Thursday, May 3, 2012

The 39 Steps 5/3/12

Spoiler alert!  To get the most, I do recommend you go see The 39 Steps at the Towle Theater before you look at these photos and read my blog.  The fun is being there to catch the performance, the mystery, the action for yourself.  Then you can use this blog to reflect upon the fun you had.

This is my second time at the Towle Theater.  I have to thank Jeff Casey once again for allowing me to photograph the rehearsal.  Oh it was a tricky one to photograph this time.  Shadows everywhere, to set the scene for a mystery.

"A suspense comedy", as the Theater wrote on their website.  A mystery unfolds that needs to be solved.  A "who did it", followed by dum dum dum dum . . . something is afoot, as the characters do double takes just to make sure you understand the gravity of the mystery.

This play wraps you up in the mystery.  Everyone, at some time in their life, enjoyed being a sleuth, detective, flat foot, investigating with deductive reasoning, while being pointed to distractions that lead you in the wrong direction.  You ask Why?  You drill down and ask Why? again, like a child or broken record.  You get to the root of the mystery, then build it back up into a scenario of what really took place.

The cast was great.  I would never have expected less from them, nor from their director.  So with that, here is the cast starting by their character name first.  The production staff are at the end of this blog.

Richard Hannay played by David Roycroft




Annabella Schmidt / Pamela / Margaret played by Dawn Baldwin




Clown 1 played by Shawn A. Smith




Clown 2 played by Shawn Fanning



Do not let just four actors, and a what would appear at first a simple play, fool you.  It is much more complex, and many more characters than you can count.  

The play opens with Hannay thinking out loud about what is going on in his time.  He wants to take his mind off it, basically looking for something pointless to do, so he goes to the theater.

See the shadow in the lower right corner of this next photo!  Would have been cool if the photographer could have stepped up his game to get more of it in the shot . . . (yes, meaning me).





In walks our spy, Anneballa Schmidt.  Annebella shows you the drama of being a spy, with just enough gesture, pause, second takes, that you just love her character.




I liked the lighting a lot.  For photography it was difficult.  For suspense it was perfect.  I have to say, given this my second visit to Towle Theater and Jeff Casey's directing, the lighting is very consistent and strong in character itself, equal to the cast that performs.  It highlights the performance, the actors, the script, both times I have been there.

This next photo I enjoyed seeing the light through the blinds.  What blinds?  Exactly . . .


There were some shadows to photograph around.  I had a hard time with this next couple of minutes, finding my position to photograph Hannay and Annabella.  Though shadows (in a different sense) were what this play is about.  So as a photographer I am glad I worked around this kind, and captured the others.  (I will let you think about that for a while.)


Hannay and Annabella toyed with each other through this scene.  You can tell they liked each other, however at the end of the day Hannay is a gentlemen, or at least he maintained well enough to give him a hip hip hurray.  

What I liked was you felt Hannay and Annabelle had their own agenda in the mystery, which is what kept you glued to the scene.  Every word, movement, stare, turn of the hand, told a significant part of the mystery which was ready to unfold.


Look how perfect this next setting was.  Hannay opening the blind to look down, while Annabella with her chin up in order to see down the angle of the blind.  What blind?  Exactly . . . (as I do a double blind like the other double takes in this scene).  Perfect!


I think to be a spy, your hand gestures need to be explicit, timed, and enunciated, as Annebela did in this next photo. And Hannay having to tuck his tie back in his jacket after being toyed with in the above photo. Another perfect moment!



Though they may toy, allude to a certain unspoken desire, at the end the gentlemen will always sleeps in the chair . . .


That is, until he is happily woken, or perhaps not so happily in this case . . .


Do not call this overacting!  This is the style of the drama, the mystery.  This is what distracts you from thinking to far ahead of the play, keeping it real, though not real, so as to pace your thought.


I like how the detail was put in, like in this next photo of Hannay covering Annebella with the sheet. The hand was not covered just long enough to let you know a crime was being concealed, before it was concealed. Similar to other details throughout the play.


Mysteries like this are fun to watch.  Every time it seems someone needs a disguise to help them go unnoticed.  Cliche?  Perhaps, however this is what makes a spy mystery.  I did like how the milk man was payed with his own money . . . funny . . .


I have to applaud the cast and directing for simple effects to change character. It was quick and effective, with the purpose of keeping your mind going so as to not jump to the end of the mystery. It worked!


This next few minutes were a bit busy.  Sitting up front taking photos I lost track.  It was all I could do to keep up with the plot, which was okay since I was there to photograph, and will see the play with you, yes you, later . . . dum dum dum . . . (yes, I am having fun with this)





Did it feel a bit tight in the above couple photos?  Hmm, wonder what passenger car / coach compartments and side corridor walks were like back then?  All Aboard . . .

