‘Bloody Bloody’ sheds light on Andrew Jackson’s legacy
“Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson,” part of the Performing Arts Department’s 2014-15 season, opens this Friday to a sold-out audience. The wild musical portrays Andrew Jackson, one of America’s most controversial presidents, as an angsty, impulsive teenager. Most famous for his duels, battles and bank legislation and the Trail of Tears, Jackson kills, banishes and cuts down those around him, all in the name of legacy.
Though history does not look upon Jackson fondly, “Bloody” will certainly be remembered as pure rock ’n’ roll, filled with violence, sex and slurs that will touch upon virtually every audience member.
As Director Jeffery Matthews said, “This is not a politically correct play.”
“I really wanted to reach a more youthful audience,” Matthews said of his intentions with the show. Though he originally found “Bloody Bloody” a little “smarty pants” for his taste, “now, I can cuss with some of my best colleagues,” he said.
Though the play asks for crude, cynical humor without restraint, “Bloody Bloody” may press on too many hot-button issues to pass without criticism by the Washington University student body. The show has few female leads, stereotypically portrays Native Americans and contains unnecessary homophobic language. It’s a delicate balance between discussing Jackson’s accomplishments and failures and glorifying him.
“The show really raises the questions of why do some people consider Andrew Jackson a hero, and was he?” stage manager and senior Robert Landis said. “We’re not trying to glorify him. We’re just trying to show the audience the truth.”
Cast members have conflicting responses to Landis’ questions.
“When you’re watching it, you’re like, ‘holy s—,’ you didn’t realize Jackson could do this. He did do this,” sophomore Danny Marshall, playing Martin Van Buren, said. “I learned more from this [show] than I did from some history classes in high school.”
Junior Jon Freeman, playing Andrew Jackson himself, thinks Jackson and America show their growing pains in “Bloody Bloody.” While playing the character, Freeman tried to keep as true to Jackson as possible: “a pretty volatile guy.”
“I think he f—ing rocks,” Freeman said of his character. “Whatever he says goes. Whether that’s for the better or the worse, history decides. But I’m a big fan.”
Freeman called the play “consciously offensive.”
“I think people will remember [Jackson] for doing a lot of amazing things with some pretty terrible consequences,” Freeman concluded.
Though senior Kiki Milner’s character, The Storyteller, empathizes with Jackson throughout the play, she recognizes the abuse Jackson enacts in his presidency—and “Bloody Bloody” itself.
“Despite his efforts, people remember him in a not so nice way,” Milner says. “I think he thought he was the biggest bad-a–.” The Storyteller and Rachel Jackson, played by senior Caroline Leffert, are the show’s only two named female characters.
“The female perspective gets taken out of the play, and it does feel very masculine,” Milner said. “I think that this play is very intelligent despite its ridiculous, crazy humor…It’s funny, but you take a step back and say, that’s f—ed up.”
Leffert said she has come to understand the satire of the show through the rehearsal process.
“People should come see the show because it’s f—ing hilarious,” she said. “You’re going to come away from it with the sense that you’ve learned something, too.”
Performances run in the A.E. Hotchner Studio Theatre in Mallinckrodt Center at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Nov. 14 and 15 and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 16. The show continues the following weekend at the same times. Tickets cost $10 for students.