Water Works: Chesterton actor starring in month-long run of 'The Rainmaker'

2013-08-05T00:00:00Z 2013-08-07T23:00:06Z Water Works: Chesterton actor starring in month-long run of 'The Rainmaker'By Philip Potempa philip.potempa@nwi.com, (219) 852-4327 nwitimes.com

Actor Joseph Wycoff doesn't mind joking about his weather worries for his latest play.

Wycoff, a graduate of Chesterton High School, is playing the title role in "The Rainmaker," opening this weekend and running through Sept. 1 produced by First Folio Theatre at Mayslake Peabody Estate, 31st St. and Rt. 83 near Oakbrook Terrace, Ill.

Because the production, directed by First Folio Theatre Co-Founder Alison C. Vesely, is being presented on the outdoor stage under the stars, Wycoff says he's well aware of the possibility of a performance also played under clouds or the threat of "real" raindrops.

"I've thought about what the chances are of the ultimate irony happening and having a performance of 'The Rainmaker' meeting up with some rainy weather," Wycoff said.

"But I'm not really too worried."

Wycoff's lead role is that of a charming con man named Starbuck, who comes to a drought stricken Western town on a hot summer day. Before long, he sets a family's world spinning, by not only the promise of rain showers, but also by romancing their spinster daughter, and promising to change the course of history. Actress Hayley L. Rice stars opposite of Wycoff as the daughter Lizzie Curry.

He said the Depression-era tale, which emphasizes the power of hope and humor during difficult times, was a role he actively sought.

"This role was one I really wanted and I sent a note to Alison, since I knew she's directing and asked her to consider me," Wycoff said.

"I was told I'd be added to 'the short list,' and as it worked out, I was cast."

"The Rainmaker," by N. Richard Nash, originally premiered in New York in 1954 and was made into a 1956 film starring Burt Lancaster and Katharine Hepburn. The play has been translated into over 40 languages and was also made into a Broadway musical called "110 in the Shade."

Wycoff developed his voice for the stage early in his youth, an easy feat, especially since his father Joseph R. Wycoff remains well known to many as an English teacher at Chesterton High School and director of the school's award winning speech and debate team.

"My dad always encouraged me," he said.

"And once I became based in Chicago, I was fortunate to stay busy."

Wycoff also has starred as Henry Higgins in "Pygmalion" and Longaville in "Love's Labor's Lost" at Michigan Shakespeare Festival. And one of his favorite productions of his career remains "Private Lives" at First Folio Theatre.

For his First Folio return in "The Rainmaker," Wycoff stars with Folio favorites Aaron Christianson, Matthew Keffer, David Rice, Alex Weisman and René Ruelas.

This production also has a special significance for Wycoff, since he too is about to begin a new life chapter.

"My wife is originally from New Zealand and as soon as this production finishes, we are moving with our children there, which has always been the plan we've talked about," Wycoff said.

"And with doing this production of 'The Rainmaker,' it seems so fitting as a final bow before we leave, since Starbuck, the character I play, also makes a final exit."

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