‘The Nerd’ comes to Riverside Theatre this week

UW-Eau Claire’s Theatre Department will perform the comedy from Dec. 12-17

Taylor Reisdorf

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March 25, 2020


Member of the cast Emily Elliot said the play is “light-hearted with a feel-good message at the end.”

A small-casted comedy about a young architect and his unexpected visitor is coming to UW-Eau Claire’s Riverside Theatre this week. “The Nerd,” which is set in Terre Haute, Indiana in 1979, follows Willum Cubbert and the events that unfold after an unforeseen, unusual guest named Rick Steadman attends his thirty-fourth birthday party.

Steadman, like Cubbert, is an ex-GI. Although the two have never met in a traditional sense, Steadman saved Cubbert’s life after he was seriously wounded in Vietnam. Since then, the pair have exchanged letters. Cubbert made it clear that Steadman is always welcome in his home.

Immediately upon his arrival, it becomes obvious that Steadman is a socially awkward, inapporpriately behaved man. He abruptly begins to wreak havoc on the lives of the other characters, particularly the life of Cubbert.

Mitchell Gavin, a sophomore history education and theatre education student, plays Steadman in Eau Claire’s upcoming rendition of “The Nerd.” Initially, Gavin said he was hesitant about taking on the role. However, he said portraying the character has turned out to be “a lot of fun” and has challenged him as an actor.  

“This is my third show at UW-Eau Claire, and I just love it here,” Gavin said. “The theatre program gives us a lot of opportunities and I’m happy to be able to play Rick. There are so many talented people in the theatre program that really make for some awesome shows.”

Eau Claire’s theatre department has been preparing for this show since early November, Gavin said, with rehearsals taking place for three hours each day during the week.

Emily Elliot, a senior theater and English critical studies student, said she has become particularly attached to Eau Claire’s theatre program. Elliot said the department is what has kept her at the university.

“I would not be who I am today without the theatre department and all of the opportunities that they have provided me,” Elliot said.

Elliot said she has thoroughly enjoyed being a part of “The Nerd.” Elliot portrays the character of Tansy McGinnis. McGinnis is a woman who is romantically interested in Cubbert, but is conflicted between acting on her feelings for him or chasing her dream job.

Elliot said one of her favorite parts about the show is the closeness and learning advantages that come with the small cast.

“Once you have a closer connection with people, some of the jokes get funnier because you’re used to playing off of each other,” she said. “I think that we have a really nice chemistry as a cast.”

While she said the play is funny in its entirety, she believes a few instances stand out. One instance Elliot mentioned is when the characters play a game called “Shoes and Socks.” The game, Elliot said, involves putting paper bags on their heads.

Gavin said the sitcom-esque play is at its funniest when all seven characters are on stage together.

“There’s a dinner party, and I love the conversations that I get to have with other characters,” he said. “They’ll ask fairly mundane, normal questions and I’ll just give the craziest answers.”

All in all, both Gavin and Elliot said “The Nerd” is a show worth going to. Gavin said he thinks it will be a major crowd-pleaser, and Elliot said the show’s light-heartedness and “feel-good message at the end” will make it worth seeing.

While this is the last show of the semester, the theatre department will put on two more shows before the end of this school year: “Kingdom Come,” for which Elliot is assistant stage manager, and “The Tempest.”

Showtimes for “The Nerd” are 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 12-16 and 1:30 p.m. on Dec. 16-17 in the Riverside Theatre in Haas Fine Arts Center. Tickets can be purchased for $18 from the Service Center, online or in Davies Student Center, or before the show if tickets are available.