Hello and Happy New Year from Louis Butelli! I’m currently in Montgomery, Alabama (affectionately known to locals as “The Gump”) where rehearsals are underway for “The 39 Steps,” beginning January 27th at Alabama Shakespeare Festival. Planning a trip this winter? Come on down to The Gump, and pick up your tickets now.
Today, I’m going to tell you a little bit about ASF and talk a bit about the play.
But first, here are a couple of juicy tidbits about “CYCLOPS: A Rock Opera,” the show that consumed us at Psittacus Productions for the whole of 2011. Plans for a studio recording of our cast album are underway, and negotiations for brand new gigs in the fall have begun. In the meantime, the New Year is traditionally the time when critics put out their “Best Of” lists. We’re honored to have made it on to a few of these. Here are some links:
Los Angeles Times - Chief critic Charles McNulty says that "adventurous" audiences were "galvanized" by "Psittacus Productions' electrically flamboyant 'Cyclops: A Rock Opera.'"
Bitter Lemons - Tastemaker and provocateur Colin Mitchell makes us his top pick for 2011 and says that Cyclops was "hands down the most original show of the year."
Compositions on Theater - Critic, composer, dramaturg, and self-professed Cyclops superfan Sarah Ellis also makes us her top pick for the year and says that she "loved being a friend and advocate for such a smart and sexy new work."
So. “The 39 Steps.” What on earth is it?
Here’s the blurb from the ASF website:
“Four actors play 140 roles in this Tony award-winning Broadway smash that is a combination of Alfred Hitchcock, James Bond and Monty Python. Richard Hannay’s dull life is transformed by a meeting with a mysterious female spy. When she is murdered in his home, he is forced to become a fugitive. But who really done it? And what are the 39 steps? Don’t miss the chase of a lifetime and a death-defying finale!”
Essentially, the play is a physical, minimalist, and highly theatricalized stage adaptation of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1935 film – which, if you haven’t, see it!
In the first three days of rehearsal, we laid down some basic blocking for the first act of the show. In that time alone I play, among other things, the star of a vaudeville “memory” act, an underwear salesman, a policeman, a Scottish farmer with a sexy wife, a paper boy, a Cockney landlady, and a posh housewife.
For those last two, I was fortunate enough to head to the costume shop for “boob fittings.” I won’t say too much about that except to say that one pair is pendulous, one pair is perky, the entire staff of the costume shop came to watch me try them on and, most worryingly, once they’re on, it’s almost impossible not to touch them constantly. Not quite sure just what that says about me.
While it’s probably too soon in the rehearsal process to know exactly how everything is going to play out, I will say that we four actors have already staged an epic chase on a moving train, a death-defying climb across a bridge, and a stealth mission in a fighter plane. And all of it done with simple props – hats, chairs, ladders, etc. – and the imagination of the audience. This is what the theatrical art form is all about. It’s gonna be a hoot.
So far, ASF is awesome. The staff are friendly, hard-working, and very much on the ball. The facilities, which include the 750-seat Festival Mainstage (where “39 Steps” will play), and the 225-seat Octogon Second Stage, are impeccable. The theater is on the grounds of a gorgeous 250-acre park, and it is an absolute delight to go to work there every day.
There will be lots more to come about the play and about ASF – in the meantime, check out their website for more info.
OK. Psittacus Productions is getting ready to roar into 2012, and we wish you all of the very best for a Happy, Healthy New Year.