Opening at Second Stage this weekend is “Bat Boy,” a musical based on a 1992 Weekly World News story, which tells of a half human, half bat child who comes to live in the town of Hope Falls, West Virginia and finds himself persecuted by townspeople as he attempts to suppress his inner beast-like nature. Franni Paley and Liam Stansen, who are directing the production at Wesleyan, kindly agreed to answer some questions in order to introduce the play to us.
Argus: When did you first discover the musical?
Liam Stansen: I first discovered the musical my senior year of high school when my friend took me to see it.
Franni Paley: I first discovered “Bat Boy” in middle school when I saw a performance by a small theater company in Boston (SpeakEasy Stage). It was my first exposure to subversive musical theater and completely blew me away. I’ve seen it again a few times, including my younger sister’s high school production over the summer, but none captured the dark and demented feel of that first production.
Last spring, I was in Exley, talking to a friend about how I wanted to try something new senior year. Liam walked by and overheard me saying, “maybe I’ll direct a play!” He literally stopped, turned around and recruited me for “Bat Boy” on the spot.
A: What is your favorite song from the musical?
LS: Song generally—“Comfort and Joy”… favorite song and blocking—“Hold Me Bat Boy”
FP: It changes! Historically, it’s been “Three Bedroom House,” but I’m currently digging “Hold Me, Bat Boy.” This show has some of the cleverest lyrics I’ve seen in musical theater. My favorite rhyme is “Just like Siegfried and Roy/He’ll bring comfort and joy.”
A: Why did you choose to perform this particular musical?
LS: When I saw it in high school, I thought it was a great show. It seemed so up Wesleyan’s alley, and people have tried to put it on before, but it’s never happened. I’ve wanted to do it for the last four years, and it finally pulled together this semester.
FP: “Bat Boy” has actually been in the works since my freshman year, as far as I can tell. Ask Liam for the full story, but it has been knocking around the theater community for years—but no one ever brought it past the brainstorm phase. I feel incredibly lucky to be at the helm of the first full production!
I think it’s a good fit for Wesleyan because of its content: it is ironic, self-parodying, sexually explicit, yet oddly intellectual. You could write a dissertation on its themes of “otherness” or its treatment of women, but I’ll spare you. Just come to the show. You’ll love it.
A: If Bat Boy replaced Michael Roth as president of Wesleyan…what would happen?
LS: Our school Cardinal would die from blood loss as a result of a neck wound (to be replaced by the twin geese Fricassee and Cacciatore), both evolution and Freud would no longer be taught, and our pre-vet program would really improve.
FP: I don’t think the school would be as vegan friendly. That’s all I have to say on that issue.
A: Anything else you’d like to add?
LS: Come see the show!
FP: Even though the show is lots of fun, there are some disturbing themes of domestic violence and rape. If these issues could make you uncomfortable, you should reconsider attending the show. Also, if you bring your grandma, things might get awkward.
“Bat Boy” is playing Friday, Nov. 20 at 8 pm and Saturday, Nov. 21st at 2pm and 8pm.