15 March 2010

Behind the scenes of Postmortem



Susan Phillips and her husband Gerry Thompson are very committed to their art.

The duo travelled all the way from Kanata to East Haddam, Connecticut to view Gillette Castle first hand in order to prepare for their next performance.

Gillette Castle was built by American actor, playwright and stage manager William Gillette in the years 1913 to 1919.

The castle is the scene in which Postmortem, the next production for the Kanata Theatre takes place.

Behind the scenes of Postmortem. Kristy Allen (May), Janet Rice (Aunt Lilly), Gordon Walls (William Gillette), Kelly Suoco (Louise), Lee Powell (Leo), Larraine Gorman (Marion) and Paul Behncke (Bobby) take part in the seance scene.

Both members of the production company, Thompson, who’s directing the play, and Phillips, the set designer, thought it would be a good idea to visit the site where Postmortem takes place, in order to get a real feel for how they wanted the play to look, they said.

“I read it and I enjoyed it,” said Thompson, of the play. “I’ve always been a Sherlock Holmes fan so I decided to do this one.”

Gillette is best known for cultivating the contemporary character of Sherlock Holmes.

“All the modern-day images we have of Sherlock Holmes come from Gillette,” said Thompson.

“The deerstalker hat, the curved pipe, the shawl that he wears; all those images actually come from the play. Some say the pipe is curved because with a straight pipe you couldn’t see his face when he was on stage.”

Postmortem, by Ken Ludwig, is set in 1922, when the cast of Gillette’s revival of Sherlock Holmes assemble for a weekend of relaxation at his magnificent medieval castle overlooking the Connecticut River.

Gillette, best known for his 30-year portrayal of the famous crime sleuth, arranges a seance. The scene is set for his greatest role: someone is trying to murder him and he suspects it is one of his guests.

Intrepid, eccentric and wildly romantic, Gillette plans to solve the case himself à la Sherlock Holmes.

The play is filled with a colourful cast of characters, all of whom are suspects.

“I think it’s going to move back and forth for the audience,” said Lee Powell, who plays the part of Leo. “They’re not going to know who, what or where until the very end. They’ll have fun trying to figure it out.”

“It’s sort of a whodunit, but it’s beyond a whodunit,” said Janet Rice, who plays Aunt Lilly. “We hope that the audience won’t guess who committed the murder – if they do we haven’t done our job,” she added with a laugh.

This will be Rice’s first time on stage with Kanata Theatre, although she is no stranger to the stage.  She has performed, “anywhere that will have me,” she said, including Perth, Ottawa Little Theatre, and made-for-TV movies.

She said she enjoys everything that comes with being a part of a community theatre company, including all the time spent on preparations.  “I try not to think about (the time it takes),” she said. “My husband reminds me every so often but I ignore it. It really doesn’t matter if you love it.”

The cast and crew have been meeting three times a week leading up to the performance, which begins on March 23 and runs until April 3.

Phillips said the set for this show has been tough to complete. With over three weeks of time spent working on it, it is still in progress, but promises to be quite a spectacle.

Allison Cameron, who works with the props, said it has also been difficult finding pieces that fit the 1920s time period.

“There are a lot of things from the ’50s but not from the ’20s,” she said.

The play promises intrigue, suspense, gun fights and scandal. A whodunit indeed.


This article is reproduced by kind permission of the author, Jessica Cunha