Colleen Narup, Reporter
From April 6-9, East Central College Theatre performed their last show of the 2016-2017 season, “The 39 Steps.” The play, based on the 1935 film by Alfred Hitchcock, is what theatre department executive Chris Swanson describes as a “‘whodunnit?’ farce comedy about being at the wrong place at the wrong time.”
“It revolves around a man named Richard Hannay,” director Grace Austin said, “who is framed for murder and goes on a journey to clear his name, and also the zany characters that he meets along the way.”
Swanson, Austin and the rest of the theatre department decided to put on this production after seeing “The 39 Steps” performed at The Rep in St. Louis.
“It’s a small show, which provides a lot of creativity for the actors,” Austin said.
The show had a very small cast of 9 people, starring Ethan Kleekamp as Richard Hannay and Tara Steffens playing as Annabella, Margaret and Pamela. Additional background roles were portrayed by Chad Greife-Wetenhall, Colin Healy, Sullivan Hogan, CJ Satterfield, Briley Howell, Matt Eechaute and Johny Cojocaru. Most of the actors had to take on multiple roles at once, many of which were in the same scene. This allowed for several original twists throughout the production.
“Our biggest twist was at the beginning, when we set up a ‘framing device’ that showed the actors putting on the show,” Austin said.
The idea of “actors putting on a show” lasted from beginning to end in “The 39 Steps.” The fourth wall was broken multiple times, with the actors poking fun at each other for intentionally not following cues or switching roles on time and referring directly to people in the audience.
The play had very limited seating and quickly sold out during the opening week, and the theatre department owes this to the local community.
“We have a great community here at ECC,” Swanson said, “and it’s so great to see people respecting our work.”