‘Born Yesterday’ Lights Up The Chatham Drama Guild Stage

By: Jennifer Sexton-Riley

Topics: Local Theater , local artist

Rachel Walman as Billie Dawn and Peter Eldridge as Harry Brock in the Chatham Drama Guild’s “Born Yesterday.”

     If you’re looking for a great night or afternoon out, you’re in luck as “Born Yesterday” takes the Chatham Drama Guild stage Sept 15 through Oct. 8. Performances will take place Friday and Saturday evenings at 7:30 p.m. and on Sundays at 4 p.m. With a cash bar and air conditioning, you can’t go wrong with the Drama Guild’s production of this much-loved screwball romantic comedy, directed by Anna Marie Johansen.
     Rachel Walman is Billie Dawn, showgirl turned girlfriend of corrupt businessman Harry Brock (Peter Eldridge). When the pair travel to Washington, D.C. so Brock can partake in some shady dealings with corrupt Senator Norval Hedges (Fred Carpenter), Billie’s coarse language and
naiveté don’t fly with Brock and his sleazy lawyer, Jack Devery (Mark Roderick). Brock hires a journalist, Paul Verrall (Devin Massarsky) to give Billie a crash course in culture, including literature, history, politics, and — unfortunately for Brock — the law. It turns out Billie may have a head on her shoulders after all. She also has a heart, and who wouldn’t find themselves falling for the kind and respectful Paul over the brash and bullying Harry?
     Walman, 26, is not only the female lead in “Born Yesterday,” her fourth Guild production, but also a Chatham Drama Guild board member since last winter. She hadn’t participated in any theatrical performances since high school when she “almost accidentally” found herself on the Drama Guild stage for the first time last June in “Mame.”
“My friend was reaching out to theater friends (to audition) and I was free,” Walman said. “I had seen the Drama Guild’s ‘Murder on the Orient Express,’ and I loved it. ‘Mame’ was really fun, and so I auditioned for ‘Dracula,’ and then for ‘Murder on the Nile.’”
     When Walman was asked if she would be interested in joining the Drama Guild board, the answer was an enthusiastic yes. The opportunity to sit on the Guild’s reading committee, offering her perspective on possible future shows, was appealing.
     “I work remotely for a federal consulting firm, and it’s not extremely creative,” Walman said. “The Drama Guild has really been a wonderful creative outlet for me during the past year. This is what I have found to be the thesis of the Guild: it’s for everybody. Maybe people love singing in their spare time, or never acted, or never had a solo outside of an ensemble chorus. We create that space for the community, to give them that opportunity.”
     Walman said she wasn’t familiar with “Born Yesterday” before she began to prepare for the production.
     “I knew the name Judy Holliday,” Walman said. “Since we got the scripts in late June or early July, it has been so wonderful. I’ve now seen the film a dozen times, and researched the background on this time period. It’s a post-World War II play, looking at the new push for democratic idealism as opposed to what was going on in the ‘20s and ‘30s, with mobsters and yes-men.”
     Walman said she read many reviews of “Born Yesterday,” and although it may seem like small potatoes to some in this information age, she sees the play differently.
     “I think, at the core, it’s about what it means to have freedom in America,” Wallman said. “To be as educated as possible, to have as much information as everyone else. Billie discovers she is too ignorant to understand the world around her. She has been happy with that so far, but there is so much more she could be with information and education. That’s the heart of the story.”
     Walman applauds her fellow Drama Guild cast members and the many hats everyone wears to ensure each production comes together as it should.
     “Everyone in the cast is essentially also the creative team,” Walman said. “Props and set building and stage management and the backstage organization that goes on is all done by the cast as well. It’s a team effort. This is my favorite show I’ve done at the Guild. I’ve had so much fun in the past two months.”
     “Born Yesterday” at the Chatham Drama Guild, directed by Anna Marie Johansen, features Rachel Walman as Billie Dawn, Peter Eldridge as Harry Brock, Devin Massarsky as Paul Verrall, Mark Roderick as Jack Devery, Fred Carpenter as Senator Norval Hedges, Ann Carpenter as Mrs. Hedges, Joshua Devlin as Eddie Brock and Erica Morris as Helen. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit chatdramaguild.org or call the box office at 508-945-0510.