We facebooked with our guest director, Geoffrey Kent, about our forthcoming production of The 39 Steps. He knows more about the show than we do. He knows more about it than almost any man alive. You could almost call him fanatical on the subject, which is one reason we engaged his services.
Murray Ross We know this show is a favorite of yours, and you’ve seen how many different productions? What’s so hot about The 39 Steps? What makes you love it so?
Geoffrey Kent I’ve watched or worked on about five productions and what is not to love? We will be packing the Dusty Loo Bon Vivant Theater with planes, trains, and automobiles. I think The 39 Steps manages to capture what theater does so well… fire up our imaginations. A cast of four actors creates over forty characters and twenty different locales all with only some steamer trunks and a few odds and ends. I sometimes think that Patrick Barlow, the original adapter for the piece, created it on a dare. It won an Olivier for best comedy and was nominated for a Tony for the same. And it is a riot.
Murray Ross Have you seen the Hitchcock film or read the John Buchan book? What do you think of them?
Geoffrey Kent To say the Hitchcock film is loosely based on the novel by Buchan might be a bit too polite. I think Alfred might have skimmed it on a train ride from Rome to Florence (or was that me?). At the risk of alienating Hitchcock fans, I don’t believe it is one of his strongest films (despite landing #4 in the British Film Institute’s Top 100); however, it does have one of his best themes, the innocent man on the run. Though in our version he runs from very tiny planes and very tiny puppets.
Murray Ross You’ve got four actors. Are they any good?
Geoffrey Kent Very, and several are new to the THEATREWORKS audience. Our leading man, Josh Robinsion, is a regular performer at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival and charming as can be. Lindsay Rae Taylor is our gorgeous Femme Fatale/Ingenue/Leading Lady and will break hearts with all three roles. Clown 1 is Justin Walvoord, an old friend from the National Theatre Conservatory and I’ve been dying to work with him since he returned from NYC to raise a family. Oh, and three more words: Sammie. Joe. Kinnett, who THEATREWORKS audiences will remember from I Am Nikola Tesla and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Yup, a top notch cast.
Murray Ross What is especially challenging about directing such a silly play?
Geoffrey Kent The challenge that keeps me up at night is not letting the technical aspects of the play upstage the great story we have to tell. Yes the show is rife with amazing quick changes and theatrical magic. But it also is a great spy caper and a bit of a wistful love story, as our aging bachelor searches for, and possibly finds, the girl of his dreams.
Murray Ross What do you hope to bring that is special or unique to this production?
Geoffrey Kent The trick with a great script like this and a sharp cast and design team is to mostly get out of their way and work as an editor. Keep the tech simple and keep the story flying with a feel of spontaneity. Oh, and a great homage to Hitchcock’s The Birds ...that I haven’t discovered yet.
Murray Ross One person will say you can’t beat the Hitchcock film, so why bother. Why bother?
Geoffrey Kent I’d say The 39 Steps doesn’t really try to beat a Hitchcock film, rather it tries to reinvent one. The tone of the original is left fairly far behind on our steamer trunk train track and instead this script celebrates theatrical invention and levity. Of course to make it harder they also added nods of the head to several other Hitchcock films. North by Northwest poses a particular challenge, a solution you just have to buy a ticket to see. :-) So we have plenty of references for a Hitchcock fan and a fair share of bits for those who think he needs a wedgie.
Murray Ross Another will say it’s all just too stupid and cute for words. What do you say?
Geoffrey Kent It will ask for a little childlike wonder and a little “what else can this cardboard box be” kind of imagination. If that is stupid and cute… so were my childhood trips to the moon and the center of the earth. Okay those were actually cute.
Murray Ross And a third will say its postmodern post Pirandello meta-theatrical structure will go way over the audience’s heads. Comments?
Geoffrey Kent I don’t know what most of those words mean.
Murray Ross Geoffrey Kent is an English name I believe. What gives you the right to direct a play set in mostly Scotland? Will there be riots in the Highlands?
Geoffrey Kent Come now, it does have an Englishman at its heart who is part Bertie Wooster, part James Bond. I describe myself as the same. No one agrees mind you, but I keep saying it nonetheless.
Murray Ross Why 39 steps? Why not 17 or 23 or 564?
Geoffrey Kent The original novel led to thirty nine steps down a cliffside in Kent (no relation) to a mysterious yacht. I’m fairly certain 564 would have done them in.
Murray Ross Is there sex in this show?
Geoffrey Kent: Yes. Well… there is a very famous scene with the removal of some stockings that is both stunningly lascivious and wonderfully innocent…for 1935 Britain anyway.
Geoffrey Kent My last directing effort for THEATREWORKS was The Grapes of Wrath with a cast of 34, a real truck, an onstage rainstorm, and a set consisting of some four miles of lumber. I asked you for something smaller next time. I’m not certain that wish was granted. But I’m excited to give it a shot.
The 39 Steps
Adapted by Philip Barlow
From the novel by John Buchan
From the movie of Alfred Hitchcock
Licensed by ITV Global Entertainment Limited
And an original concept by Simon Corble and Nobby Dimon
September 15 -October 9, 2011
Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30 P.M.
Saturday, September 24 and October 1 and 8 at 2:00 P.M.
Sundays at 4:00 P.M.
Tickets - $30
Tickets at www.theatreworksCS.org
Box Office Phone 255-3232
The production of The 39 Steps is made possible in part by a generous sponsorship from Carnick & Company
National Theatre Live is a groundbreaking initiative to broadcast the best of British theatre to theaters around the world. The first season of events, which began in June 2009 with the acclaimed production of Phèdre starring Helen Mirren, was seen by over 165,000 people on 320 screens in 22 countries.
by Richard Bean
October 3-5, 2011
$15 ($13 for subscribers)
One Man, Two Guvnors by Richard Bean with songs by Grant Olding is based on The Servant of Two Masters by Carlo Goldoni.
Fired from his skiffle band, Francis Henshall becomes minder to Roscoe Crabbe, a small time East End hood, now in Brighton to collect £6,000 from his fiancée’s dad. But Roscoe is really his sister Rachel posing as her own dead brother, who’s been killed by her boyfriend Stanley Stubbers.
Holed up at The Cricketers’ Arms, the permanently ravenous Francis spots the chance of an extra meal ticket and takes a second job with one Stanley Stubbers, who is hiding from the police and waiting to be re-united with Rachel. To prevent discovery, Francis must keep his two guvnors apart. Simple – right?
To get the rest of the story come to the Dusty Loo Bon Vivant theater on October 3rd, 4th, or 5th at 7:00 P.M. for an evening of fun and frivolity … and some free ice cream at the interval.
The 39 Steps and the Films of Alfred Hitchcock.
Sunday, September 25th, 2:30 P.M.
We are so happy to have Professor Robert Von Dassanowsky join us for our second Prologue of the season. Robert is an expert on all things film and is particularly passionate about Hitchcock. On September 25, Robert will lead us through the career of the great director and focus on his 1935 film of The 39 Steps. Always engaging and passionate, Professor Von Dassanowsky is one of the best lecturers anywhere. You won’t want to miss it. Join us for popcorn, film clips, and Robert’s critical insights at 2:30 at the Dusty Loo Bon Vivant Theater.
Friend of the THEATREWORKS London Tour
Bob Johnson, a regular on THEATREWOKS’ annual London Tour since 2000, died on Saturday, Aug. 13, 2011, at Augusta Medical Center. He was 73. All of us who went on one or many of the tours knew and loved Bob. He had already written his deposit check for this year’s tour when we received this devastating news. All who knew him remember him fondly and send our deepest condolences to his family.
We are dedicating this season’s final production, Mary Stuart, to Bob’s memory. Friends of Bob Johnson have established a memorial fund with THEATREWORKS for anyone who would like to extend his memory with a star on our donor wall. Checks should be made out to the CU Foundation with Bob Johnson Memoriam in the comment field. Please mail checks to THEATREWORKS at 1420 Austin Bluffs Parkway, Colorado Springs, CO 80918. Or follow the Support Us links online at the THEATREWORKS website.
Bob was the Cincinnati Professor of Mathematics, Emeritus, at Washington and Lee University. He joined Washington and Lee’s faculty in 1965. In 2004, the University honored him with the dedication of a classroom in Robinson Hall on the historic Colonnade.
Johnson was an unusually devoted mentor to generations of W&L students, many of whom became devoted friends in later years. His range of interests — in theater, music, history, literature, science —made him a valued friend to a wide circle of friends who prized his wit, his enthusiasm and his steadfastness. An avid traveler, he visited many parts of the world often accompanied by friends, former students, and family.
Johnson was born in Pikeville, Ky., on Nov. 23, 1937 and grew up in Frankfort, Ky. He graduated from Georgetown College and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he earned his Ph. D. He is survived by his brother, Glen, and sister-in-law, Sipra, of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., a niece, Denise Johnson, of Washington, D.C., and a nephew, Robert Alexander Johnson, of Portland, Oregon.