs 1:30-4:30 p.m. and is free and open to the public.

With two plays premiering and a reading of a third, March will indeed be busy for McCann. Asked if he felt that the schedules pointed to a future on Broadway, McCann said, “If by Broadway you mean the one in Winchester, then the answer is yes.”

In addition to writing plays, McCann serves as an advocate for Kentucky's playwrights. Since graduating from UK, he has edited two anthologies of plays written by Kentuckians and edited the Kentucky Theatre Yearbook annually since 2016; all of his books are available on Amazon.

McCann founded the Kentucky New Play Series, which from 2012 through 2016 produced new works at the Kentucky State Fair, and co-founded Kentucky Playwrights Workshop, which provides both training and opportunities for the state’s playwrights. He currently serves as president of the Kentucky Playwrights Workshop.

The Department of Theatre and Dance at UK College of Fine Arts has played an active role in the performance scene in Central Kentucky for more than 100 years. Students in the program get hands-on training and one-on-one mentorship from the renowned professional theatre faculty. The liberal arts focus of their bachelor's degree program is coupled with ongoing career counseling to ensure a successful transition from campus to professional life.

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