Director's Notes from "And Then There Were None"
When people learn I’m directing a show at Town & Gown, they almost always ask how I choose a script. In my case, I consider several points: genre, audience appeal, actor appeal, and whether a story is different than anything we’ve done recently.
Genre was the easiest point to satisfy; I simply love thrillers and horror in books and movies. Psychological or supernatural – it doesn’t matter – just give me something spine-tingling. During past seasons, I’ve noted our audiences love to figure out clues. Courtroom dramas and ‘whodunnits’ are simply fun as we pit our wits against the villain (or at least the author). It was an easy leap to investigating the works of Murder Mystery Queen, Agatha Christie. And, as I sifted through her available scripts, And Then There Were None kept coming to the top of the heap. The book that the script is based on is reported to be the world’s best-selling mystery novel.
The play departs from the book primarily in its ending, though the language was also rewritten for a modern and more culturally enlightened audience. Christie also changed the name of one of the characters. The General MacKenzie character was originally called General MacArthur, but in 1943, when she was reworking the story, World War II was raging and she didn’t want any confusion with the U.S. general who was prominent in the news at that time.
Speaking of World War II, I’ve often wondered how much the frightening and desperate situation England was in at the time affected the writing of this dark story.
Of course, T&G has done lots of murder-mysteries in the past, but it’s been awhile, so I felt we were ready for another one. Aside from its engaging story, And Then There Were None features some great characters that I knew would be a delight for our actors. Each character has depth and an interesting backstory, which is crucial for actors to develop. I’m very proud of them all for bringing their own interpretation to their characters without influence from screen portrayals. It would be a crime to not recognize my fantastic and talented crew. Working backstage sometimes doesn’t allow proper credit to so many hard-working individuals. Please check out the digital program linked below and take a look at our crew list – each of those roles represent many, many hours of time. Production duties include a great deal of planning prior to auditions, and then organizing paperwork, crew members, specific advisors, and running rehearsals and performances. My stage managers, Kimberly Harrison and Shannon DeYong, are essential for the smooth operation of each show through their very thorough and detailed operation plans.
The crew, under the leadership of Harrison and DeYong, create and organize props, procure or make costumes, and design each actor’s specific “look” through hair and make-up. We devote many hours in designing the ambiance of our production. This involves constructing our set, designing our lights and sound, and working on special effects. The technical aspect of our shows cannot be credited enough for creating a believable (and sometimes magical) reality for our characters.
As a result, our audiences will leave Oklahoma for a little while and find themselves transported to a remote, and vaguely sinister, mansion off the coast of England. So, watch your back and put your detective skills to the test – you will need your wits about you to survive!