The Civic Theatre Presents ‘The 39 Steps’
February 4–19, 2021
Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays @ 7 p.m.
Sundays @ 2 p.m.
Adapted by Patrick Barlow
From the novel by John Buchan
The Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre is pleased to present “The 39 Steps” this February.
What Is “The 39 Steps”?
Mix a Hitchcock masterpiece with a juicy spy novel, add a dash of Monty Python and you have “The 39 Steps,” a fast-paced whodunit for anyone who loves the magic of theater! This two-time Tony and Drama Desk Award-winning treat is packed with nonstop laughs, over 150 zany characters (played by a ridiculously talented cast of four), an onstage plane crash, handcuffs, missing fingers and some good old-fashioned romance! In “The 39 Steps,” a man with a boring life meets a woman with a thick accent who says she’s a spy. When he takes her home, she is murdered. Soon, a mysterious organization called “The 39 Steps” is hot on the man’s trail in a nationwide manhunt that climaxes in a death-defying finale! A riotous blend of virtuoso performances and wildly inventive stagecraft, “The 39 Steps” amounts to an unforgettable evening of pure pleasure!
I interviewed the director John Goodson and cast members Matt Kraft, Haley Glickmann, Eric Reiberg and John “J.D.” Walls, who shared their passion for not only this outstanding production but also for The Civic with whom they are proud to be affiliated.
Janelle Morrison: The Civic, as we know, brings in first-rate community theater productions and exceptional talent to central Indiana. As we look to be entertained for an evening and forget about the world’s problems for a few hours, what can your audiences expect to experience?
John Goodson: “The 39 Steps” is hysterically funny! It taps into intergenerational comedy, which I think is great because you’re paying homage to really old comedy styles and some [styles] that are more ’50s and ’60s TV sitcom humor. It’s fast-paced and irreverent in a lot of ways, which makes it light and easy to jump into. But there’s good heart in all of it. It’s not just silly fluff—there’s a lot of meaningful parts.
JM: It’s cathartic to laugh again, isn’t it?
Goodson: It’s important that we’re able to laugh at the absurdity of the extreme and at the horrible situation that we’re all living in. When you sit in a theater and you cry, you probably feel like you’re alone, but when you laugh, you always know that you’re laughing with everyone else and that’s one of the things that differentiates us from all the other animals. We’re able to communicate that way, and so there is catharsis in crying, but there is huge catharsis in laughter as well, and that is delightful.
JM: The four-member cast is not only having to learn and develop four different characters in this production but several characters and personalities per actor. That takes a remarkable level of skill and talent, doesn’t it?
Goodson: This is four people trying to do the impossible, which is a joy to watch. It’s like trying to watch a kid learn to walk. It’s the concept of “You’re going to fall down and it’s going to be a mess, but it’s going to be so much fun to watch!” They are not only actors but all of our crew. They move everything that’s on the stage, so while they’re acting, they have all the other elements that they have to work with, so it’s a lot of rehearsing over and over again. It’s like watching those sketch comedy shows where you just don’t know what’s coming next and it’s meant to look like that.
JM: Haley, you’re originally from Carmel and a graduate of Carmel High School. What made you want to audition for this production of “The 39 Steps”?
Haley Glickmann [primary characters: Pamela/Annabella/Margaret]: I recently came back to Indiana. I was in New York for about five years. I actually did this production in high school, and so I know the show and love it. I love comedy and love to laugh, so that’s what sort of drew me to this [production]. I play Annabella, who’s a spy, and Margaret, who’s a Scottish housewife, and Pamela, who is just a regular British citizen living her life. It’s nice to be in a place where we can do theater and do something communally, which is something that we really lost at the beginning of the pandemic.
JM: Do you have a favorite character or is one role more challenging than another?
Glickmann: I love them [the characters] all equally. They’re all very different women, but they’re all sort of seeking out similar things. My parts are mainly the love interests, and it’s always nice to have a happy love story.
JM: Eric, what are some of the main characters you’re portraying?
Eric Reiberg: I’m playing quite a few. I’m playing the master of ceremonies, a salesperson, a police officer, a professor who is also a German spy, a sheriff, a kind of mob wise guy, an inspector and other [roles]. I’m constantly moving throughout this production.
JM: How are you managing all of your varying roles as you develop them?
Reiberg: Each character in this production gets delineated with a different regional accent of some kind, a dialect, as well as to have some sort of particular physicality to it that’s different between each role. Even if they’re not the best dialects—it’s a comedy, so I’m not trying to convince anyone that I’m truly from that location. And with each character, I pick a different role model or some other fictional character or some other actor to pattern [my character] off of as a reference point so I don’t lose who the character is in the clouds. At least that’s my approach.
JM: Matt, can you describe your primary character, Richard Hannay?
Matt Kraft: I’m playing Richard Hannay, who is kind of the protagonist of the story. He’s someone who is back home after having been away from London. He’s got a good life. He’s got money in the bank but is really feeling kind of stuck as far as excitement is concerned. He’s just going through his daily life where each day is like the last. He meets this woman—played by Haley—who brings him into this whirlwind spy story and throws everything out of whack. She sends him on this adventure, so that’s kind of my favorite character that I’m playing.
JM: What drew you to The Civic’s production of “The 39 Steps” and compelled you to audition?
Kraft: With everything that’s going on in the world and is still going on, I feel like people do need a reason to laugh and just to have fun. “The 39 Steps” is really light and zany, and it’s really fun. I think people are going to be blown away by this whirlwind of a show. There’s a lot going on and there’s a lot of laughs, and I think that’s what people really need right now.
JM: J.D., you are no stranger to Civic productions, are you?
John “J.D.” Walls: I think this is my fifth production with Civic. I came back to performing about 10 years ago. My first show back after being off stage for about 20 years was Civic’s “Guys and Dolls,” and I played Nathan Detroit. I’ve always been drawn to comedy, so this show presented an opportunity for that, and Civic just has such a high standard and high-quality production, so if you get a chance to do something here—you should.
JM: What makes this production more challenging than roles you’ve portrayed in other plays and/or musicals?
Walls: This is easily the most technically challenging role I’ve ever taken on because there are so many [roles]. I’m one of what they call “clowns,” but it means that I play about 20 or 30 different roles throughout the show. I’ve learned a lot doing this show so far, and it’s been a great experience but super challenging, and I love that part of it! The roles that I’m enjoying personifying the most are a character called the “Crofter,” which is basically a Scottish word for farmer. He’s this old farmer that is described as ancient and surly. I think that’s a character I can pull off pretty easily. I also play a female innkeeper who’s a Scottish lady as well, and that has been a blast because you can go completely over the top with that role and have some fun with it.
Do not miss this production of “The 39 Steps”! For performance dates/times and ticket information, visit thecenterpresents.org.