Community theater will bring Hitchcock classic to life
By Joe Bachman
STEVENS POINT — Often we see film based on plays, but rarely do we see plays based on movies. This is just what the cast and crew of Central Wisconsin Area Community Theater’s (cwACT) next production will attempt to do.
In The 39 Steps, a man accused of murder will have to flee to save himself in 1930s London in this revision of an Alfred Hitchcock classic. Written by Patrick Barlow, the play will feature only four actors who will take on multiple roles throughout the production.
“How do you do this when you don’t have a camera?” said Director Mike Edgren, who will focus on lighting tricks to emulate a movie camera. “Your lighting is the camera, but you’ve got to convince the audience that it’s what you’re doing. So there’s there’s lot of tricks to keep reminding them that what we’re doing is actually a film.”
Edgren has a Masters Degree in Theater from the University of Minnesota. He has been active in community theater on and off for over two decades.
“How do you do a closeup? How do you do an overhead shot? We have lots of chase scenes, including one on a moving train.” said Edgren.
Keeping up with Hitchcock’s pace is cwACT veteran Carrie Dreger, making this her fourth production. She has been in notable performances in Leaving Iowa, Into the Woods, and Addams Family: The Musical. For Dreger, playing three different characters has been challenging, but also fun.
“Although each woman has different costumes, wigs and accents, making her a unique character requires more work from the actor. I’ve had to consider how she moves, the pitch of my voice, and my favorite part has been the incredible creativity of the production crew and director.” said Dreger.
Dreger has had to explore different elements of different characters with the lighting quick ability to switch between them during the show. However, it’s all for the challenge of bringing a unique experience to audience members.
“Our audience will be given a theatrical experience unlike any cwACT has ever done. The entire premise of the show is that we are making a movie right before their eyes. There will be sound effects, lighting effects, quick character changes, and visual gags that will invite our audience to join in the fantasy we are creating. This has been a fantastically rewarding experience and one that I hope to share with our audience.” Dreger said.
Making his first principal appearance with cwACT is Christopher Bongen, who has been in such productions as Cinderella and Addams Family: The Musical. Bongen has approximately twenty dance performances under his belt throughout his acting career, which works in Bongen’s favor.
“The show is very physically demanding feeling like we are always on the move.” said Bongen.
With Bongen are longtime cwACT staples Scott Price and Steve Martin, as well as Costume Designer Beth Omernik and her husband on the technical end in J.R. Omernik.
“Steve and Scott are a fantastic duo and keep me laughing all the time. Carrie is a real talent always striving to be better,” said Bongen. “Beth is amazing in getting us all to look our best. J.R. has made some great stuff for the show.” said Bongen.
“The references to so many great Hitchcock films and many Comedy greats such Monty Python, Laurel and Hardy, Charlie Chaplin, and Buster Keaton just to name a few. They laid the foundation for a lot of modern comedy and even if you don’t know exactly where it came from you will keep on laughing anyway.” Bongen said.
Aside from acting out a Hitchcock classic, audiences are welcomed to have a laugh, engage in the suspense, and revel in the special effects of the production.
“There’s only one reason for this play have to been written – because it’s never been done.” said Edgren. “The challenge is there; let’s see if we can do it.”
The 39 Steps hits Sentry Theater May 10-12 at 7:30 p.m., with a Sunday matinee at 2PM. For tickets, please visit cwtickets.com