Producing Artistic Director Jerry Manning on The 39 Steps

Tech begins this week for The 39 Steps. We’re officially underway on the 2009-2010 season. I won’t bore you with the typical “I’m so excited about this” and “It’s a unique theatrical experience” blather about the show. I’ll refer you instead to two links that say it better than I ever could from The LA Times and The New York Times, respectively.

This I know: We’re announcing today that The 39 Steps is extending. We’ve added five dates to the end of the run because ticket sales are so strong already. I loved the play when I saw it. You will love it too.

The 39 Steps, a la Hitchcock, is a favorite movie of mine. It presages what was to follow as Alfred’s career unfolded. It heralds North By Northwest and its epic chase. It is torqued like Psycho—seriously twisted. Start with this fact: Salvador Dali was the production designer on the flick. That’s a huge statement on Hitchcock’s part—what you’re about to see is in the realm of the surreal. Risky choice.

Here’s the point. The 39 Steps is an adaptation for the stage. This adaptation draws more generously from the original novel than from Hitchcock’s movie. So, here we have a stage adaptation based on the book and filtered through the lens of Alfred Hitchcock.

And our adaptation is just one of what seems like a confluence of theatrical adaptations playing now or soon in Seattle. We have Wicked, a musical play based on a book, which itself is loosely based on a seminal movie (The Wizard of Oz), which itself was based on Frank Baum’s still treasured books. We have Book-It doing a stage adaptation of A Confederacy of Dunces (I cannot wait to see Brandon Whitehead in the role). And in the spring the Rep will present an original adaptation of The Iliad by Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare from Robert Fagles’ definitive English language adaptation

What do these things have in common? Easy. Hitchcock was a storyteller. Homer was a great storyteller. Fagles, Baum, the Rep, Brandon, Book-It—we’re all storytellers. Some stories are worth telling again and again. Great stories, universal stories deserve to be retold and respun into all kinds of different narrative structures.

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