STERLING — When Sterling College junior Ian Diaz auditioned for the theatre production of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” in January he knew he was unlikely to get the role he wanted. Diaz wanted to play Randle McMurphy, the show’s main character, but he knew a senior theater student also wanted the role.
“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” focuses on the roguish Randle McMurphy, a patient in a hospital for the criminally insane, as he struggles to break Nurse Ratched’s power over his fellow inmates. “Cuckoo’s Nest” will be performed at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, March 12 and 13, in Culbertson Auditorium on the Sterling College campus.
Diaz first came to Sterling College from Puerto Rico to play baseball. He had never done anything theater related before the fall of 2018 when he took Acting I to fulfill his fine arts credit.
“Long story short,” Diaz said, “I took an acting class, and I liked it.”
So he came back for more. In the spring of 2020, he took another Acting class. And the following semester, he became part of the cast of the musical “Carousel.” Initially, he wasn’t planning to have anything to do with “Carousel,” but he said theater Professor Sasha Hildebrand and the idea of being with his friends convinced him otherwise.
Of his experience in “Carousel” Diaz said, “I really felt that euphoria of everyone’s looking at me, I gotta put on a show and just let loose.” He said the feeling is similar to how he feels when he’s pitching. In both cases, “All eyes are on me,” he said.
Diaz said another thing that drew him to theater was the people.
He said at first, “I thought that the theater students would be just utterly fake.” But then he realized that, “They do whatever part, whatever character they’re doing, and then after that it’s base. It’s just them. There’s no layers. There’s no nothing, It’s just them.”
Since he had become invested in theater, Diaz was excited when he heard that Hildebrand was considering “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” for the spring play.
He knew he really wanted the part of McMurphy, partly because he was played by Jack Nicholson in the movie version, but also because, “I just felt a connection to him,” Diaz said. “I was really comfortable as McMurphy.” Diaz said this connection scared him because McMurphy is such a flawed character. But, he said, “I absolutely wanted it. I went into that audition room, and I was like, I’m nervous, but I want this.”
When the cast list came out, Diaz’s name wasn’t beside McMurphy’s. The senior theater major got the role, and Diaz was cast as another patient, Charlie Cheswick.
Unfortunately, the show was moved a week later than its original date, and as much as he wanted to be in the show, Diaz was no longer able to participate because he had baseball games in Kansas City that weekend.
However, Diaz wasn’t sure he would be able to play in those games, or any games this spring. Since he came back in January he said, “My body has not been feeling all right. Whenever I throw, it’s really painful. When it’s never been painful to throw before.”
“It felt like every time I would go to practice, it was a flip of a coin of whether I can play or not,” he said. “And that whole idea of struggling throughout the whole day thinking, ‘Am I going to be able to push myself today in practice to show the coach that I can play?’ And that whole stress was just immense.”
Diaz decided that if he wanted to play baseball in the future he would have to take some time off, so he chose to “red-shirt” for the semester, which meant he would not lose a season of athletic eligibility by taking the season off. Soon after Diaz made this decision, Hildebrand asked him to read for role of McMurphy again. The senior theater student who was originally cast was unable to continue with the role for medical reasons.
As he read the script, Diaz said, “I kind of felt the character come into me.”
In the end, Hildebrand cast Diaz as McMurphy.
Due to COVID restrictions, seating for the two evening performances of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” will be limited. In-person tickets are available online at sterling-college.ticketleap.com and are $10 for adults and $5 for students.
The two performances will also be livestreamed through SHOWTIX4U. Each online ticket is $13, which includes the streaming fee. Online livestream tickets may be purchased at www.showtix4u.com/events/sterlingcollegetheatre.
Note that due to strong language and adult themes this show is not suitable for children under age 13.