LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas Theatre will open its 2012-13 season with a production of “The 39 Steps,” adapted by Patrick Barlow from the novel by John Buchan and the movie by Alfred Hitchcock. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 12-13, Oct. 18-20 and at 2:30 p.m. Oct. 14 and 21 in the Crafton-Preyer Theatre in Murphy Hall.
The Tony Award-winning comedy thriller is directed by guest artist Alex Espy, a Kansas City-based theater artist. Scenic designer is Del Unruh, professor of theatre; costume designer is Julia Ubert, a second-year graduate student from Sedalia, Mo.; lighting designer is Mark Reaney, professor of theatre, and dialect coach is Paul Meier, professor of theatre.
“The 39 Steps,"” set in London and Scotland in 1935, has a long and complex history dating back to 1995 when two writers, Nobby Dimon and Simon Corble, came up with a new version of it, based both on Buchan’s book and on the highly regarded 1935 Hitchcock film version.
"The 39 Steps" had its U.S. premiere at Boston University before moving off-Broadway, where it won the Olivier Award for Best Comedy in 2007 and the What's On Stage Award for Best Comedy 2007. The 2008 Roundabout Broadway production won the 2008 Drama Desk Award for Unique Theatrical Experience and Outstanding Lighting Design and won two Tony Awards in 2008 for Best Lighting Design and Best Sound Design.
The idea of just four actors playing more than 100 parts calls for excellent comic and timing skills, along with athletic physical agility.
"'The 39 Steps' is as much a celebration of the art of storytelling as it is a thrilling and comical adventure," said Espy. "Imaginative staging creates everything from dangerous plane crashes to exhaustive police chases. The show gives students the opportunity to learn about farce, mime, film noir, pace, working in a small cast, the British Empire, British dialect, slapstick and Commedia dell’arte."
In the play, a man with a boring life meets a woman with a thick accent who says she’s a spy. When he takes her home, she is murdered. Soon, a mysterious organization called The 39 Steps is hot on the man’s trail in a manhunt that climaxes in a death-defying finale.
Espy added the audience has to feel they are on this incredible ride with people as real as possible.
"It is very important to keep the idea that this is a love story; it is a pastiche, a literary, musical or artistic piece consisting wholly or chiefly of motifs or techniques borrowed from one or more sources."
Espy returns to KU after directing "Noah's Art" last December in the Inge Theatre. His recent credits include producing and directing an installation performance of "Alice in Wonderland” for the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, as well as co-writing and directing "The Accidental Waiter" at Lidia's Restaurant. Espy has co-created and performed in several touring productions for the Coterie Theatre.
Reserved seat tickets for "The 39 Steps" are on sale in the KU ticket offices: University Theatre, 864-3982, and Lied Center, 864-ARTS, and online at www.kutheatre.com. Tickets are $18 for the public, $17 for senior citizens and KU faculty and staff, and $10 for all students. All major credit cards are accepted.
Members of the cast, all of whom are students in the School of the Arts in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, are listed below by name, class, major, parents’ names, high school, and role:
Tim Wilkinson, junior, theatre performance major, son of Bruce and Lauren Wilkinson, Shawnee Mission West High School, Clown 1.
Lindsey Roesti, junior, theatre and film majors, daughter of Mike and Janet Roesti, McPherson High School, Pamela, Margaret and Annabella.
Seth Andrew Macchi, senior, film major, son of C.R. and Marti Macchi, Washburn Rural High School, Hannay.
From Kansas City
Alex Roschitz, senior, theatre performance major, son of Sherry Roschitz, Rockhurst High School, Clown 2.