‘The Ballad of Black Jack’ to return to stage
After a 15-year absence, "The Ballad of Black Jack" will return to this year's Maple Leaf Festival October 19, 20 and 21, due in part to the determination of community leader, Ruth Payne, Baldwin City.
Payne became a fan of the show when her son, Brooks, then a Baker student, played the comedy lead. When she moved to Baldwin following her husband's death, she began her efforts to revive the show. Her efforts gained momentum last year, when she was joined by David Hiebert and Jack Gaumnitz. The men saw it some 25 years ago and were determined to take their grandchildren to see it.
They were enthusiastically joined by Daniel Lambert, president of Baker, and Cary Danielson, who annually heads a summer program called Baker on Broadway. A board was created, chaired by Hieibert, with Gaumnitz as its treasurer. Baldwinites serving with them are Rick Bayha of Baker, Mark Eldridge, Gary Hogsett, Sharole Prahl, Mary Swan and Sarah Wilson, plus the show's creator, Don Mueller. Mark Kirk of the Baker faculty will be the technical director, and Linda Ballinger, who has costumed Baldwin Community theater's shows, the costumer.
A new director will be at the helm, Carolee Vincent of Tonganoxie. Vincent has not only danced and acted in the show but was its choreographer. She has taught and directed drama in Tonganoxie High School as well as other area schools. She was the choice of the ballad's creator and long-time director, who chose to confine his efforts to the music.
The ballad was written at the invitation of the Maple Leaf Festival committee, to mark the city's founding. It was performed on the stage of Baker University's Rice Auditorium from 1969 through 1983. When Rice became unavailable, the show moved to Liberty Hall in Lawrence in 1986. The following year Liberty Hall was unavailable, due to long-standing commitments, and the show died.
Based on local history, the ballad culminates in the battle of Black Jack, fought just five miles from the Baker campus by forces led by John Brown. It was praised by the Kansas Historical Society for its accuracy, which led to the creation of the school children's matinee. Fifth-grade pupils from the region completely always filled the show for this performance.
Since the show was not given when they were fifth graders, this year pupils in grades six and seven will also be invited to attend the matinee, scheduled for Friday morning, October 19.
The author-composer will be at the piano, with Nancy Gibbens assisting with the chorus. Performers will rehearse on the stage of Rice Auditorium beginning Monday, October 15. Rehearsals before that time will be held in other locales. Tryouts will be held on Sunday afternoon at 1:30 p.m. August 25. Tentative location is the community room of the Baldwin Public Library. Auditions will also be held August 25 in Lawrence, the site to be announced.
In addition to the school children's performance, the musical will be performed Friday and Saturday evenings at 7:30 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday afternoons at 2 p.m. Tickets will be sold at the door. For the first time, there will be no reserved seats.