Tony Award-Winning "Sideman" Continues Through Saturday

by Sam King, Journal Review

February 20, 2007

Wabash College associate professor of theater Michael Abbott has long wanted to get his hands on a script from the play Side Man.

The 1999 Tony Award winning production for best play is a highly regarded play and is being performed by several colleges and universities, Abbott said. Count Wabash among those. Abbott will direct Side Man in Ball Theater in the Fine Arts Center on campus 8 p.m. each night Wednesday through Saturday.

Click here to see photographs from Monday's dress rehearsal.

"It’s a real interesting portrait of what a jazz musician’s life was like and the toll it took on the family," Abbott explains in regards to the play’s plot. "He’s so devoted to his music, he neglects other things."

Side Man is set in 1953 and travels to 1985 with the story of jazz trumpet player Gene through the eyes of his son Clifford, who also suffers from having an alcoholic mother (Terry).

The role of Terry is played by professional actress Jenny McKnight (pictured right) from Chicago. McKnight was listed as one of the Chicago Sun-Times’ elite eight actresses in the Chicago area. Abbott ventured to the windy city and conducted auditions for the role of the mother in the play, then elected for McKnight.

"She’s terrific and brings lots of professional experience," Abbott said of his star character. ""She had a deep familiarity with the character before she ever arrived."

In addition, McKnight has gelled with the Wabash students performing and helped them with warm-up routines. Despite having to practice without her for 2 1/2 weeks for budget reasons, McKnight has instantly molded into the act.

"She kind of hit the ground running," Abbott said.

McKnight, along with Herron School of Art and Design student Anna Ardizzona, of Indianapolis, are the lone women in the production. Ardizzone will plays waitress Patsy.

The play, narrated by Clifford (Braden Pemberton), who recalls key moments in his life, including the demise of jazz music in favor of rock ‘n’ roll. Despite jazz music’s decline, Gene (Matt Goodrich) refuses to seek a regular-paying job in favor of his music.

Other actors include: Sterling Carter (Jonesy), Spencer Elliott (Al) and Patrick McAlister (Ziggy). Cody Grady is the production stage manager and Anthony Morton is the assistant stage director.


Seating for Side Man is general admission only and is free to the public, although tickets are required. For tickets, contact the Fine Arts Center box office 8:30 a.m.-noon or 1:30-4:30 p.m. at 361-6411 or by e-mail at



Wabash College • P.O. Box 352 • Crawfordsville, IN 47933 • 765.361.6100