[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the final installment in our series of interviews with members of The History Boys cast. Thanks to all who participated and all of you who have spent time reading about some of the folks who have been a part of making this show such a great experience!]
It was almost time to meet Will Allan, who plays Scripps in The History Boys. As I waited, I heard someone playing the piano on stage. Curious, I went to discover who it was. Across the stage, I saw a slim man with dark hair. I walked toward him to get a closer look, and there was Will, playing. When he saw me, he pulled his hands away from the piano and said, “Oh yes, it’s my turn today.”
Will moved to Chicago this past March. He decided it was best to move because his schedule was so and still is “insanely Chicago orientated,” because The History Boys takes place during the majority of the week. He is still planning on staying in Chicago after The History Boys comes to an end.
Will graduated in June from North Central College in Naperville, where he studied theatre and acting. “Once I realized I was 5’8 and 135 pounds, I knew that I was not going to be playing major league baseball, so I thought ‘I better find something to fall back on.’ And as exciting as biochemistry and physics and math and all that stuff are, I couldn’t picture myself doing it for four more years. So I got a degree in theatre,” explained Will on why he decided to major in theatre.
How did Will become a part of the History Boys?
“Well, one of my professors is friends with a Company member here at TimeLine. So in my sophomore year in college we came to see Lillian with Janet Ulrich Brooks, and she was amazing. From that point on I knew that TimeLine was one of the best Chicago theatres. After a couple of years went by, I saw on PerformInk, an audition website, The History Boys auditions. So I was like, ‘Well, it is my favorite play in the world and there are only a few more years left in my life that I can be a history boy.’ So I submitted, and then I got a call two days later from [Artistic Director] PJ Powers and then I came in, and many auditions later, I was at TimeLine.”
How has his experience been working at TimeLine?
“The experience has been amazing. They cast a great group of boys. And the adults are wonderful to learn from. They are all completely unselfish actors, so throughout the process, you learn so much from them. And the rehearsal process was definitely eye opening because it showed all the work you have to put it. In college you can get away with a lot more because you don’t have as much rehearsal time, and it’s not as pressured. And you only do three to six performances in college. Here, you really have to put the work in because we are looking at more than 100 shows and a lot of important people seeing it. I realized that this is something I want to get up and do every day. I’m pretty thrilled that my work is called play.”
Why is The History Boys Will’s favorite play?
“When this play became popular, I was in school. My mom is a teacher so I have been dealing with the battle of education my whole life. Her coming home and screaming about standardized tests. She liked to do more of the artistic and fun activities. But she always had principals lurking over her, like the Headmaster character in the play, saying that we need ‘results, results, results.’
“It’s also hard to not relate to this show, especially if you are a young male. With all the eight boys, there is definitely someone in the cast who every young man who sees this show can relate to. I think that is what sets this play apart. There is a lot of great writing and serious subjects, but what it comes down to, for me, is just an idea of following eight boys and their teachers, people who are so important to them when they are growing up and developing. It’s rare to have eight male talents who really get out there and play completely different characters and really bring something to each one. And I like that it’s three hours long because I feel like you are really going through it and experiencing what it’s like to be these young boys.”
We continue our conversation, getting to know Will better, such as his goals in life. The first thing he mentioned is being able to do theatre and more, being able to teach it. He would also LOVE to coach a little league baseball team and go to the World Series in Pennsylvania and take them to 1st place.
Another thing that came up in our conversation was Will describing himself as mysterious. [If you’re interested in knowing why, there’s one more week in the run to find out!]
For his last comment, Will explained that he hopes that when audience members see The History Boys, that they remember what it was like when they were growing up, and take time to look back at their lives. “I just want them to have had the moment where one of the boys is interacting with the teachers and they think, ‘Oh my god, I had that moment,’ or ‘I wonder how my life would have been different if I did have that moment.’ And just reflect back on that time in their lives.”