JOLIET — Ottawa actor Walt Willey will perform his one-man show "Wild Bill: An Evening with James Butler Hickok" twice at Joliet West High School.
Performances will take place at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 28, and 2 p.m. Sunday, March 1. Tickets are $20 in advance or $25 at the door, with additional information at 815-727-6763. A portion of the proceeds will assist the drama departments at Joliet West and Joliet Central high schools.
"Wild Bill" will be presented by WilleyWorld Community Productions in association with Joliet West, and include an implementation of the "Wild Bill" In-School Program for drama students
"Wild Bill" is Willey’s tribute to fellow La Salle County native and Wild West icon James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok, born in 1837 near Troy Grove. Earlier this year, Willey starred as Hickok in the American Heroes Channel program "Wild Bill: Marksman and Marked Man." Willey was drafted as co-writer and historical consultant for the episode, which features dialogue from the one-man show.
Willey, an Ottawa native who for about 25 years played Jackson Montgomery on the long-running daytime drama "All My Children," had been looking for a one-man show to take on tour.
“I began to research this man’s life and I was fascinated. Even with the myth and fable surrounding him stripped away, his life is as exciting as any of the fiction written about him. And he’s 6-foot 2, blond and blue, so it wasn’t much of a stretch,” Willey quipped.
“This is a man who was, in his lifetime, a farmer, a teamster, a trapper, a scout, a spy, a marshal, a sheriff, a gunfighter, an actor and a gambler — and a legend in his own time. And he died at 39 years old. In Western movies, when we see gunfighters step into the street for a showdown, it’s because Wild Bill did."
As for the play, “It’s Hickok’s life story from his own mouth. The sources I’ve used are the ones that lean on provable truth,” said Willey. “Now whether Hickok could separate his truth from legend ... well, that’s part of the journey.”
The first-person narration follows Hickok’s life from his birth and adventures in Illinois, through his years as scout and sharpshooter, spy and lawman, gunfighter and gambler, to his assassination in Deadwood, S.D., the infamous mining camp.
The show will feature audience participation, followed by a discussion, question and answer period and a meet-and-greet reception.
Walt Willey as Wild Bill Hickok