Another exciting week has gone by at Peninsula Players as we settle into the slower daytime pace of the fall season. The days are a bit more relaxed because we are no longer building or rehearsing the next show; but the evenings are still bursting with activity.
Kevin McKillip, whom patrons will recall from more than 20 productions at the Players including “Noises Off” and “Cabaret,” portrays several characters in “The 39 Steps” alongside fellow “clown” and cast mate Joe Foust. Kevin is a recipient of the Rubber Chicken Award from the clown alley of Big Apple Circus and he shared his comedic skills with our aspiring artisans.
Kevin conducted a clowning workshop for our interns and available staff members. The participants donned crafted red noses and created scenes with their newly formed clown characters. We heard the adventures of Lulu and Daisy were very entertaining.
Workshops are a benefit of participating in the Peninsula Players internship program. In addition to working alongside the professional artisans at the Players the interns also attend various workshops hosted by company members. Topics vary from season to season and have included stage combat with Joe Foust, to audition and resume tips, stage make-up and monologue work.
While the clowning workshop was being conducted Artistic Director Greg Vinkler hosted John McGivern of Wisconsin Public Television (WPT). John performed at the Players in 1986 as the dentist in “Little Shop of Horrors” and in 1988 with Greg in the tennis comedy, “Doubles.”
John is an Emmy Award-winning actor and host of WPT’s “Around the Corner,” a program that visits Wisconsin neighborhoods and towns and shares with viewers what it is like to live and work in each community.
Greg took John on a walking tour of the theater grounds, buildings and new theater as they shared memories of performances and working in Door County. They also discussed changes to the stagehouse and audience pavilion over the decades. John recalled, as many patrons do, the creaky canvas-backed director chairs the audience sat in and really enjoyed the new cushion theater seats.
The “Around the Corner” production team was in the Door County area filming and interviewing several others including Edgewood Orchard Galleries, Ephraim Library, Red Putter Mini Golf, Mr. Helsinki Restaurant and more. “Around the Corner” will be aired on WPT when the new season starts in 2017.
In the evenings, performances of the comedic spy-adventure, “The 39 Steps” keeps us on our toes. Audiences are roaring with laughter as they follow the escapades of British everyman Richard Hannay to clear his name of a murder charge.
Who is Richard Hannay? Before Ian Fleming’s James Bond, Robert Ludlum’s Jason Bourne or Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan there was John Buchan’s Richard Hannay.
Buchan introduced Hannay as a man-of-action in 1915 when his book, “The Thirty-Nine Steps,” was published. Note the slight title difference, the film and play is “The 39 Steps.”
“The Thirty-Nine Steps” was Buchan’s 17th published work it launched him onto a 20-year run of being a best-selling writer of thrillers and adventures; including four more Hannay adventures. In total he published 29 novels as well as nine collections of essays and short stories and nine biographies.
In Buchan’s canon of Hannay stories we meet Hannay upon his return to England in 1914, where he finds London society very dull for a man who has seen adventure in Africa. Hannay is an all-action hero with a stiff upper lip and a miraculous knack for getting himself out of sticky situations. In the play, “The 39 Steps,” Hannay has just returned from Canada yet has the same miraculous knack of narrow escapes.
Buchan’s Hannay went to South Africa at the age of six to join his father, who had several German business partners and Hannay became fluent in that language. He prospected for copper, became a mining engineer and earned a small fortune before joining the military.
Alfred Hitchcock and writer Charles Bennet’s Hannay in the film “The 39 Steps” is possibly from Winnipeg, Canada and is renting a flat for a few months while visiting London. Hitchcock maintained Hannay’s knack to get out of sticky situations; including leaping from a moving train, hurling himself through windows, surviving a fall from a bridge, outrunning police and disguising himself as a milkman and a newly-wed.
Playwright Patrick Barlow’s Hannay is also on the run from Scotland Yard trying to clear his name of a murder charge. Barlow explained in an interview that even though he wrote a fast-paced comedy the basic story should remain. “But it is very important that there is a real story going on . . . about a man who is lonely and lost . . . There is a journey.”
Have you seen this fictional character around Door County? Richard Hannay is wanted in connection with a dastardly murder in London’s West End. He is described as having brown wavy hair, piercing blue eyes and an attractive pencil thin moustache. If you have seen this man contact the Peninsula Players Box Office at (920) 868-3287. For more information about “The 39 Steps” visit www.peninsulaplayers.com.