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When Shrek Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

“For those who have, for one reason or another, not been to see the shows put on by the theatre department of Mount Desert Island High School this year, take note. Their current production of Ken Kesey’s ‘One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest,’ playing this weekend, is one that should not be missed.”

That is the opening paragraph quoted from Nan Lincoln’s review of that year’s spring play at MDI High School, published in the Bar Harbor Times on Friday, May 21st, 2010. Even in employing my considerable “Google-Fu,” I can’t find a digital version of the review, but the hard copy I printed for myself on that following Monday is still in perfectly readable condition. Over the course of the review, Ms Lincoln mentions wondering who Director Mark Puglisi would choose for the “dynamic” lead role of Randall McMurphy. Her first words on the subject are as follows:

“And I never guessed it would be a jock...Jeff Servetas, better known at MDIHS for his prowess on the football field…”

That’s me. A relatively unknown quantity in the theatre program, who was none the less having the time of his life as a part of that wonderful production.

Really, it’s not entirely a fair contest. I was lucky enough to

play the lead in the show, surrounded by an immensely talented cast, and led by an incredible director in Mark (Whom I still tend to refer to as “Mr. P,” given my time as his student.) It was an impossibly wonderful experience, and as I journeyed onward through life after high school, I was never certain I’d ever recapture that joy. After all, who gets that lucky twice? But, when I caught wind of Acadia Community Theatre’s auditions for “Shrek: The Musical,” with a familiar name listed as the director, I couldn’t stay away.

I’m no longer a “jock”, and instead spend most of my daylight hours in front of a lab bench at The Jackson Laboratory. My hair is (at least for now) longer than it used to be, as is my beard, and the high school diploma I was looking forward to then has since matured into a full-fledged college degree. I’ve traded in the leather jacket and cocky southern drawl of Randall McMurphy for green skin and a gruff but amiable Scottish Brogue. And yet, in spite of the differences between then and now, I’m happy to report that I’m certain I’ve recaptured that joy I once felt.

Working under Mr. P’s direction once more, I am constantly reminded of just how good he is at doing what he does. I can’t go 5 minutes of working with the man without learning how to do something better, gaining some insight into how to get the most out of myself and my character, which is just how I remember it from half a decade ago. I may never know what combination of brave and foolish gave him cause to cast me as a lead in one of his productions, much less to do so twice, but I can only humbly offer my thanks, both for what I got out of Cuckoo’s nest, and what I am actively getting every time I go to a rehearsal for Shrek.

Alongside our director, the show is in the capable hands of ACT’s production team, who have been working tirelessly to make sure this show reaches its full potential since before I even knew it was happening. From musical direction, to choreography, all the way up to the folks who find us space and time to rehearse, these are the folks who are truly deserving of praise in making a show happen, especially considering the “guerilla” nature of ACT’s standard operating procedure.

And, if you’re at all familiar with the local community, I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how talented the wonderful people who are performing in this show are. These are the neighbors and teachers and bank tellers and shop-keepers you already know and love, who also happen to be incredible performers in their off-time. Not to mention to veritable horde of talented kids, a number of whom likely weren’t even old enough to be in school when I was doing “Cuckoo’s Nest,” and now spend rehearsals acting circles around me (sometimes literally).

Special shout-outs to Jon Wood, an old high school classmate and ACT veteran, who was instrumental in keeping me brave enough to even try out for “Shrek,” and now plays the obnoxiously cheerful Donkey to my grumpy green ogre.

If you’re reading this post anytime between now and our performances in April, I implore you, find a way to see this show. Not every community theatre group in the world has such a wealth of talent and dedication. For that matter, there are undoubtedly some professional troupes that don’t. Frankly, I could be abducted by aliens 3 minutes before the curtain rises on opening night, and the show would still be worth the price of admission, thanks to all these wonderful people I am lucky enough to call my co-cast and crew.

At the end of her review of “Cuckoo’s Nest,” Ms. Lincoln put a quote from Mr. P, a glib remark he made on the night of our dress rehearsal:

“This is beginning to look like a show.”

We still have a few weeks left before our opening, and plenty of rehearsing to do in that time, but I’m happy to report that as far as Shrek goes, it really is true.

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