In conjunction with its production of Noël Coward’s “Blithe Spirit,” Peninsula Players Theatre will host Agatha Christie scholar Dr. Christopher Chan Saturday, July 22, at 6:30 p.m. in the theater. Chan will speak about Noël Coward and his connection with Margaret Rutherford, who portrayed Coward’s Madame Arcati and Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple in films. Admission to the pre-show seminar is free, and tickets to performances are available.
Coward was an English playwright, actor and composer known for his witty, sophisticated drawing-room comedies “Present Laughter,” “Design for Living,” “Private Lives” and “Blithe Spirit.” Coward wrote “Blithe Spirit,” a comedy about death, in the spring of 1941 to distract English audiences from the harsh reality of living in a city under constant threat of attack by the Germans. He tailored the role of the eccentric spiritualist Madame Arcati for Rutherford. “Blithe Spirit” had a record-setting run of 1,997 performances in London. Noël Coward’s “Blithe Spirit” performs at Peninsula Players Theatre through July 23 and is sponsored by Tim and Jackie Danis.
Coward has a connection to Wisconsin through the legendary stage performers Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, who starred in Coward’s 1933 Broadway production of “Design for Living.” The married couple became friends with Coward in 1921 when they met in New York long before any of the three achieved great success in theater. “Design for Living” was written specifically for the Lunts, and the play earned them the highest salaries on Broadway at that time. The Lunts retired from the stage in 1960 to Ten Chimneys, their home in Genesee Depot, Wisconsin, where they hosted visits from many famous friends, including Coward, George Burns, Dick Cavett, David Belasco, Charlie Chaplin, Edna Ferber, Uta Hagen, Julie Harris, Katharine Hepburn and many more.
Chan lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and is a graduate of Lawrence University. He earned a Master of Library and Information Science degree from UW-Milwaukee and a Ph.D. in U.S. history from Marquette University. He teaches online graduate history classes and works as an International Goodwill Ambassador for the official Agatha Christie website, www.agathachristie.com, of which he is also an editor. Chan writes for the magazine Gilbert at chesterton.org, which specializes in book and television reviews, in addition to writing historical and critical essays on Agatha Christie’s work.
Peninsula Players Theatre is committed to providing educational programming for the community. The Players has a long history of educational initiatives, including an intern program that dates back to the founding days of the theater in the 1930s. The theater offers post-show discussions as listed on its website. Contact the Box Office at 920-868-3287 or visit www.peninsulaplayers.com for more information on free seminars, or to purchase tickets.