Shay McCleavy, a freshman from Brandenburg, KY, peering out of a basket, poses with fellow cast members from “The Doctor in Spite of Himself.” Left to Right: JC Campbell, senior from Louisville; Keisha Tyler, senior from Lexington; Amanda Williamson, sophomore from Simpsonville; Jonathan Balmer, freshman from Mason, OH; Andrew Caudill, junior from Louisville; Taylor Wilson, Upper Marlboro, MD; Catherine Foust, Calvert City, KY; Austin Conway, sophomore from Georgetown; and Sean May, junior from Frankfort. (Photo by Elizabeth Cleary)

Betsy Smith ‘86

Way back in the day – during the 14th through 16th centuries to be precise – drama did not beam into town via satellite; it rolled in via a procession of pageant wagons. Not the short two-act affairs to which modern theatre-goers have grown accustomed, these cyclical plays contained a series of scenes portraying Biblical events from Creation to Judgment Day and could take up to 20 hours to perform.

Hoping to corner a share of the action, traveling bands of actors toured the countryside, wandering from town to town wheeling props and costumes in handcarts. Though not as elaborate in scope, these shows packed a lot of punch for a pence.

On October 22, 23, 24, 29, 30, and 31 you can get a taste of what these early theatre patrons enjoyed. Under the direction of George McGee, “The Doctor in Spite of Himself” rolls into the Ruth Pearce Wilson Lab Theatre at Georgetown College. Curtain time is 8 p.m. and the show is roughly an hour.

Written by French playwright Moliere, the 1666 play translates easily into laughs for a modern American audience raised on situation comedies. The plot can be traced back to a play from the Middle Ages. The story centers on a woodcutter named Sganarelle, whose angry wife tricks him into passing himself off as a doctor to a patient who, ironically, is only faking her illness.

Moliere himself spent 16 years on the road as an itinerant actor with no home base. He knew the trials of maintaining a wardrobe under filthy traveling conditions, competing with other companies for a town’s business, and barely breaking even in the end.

Theatre in Medieval times was rough and tumble, inspiring McGee’s unusual staging choices. His cast evokes that mood by rushing onstage as if running late and in a frenzy to get the show started before the audience demands a refund or begins throwing rotten produce. During intermission, cast members continue to set a Medieval tone by telling fortunes, performing a marionette show, and hawking various wares – love potion anyone?

AND, to add some vintage McGee mystery and fun: Each night a different, well-known professor will appear on stage in a cameo role – and each one is certain to make you roll in the aisles. But, like the Kentucky Lottery – you have to be there to grin.

McGee himself is on a roll these days. Flexing his writing muscles, he penned the drama “A Fence for Martin Maher” which played here in Kentucky as well as in Mooncoin and Kilkenny, Ireland. Most recently his short one-act play, “Digging for Diamonds,” was accepted for the next Kentucky Festival of New Plays in Louisville for sometime in 2011 (TBA). His debut short film, “DocDoc” earned a spot at the Ireland International Film Festival in Tipperary in September. Most recently, McGee took to the stage himself, portraying Henry Clay, his long-beloved Kentucky Chautauqua character, as part of the World Equestrian Games.

Tickets for “The Doctor in Spite of Himself” are $3 for students and $5 for adults. They are likely to sell out, so swing by The Store at Georgetown College or call and reserve at (502) 863-8134.

Betsy Brannock Smith ‘86, a former College Maskrafter herself, is the wife of Ed Smith ’88 – current Chair of the Georgetown College Theatre & Performance Studies Department. She is part of the Kentucky Humanities Council’s Chautauqua line-up of characters portraying Emilie Todd Helm, “Rebel in the White House” and sister of Mary Todd Lincoln.

The Cast of “The Doctor In Spite of Himself”

  • JC Campell – Senior from Louisville; Religion major/ double minor in Psychology and Philosophy.
  • Keisha Tyler – Senior from Lexington;Theater major/ Sociology minor.
  • Catherine Foust – Freshman from Calvert City.
  • Shay McCleavy- Freshman from Brandenburg.
  • Jon Yelton – Junior from Louisville; Theater major/ History minor.
  • Amanda Williamson – Sophomore from Simpsonville; considering a Communication major/ Theater Art minor.
  • Meredith Cave – Sophomore from Nicholasville; considering a double major in Political Science and Theatre with a minor in Spanish.
  • Stu Perry – Senior from Crestwood; Sociology major with a double minor in Psychology and Religion.
  • Taylor Wilson – Junior from Upper Marlboro, MD; Communication major/ Theater minor.
  • Andrew Caudill – Senior from Louisville; double major Communication and Theater.
  • Jonathan Balmer – Freshman from Mason, OH ;double major in English and History for secondary education.
  • Austin Conway – Sophomore from Georgetown.
  • Sean May – Junior from Frankfort; Theater major.
  • Noel Armes – Sophomore from Shelbyville; Elementary Education major, and is considering a minor in Social Sciences
  • Jaclyn Lyons (Costume Design) – Junior from Elkton, KY; Theater major/ History Minor.
  • Lauren Casada (Properties) – Junior from Louisville; Exercise major/ Sociology minor.
  • Elizabeth Cleary (Lighting) – Senior from Louisville.