(Sugarloaf Mountain Amphitheatre) -- After a long few months and a nationwide search, The Scioto Society is pleased to announce that Matt Nelson will portray the Shawnee leader for its 2018 production.
Director Brent Gibbs and Producer Brandon Smith saw dozens of actors for the role, but only interviewed a few seriously. “We had a good gut feeling of the type of actor we were looking for…someone with the right kind of voice and a set of skills that is fairly specialized,” said Smith.
"He needs to be able to ride a horse, fire guns and fight convincingly well on the stage. Those actors are not easy to find and most often we find them close to home."
And close to home was exactly where they found Nelson. As a member of the cast in 2017, he portrayed Tecumseh’s brother, Chiksika. He is well versed in the challenges and rewards that come with performing on Sugarloaf Mountain.
“As an actor you are constantly looking for ways to push yourself and improve upon your craft, and...in my opinion...there really is no more perfect summer breeding ground than Tecumseh!, Nelson said.
"I mean, where else in the world can you perform for 2,000 people, outside, while not only acting, but stage fighting in an intricate way and working with animals 100 times your own weight?
"Tecumseh! is a place that can not only develop your “chops” as a performer, but leave you with many lessons moving into any other performance endeavor you may tackle beyond your time on the mountain,” said Nelson.
"Playing the role of Tecumseh for me is just a blessing of an opportunity, because it is the perfect “excuse” for me to be able to encompass a role to its fullest, while pushing myself as an actor in ALL facets: mind, body, voice, heart. In my mind, it is the Hamlet of outdoor theatre roles, and like Hamlet, its a role that will allow me to be able to collaborate with the director and the cast quite easily, because it is so massive!
"To me, the show is more than just a representation of the rich history of one of the most beloved figures in Shawnee history, but it is forever a reminder of the power of 'Hope.' For myself, 2017-18 has been a tough year and I find it so beautiful and encouraging to be able to embody a character in a show that never loses hope.”
Nelson and the rest of the recently contracted cast have about seven weeks to prepare themselves for the challenge that Tecumseh presents. Rehearsals begin in earnest on May 20. It is both an exciting and frightening prospect.
Nelson said: “Nothing truthfully frightens me about portraying Tecumseh, but going into my third year with the production there are always things I’m making sure not to do! For example, My first year in the show, as Chief Kikusgowlowa, in the middle of the show I was bucked off my horse, and had to finish the scene with a limp off the back path to raise the wampum belt for all to see with the music. And although its a funny story I take much pride in, I would like for my portrayal of Tecumseh to keep his butt on the horse at all times. And I think the audience would agree with me that that is the 'stronger choice' for a great leader of men, like Tecumseh!”
Nelson also is excited to return to Chillicothe, a second home to the cast and crew. “I just wanted to reach out and say how excited I am to be returning to Chillicothe for another summer. I love the town, I really do. There is a warmth, and genuine happiness to the people of the town, and I have had the fortune of getting to meet many townspeople over the past two summers.
"To the folks at the box office, to the Chillicothe Paints “bleacher fans”, to Rosa Coffee and the beautiful downtown shops; to all of those that support the show in every way, shape and capacity, I just want to say thank you and I look forward to seeing everyone this summer.”
First staged in 1973, TECUMSEH! (a 501-c3 non-profit) is one of the nation’s top outdoor dramas.
Written by Pulitzer Prize Nominee, Allan W. Eckert, the 46th anniversary season plays June 8 through Sept 2, 2018 at the Sugarloaf Mountain Amphitheatre, near Chillicothe, Ohio. Curtain time is 8:00 pm.
For tickets and information, go to www.tecumsehdrama.com or call 1-866-775-0700.