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Director of Ball State's 'Damn Yankees' steps up to bat, talks about the show

by Nolan Leahy Opening earlier this month, Damn Yankees is currently still playing at the Ball State University Theatre until Sunday, Oct. 1. This musical comedy is about Joe Boyd, an avid baseball fanatic that makes a deal with the devil in order to stop his favorite baseball team from always losing. Damn Yankees premiered in the 1950s and won seven Tony awards back in its day, which included Best Musical and Best Choreography. Since then, it’s made several appearances in other media such as films, high school performances, and a 1994 revival version on stage. Ball State University Chairman of the Department of Theatre and Dance, and director of Damn Yankees, Bill Jenkins, weighs in on the show: “…I think the story, whether it was written in the 1950s or today, is still very relatable… Would you sell your soul to the devil to ultimately get what you want? I think the baseball component is a big part for me.” Additionally, Jenkins says that he is a huge Chicago Cubs fan. “When we selected the show, it was before the Chicago Cubs won the World Series…” Jenkins said, “…We’re now in a situation where 108 years of depression of Cubs fans has gone away, but there were periods of time I know where you thought to yourself, ‘I’d do anything to see my team do well.'" Jenkins says that this show begs the question “What would you do to get what you want?” While the show’s relatable message was a big reason Jenkins wanted to work on this musical, he also spoke of his incredible passion for working with students: “I always love working with the students, because we have such a great student body… there’s several of our most talented students [sic] that I’m working with either for the first time or for the second time.” Gabe Ford-Dunker and Reagan Pender, the actors playing the lead roles of Joe Boyd and Mr. Applegate respectively, previously played roles in Shrek: The Musical, which Jenkins also directed. Jenkins said that he loves working with talented students. “A highlight for me is always watching them grow and get better and learn about their craft,” Jenkins said. “I’m very proud of what we were able to accomplish here and what the students are able to do. I’m really satisfied with the program, and I think that everybody will have a great time with Damn Yankees… it’s a show for the whole family and I think people will really enjoy it.” Bill Jenkins has been working with Ball State University for 18 years. Working alongside Jenkins is Emmy award-winning arranger and Broadway musical director Michael Rafter. Also working on Damn Yankees is Ball State Associate Professor Christie Zimmerman, the show's lead choreographer. Show times for Damn Yankees are Sept. 22-23, 26-30 at 7:30 p.m. and on Sept. 24 and October 1 at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are on sale either in the University Theatre Box Office from Noon to 5 p.m. and one hour before performances. Tickets can also be purchased online.

Image Gallery

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Sources: BSU Tony Awards Images: