The Cedarville theatre department’s spring play features “The 39 Steps,” a fast-paced comedy spy-thriller. This play is based on the novel and movie by Alfred Hitchcock.
Cedarville is performing Patrick Barlow’s adaptation of the work. Director Rebecca Baker said Barlow takes the suspense found in Hitchcock’s movie and adds a dash of Monty Python.
“The 39 Steps” is set in 1935 and tells the story of a man named Richard Hannay, played by junior Adam Silorey, who leads an ordinary life until he meets a woman who claims to be a spy. Hannay’s interaction with this woman leads him to discover an organization known as “The 39 Steps,” which hunts for Hannay throughout the story. The organization’s hot pursuit of Hannay leads him from London to Scotland and back.
Baker said this comedic play offers more than mere silliness.
“There really is a story here of a lonely man, Richard, who finds a reason to live,” Baker said.
She said “The 39 Steps” is a spy plot to take over the world, and Hannay is trying to get to the bottom of that.
“(Hannay is) realizing that there is evil in the world, and he’s trying to deal with it,” Baker said, “so that’s why he’s going after this plot when he’s been falsely accused.”
“The 39 Steps” tackles a unique feat by having only four actors play numerous roles. Junior Chandler Hull plays three different female roles in the play – Pamela, Annabella and Margaret.
Hull said it’s difficult to act out the physical traits of each woman, figuring out how they walk, stand and hold their arms. But the characters’ differing accents help her differentiate between them.
“Having different accents has helped a lot because I’m playing a German woman, a Scottish woman and an English woman,” Hull said.
Hull meets with Baker a couple of times a week to discuss the characteristics of each woman to help with the challenge of differentiating between each role.
“My goal is that when people see the show, I don’t want them to realize at first that it’s one actor playing all three characters,” Hull said.
Like Hull, sophomore David Widder-Varhegyi plays multiple roles. Widder-Varhegyi plays 13 roles alongside senior Eric Rasmussen. Rasmussen plays Clown One and Widder-Varhegyi plays Clown Two.
Widder-Varhegyi said they do not actually play the role of clowns. The word “clown” is a Shakespearean term used to refer to different roles. Widder-Varhegyi calls his characters “backup dancers.”
He said the most challenging part of playing various roles is the use of the technical element rather than the emotional side. Because Widder-Varhegyi plays so many different characters, he needs to make the technical aspects, such as how to hold his arms and walk, different for each character. Each role he plays has a small part on stage, and each character has different farcical elements to them.
“There’s not much emotional intrigue within the run of the show for my characters because they are on stage for so little,” Widder-Varhegyi said.
One of the big elements in the play is the idea of community that each character brings, Widder-Varhegyi said.
“They bring community (and) vitality,” he said. “Even though this play is about one guy, it’s about everybody.”
The actors are not the only ones who play a vital role in the production.
Senior Heather Barker is the stage manager for the play and serves as the in-between for the director and production staff.
“I’m pretty much the secretary of the show, and I keep the prompt book,” Barker said. “The bulk of my job doesn’t start until we get to the theater.”
Barker said the prompt book contains any form of communication from the various departments of the production. During rehearsals she records blocking and makes sure everything runs smoothly. Barker will be the one calling the cues during the show, including light and sound cues.
To prepare for the play, the cast and director began rehearsing Feb. 10. Some of the cast, along with Baker, attended a performance of “The 39 Steps” to help them with rehearsals.
“We actually went and saw a production,” Baker said, “so that’s helpful just to see how this thing comes to life on stage.”
To advertise for “The 39 Steps,” Baker worked with Mark Weinstein, executive director of public relations.
Baker said Weinstein worked with getting advertisements into the Dayton City Paper, the Springfield News-Sun and the Yellow Springs Community Library.
“We’ll have a billboard that will be up heading into Dayton on the highway,” Baker said. “We’ve done that for the last few plays, so that’s something that Mark coordinates with us.”
This billboard for “The 39 Steps” extends the advertisement of the play beyond Cedarville.
Baker said “The 39 Steps” will feature a special matinee for high schoolers and senior citizens on April 10 at 10 a.m.
Baker and the cast say they are looking forward to opening night, and they encourage the audience to come ready to be energized.
Widder-Varhegyi said he is looking forward to opening night, especially for the audience’s reaction and the character development on stage.
“It’s true,” he said. “A show is never fully complete until you have an audience.”
“The 39 Steps” will run from April 3 – April 13, with an art gala on opening night.
Kathryn Sill is a sophomore journalism major and an arts & entertainment writer for Cedars. She loves running, dogs and eating food.
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