What was fun and challenging was keeping up with all the hat/character changing moments of Clown 1 and Clown 2.  I wear a lot of hats at work, however I cannot shift gears into the other mode as perfectly as these actors had.




There was a scene running from the train station which was very interesting because of the lighting. However the photos I took did not tell the story well unless I put the entire series in.  So I have left them out, for your sake. Lets just say the scene was well coordinated with lighting and movement.

There are twists everywhere. This next part put on another layer of "who's the spy". I started looking at everything as a setup from the spy ring. Who do you trust? How is Hannay going to figure this out? It made it interesting all the way to the end, which that feeling in itself was also interesting.

These next couple photos are of the police doing another double take as they search the train looking for their murderer.




The play made good use of props.  Here is the train scene where Hannay escapes out the moving train by hanging on the outside, while the police attempt to pull him in.  The acting told you right away what was going on.


I liked the news review, describing the suspect and to be on the lookout for him.  The voice on the radio (or voice inside you reading the paper if you will) painted the picture of who the police were looking for, and Hannay posing to reflect that image being told was a great part of the play.  All the way through the dodging in shadows to avoid his own capture.  I thought it was pretty cool.





It seems like the good guy always gets to kiss the girl, married or single.  Now, where have I gone wrong?



The escape, the news, and the chase goes on . . .




Do we finally find out?  Ah, not yet, or at least not the entire mystery.  This is just one more piece of the puzzle.



The victor . . .


Or not . . .


This part was stupendous. I was lost into the scene, because of the characters being played by Clown 1 and Clown 2. Here Hannay was mistaken (or was he) as a certain speaker they were waiting for. Hannay was invited to the front, was introduced to the audience as someone else, and yet another mislead by Hannay so he could work on the mystery. Clown 1 and Clown 2 played their role so well at this point, I actually thought there were two more actors in the play. Now, that is acting!


Oh, we forgot the car . . . I loved this part.  Nothing like stopping a scene to set the scene to restart the scene so you would have a scene, and on purpose.  What a scene! (pun intended)


After the officers found their car and took the two into custody, and remember (or realize) they are driving in Scotland, they had to stop at the very last moment for some sheep they saw through the fog.  The timing of everyone lunging forward was perfect, and caused me to lunge forward a little too.  I had to laugh at myself.  As simple, as complex, as comical this play is, I realized then they hooked me throughout the entire play without me knowing it.  This made the play even more enjoyable.


Hannay and Pamela (oh, failed to mention that was Pamela he met earlier on the train, and then again later) escape from the police, while the police were moving the sheep off the road . . . and found a place to room and board for the night, though handcuffed together.  Hannay takes a peak or two as Pamela takes her stockings of to dry, yet remains the gentlemen at the end.






Now, I have several degrees in engineering.  I will even state from Purdue.  When I heard the line from Clown 1 what The 39 Steps were, and the secret that was photographed in his mind, well let us just say I bought it all.  As he rattles of formulas, designs, you can just see into his mind, speaking all this information from a picture displayed in his head.  Yes, the line was so well done I bought it hook line and sinker.  Great job!!!


Now, I do understand actors wanting recurring roles, however, sometimes you need to take the hint . . . (kidding - the last part of the play was funny).


One more time . . . all 4's up in the air . . .




Well done!  And this performance would not have been possible without support from businesses, individuals, patrons, and especially the production staff, starting with Jeff Casey.

Director / Set Design - Jeff Casey

Lighting Design - Shawn A. Smith

Costume / Sound Design - Kevin Bellamy

Here are some photos of the audience opening night.


Please go see this performance!

Towle Theater

5205 Hohman Avenue
Hammond, IN  46320

(219) 937-8780

If you have never been to the Towle Theater, you need to go.  Parking is easy, the play house is very nice, and to tell the truth the building sort of fits the era of this play.  Here is a link to my first blog on the musical "Ordinary Days" that I had the great privilege of photographing and later coming back to watch.  This will give you the sense of Jeff Casey's abilities to arrange a performance for us.

With that, I also want to recognize we have other venues in the region for all to enjoy, which I attend, like the play house Beatnik's on Conkey and Paul Henry's Art Gallery Thursday night JAM. The City of Hammond is becoming a hub once again to see talent, art, in its best form.

Thank you once again Jeff Casey, David Roycroft, Dawn Baldwin, Shawn A. Smith, Shawn Fanning, and Kevin Bellamy for a very enjoyable play.  For without you I would not be able to spin off my art of photography . . .

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