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Arts / Entertainment

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest Feb. 4-13

February 10, 2010

A Colorado State Native student actor plays the prominent role of Chief Bromden in the School of the Arts production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Come see the play adapted for Broadway from the novel by Ken Kesey that Time Magazine named in its '100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005.'

Image by CSU Photography.

Remaining performances
Feb 11, 12 & 13, 8 p.m.
Feb. 7 at 2 p.m.
University Theatre
University Center of the Arts
1400 Remington St.

Colorado State University School of the Arts presents One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Dale Wasserman, adapted from the novel by Ken Kesey, and directed by Laura Jones.


  • $18 for the public
  • $9 for CSU students

Tickets are available from the Campus Box Office in the Lory Student Center, by phone at (970) 491-4849, or online.

Summary of play

Unable to cope with the insurmountable pressures of the modern world, the patients on Nurse Ratched’s ward at the state mental institution are kept tranquilized and docile. Into their sanctuary from society, a strong, high-spirited stranger comes.

McMurphy is the perfect foil for the emasculating Ratched, as he takes it upon himself to make men out of her “boys.” Imposing his “guts ball” approach to group therapy, he first challenges their complacency, then incites their resistance, and finally inspires their rebellion.

Told from the point of view of Chief Bromden, a long-time inmate presumed to be deaf and dumb, the audience is drawn into this tragicomic allegory for the consequences of questioning authority as they revel in the antics and anguish of one of contemporary literature’s favorite anti-heroes. You’ve read the book, you’ve seen the movie, now experience it as a piece of theatre!

WARNING: Contains adult language – not appropriate for youth under the age of 17.

Image by CSU Photography.

A message from the director

"Transferring a great story as told on the page to the stage is a challenging task, especially when it has already been told so successfully via cinematic conventions.

"Theatre does not depend upon the same dynamics of communication as the film. One, how does the director “edit” the stage action? As are most plays and screenplays based on books, the structure of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is highly episodic. Time is compressed. All the separate scenes must be connected somehow because a stage picture once framed cannot simply be spliced to the next frame. How do the actors get there from here?

"The connective tissue in our production is comprised of excerpts from the novel taken from the point of view of the Native American character, Chief Bromden. Because the Chief also is supposed to be deaf and dumb, we have chosen to present these monologues as voice-overs, giving those intersections an expressionistic quality different from the reality of the day-to-day existence of the patients on Nurse Ratched’s ward.

"We worked with the CSU Native American Cultural Center to find a Native student actor to play the role. Lewis BrightHeart Headrick answered our casting call. A non-traditional student in more ways than one, Lewis is a senior majoring in Social Work who has returned to college after experiencing several different vocations and life-styles, including 10 years as a monk in a Buddhist monastery. Lewis’ father was Appalachian Cherokee, and Lewis’ heritage adds amazing authenticity to CSUs production."

Contributions to the production

Director Laura Jones also engaged the authority of Emeritus Professor John Pratt, who edited the Viking Critical Library Edition of Ken Kesey’s novel. He came and spoke to the entire cast, answering questions ranging from the literary to the political.

Local RN Marcia Compton not only donated medical equipment to be used as props, but she also spent time training the actresses playing nurses. Professional fight choreographer Benaiah Anderson came in from Denver to orchestrate the physical movement required to make the violence onstage safe but disturbingly convincing.

And student dramaturg Hannah MacKay researched the evolution of electroshock therapy and the use of lobotomies, unearthing rare PBS footage of actual treatments conducted in the 1960s, the period in which the play is set.

The School of the Arts at Colorado State University provides an enriched venue in which the study and practice of Art, Dance, Music and Theatre are nurtured and sustained by building the skills and knowledge needed by future generations of arts professionals to become contributors to the essential vitality of our culture and society. For more information, visit

Contact: Jennifer Clary
Phone: (970) 491-3603