From Novel to the Stage: The Red Badge of Courage Premieres in Leggett Theater

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By Brian Martinez

The lives of teen civil war soldiers will be brought to life on Leggett’s stage in an adaptation of The Red Badge of Courage, the 1895 novel by Stephan Crane. 

The novel has been read by many students around the world and it is one that is regarded as being one of the greatest American novels, and is a staple in high school curriculum.

The show is directed by Bryan Pridgen, and is a part of the ‘Theatre For Young Audiences’ (TYA) class where students learn about what it takes to be a teaching artist. Bryan Pridgen is husband to Amy Pridgen, Associate Professor of Theatre and Musical Theatre. He has directed shows at WPU prior to The Red Badge of Courage.

“So for this show, specifically, it is intended for a high school audience,” said Pridgen. “Part of why to do this play and why do TYA is to show that we can treat it like any other play. They don’t deserve any less just because they are high school students.”

Theatre for young audiences is not solely focused on children’s theatre. It is also about educating teens about the arts and giving them a platform to express themselves.

The cast and crew will be having a Friday matinee where high school students will come see the show and have a Q&A with some of the cast and creative team behind the production.

This adaptation of the show will be the first to premiere  in the state of North Carolina.

“This is one of the hardest plays I’ve ever done,” said Pridgen. “This will be my third time doing it and first time directing it.”

Arts Administration senior Rebekah Walker finds the intense nature and historical value of the work to be a challenge.

“I don’t ever leave the stage so the most challenging part of the play is having to rely on myself to know what is coming and what the blocking is for each battle since they are all different,” said Walker. 

Walker leads the cast as Henry Fleming, the innocent and insecure young adult. Walker and the rest of the cast of The Red Badge of Courage bring to life the intense battles of the Civil War in a non-traditional form. 

The cast was taught an acting method called Suzuki, named after the avant-garde Japanese director who developed the method. 

Suzuki is a very physical method that focuses on building an awareness of the body and its core. The method is one of the most popular acting methods taught in the United States.

“It helps strengthen your voice that we use on the stage,” said Pridgen. “A lot of the battle sequences are done in a stylized way that fits with the techniques that we did with Suzuki.”

It may seem that theatre is fully back post COVID-19,  but the cast of The Red Badge of Courage had some setbacks with making sure the cast and crew were well and healthy.

They did not let that interrupt their commitment to the rehearsal process. 

WPU junior Desire Lora is the stage manager of the production, and this is her first time taking on the role of stage manager.

“Being able to see my friends/cast members grow into their characters has been a big stand out to me,” said Lora. “Seeing them live and be their characters is really beautiful and I’m grateful to be able to see each night from the other side.”

The show may be 45 minutes long but it is full of action and moments of pure humanity. 

“It’s the idea that even if you fail and you make a mistake, you’re still worthy of love and not discredited because you made a mistake,” said Pridgen. “These characters make mistakes. And there’s honor in that because they’re willing to learn from it.”

The Red Badge of Courage runs from Feb. 25 through Feb. 27 in Leggett theater. Get tickets here!