Authored by David Kelly and Marie Venters
But first, a quick note from Julie: Are you the type of person that grabs a program for a show and then stuffs it under their seat, or are you the type of person that reads every word, cast bios and all? If I actually make it my seat with time to spare (an embarrassingly rare occasion for my family and me) I absolutely LOVE a program, and the director’s notes are one of my favorite places to start. (In art museums, I also love an artist statements, the unveiling of the intent behind the art.) But it wasn’t until David and Marie shared this blog with me that I realized how much a director’s note has in common with a blog: what a lovely mix of informal, personal narrative mixed with big picture philosophical meanderings. Thank you, David and Marie, for sharing this piece of your work with us. Now, on to the blog!
The importance of a director’s note cannot be overstated. The perspective and introduction to the play is set by the note. In youth theatre, this is especially true. Why we do what we do is encoded in these notes, from the play itself to the overarching theatre program. Upon reading you will find an introduction to the play, the context in which it was produced, and hopefully a deeper meaning or understanding of the message within the play. Why is the play important today and what should the audience expect to get from it? Tickets can be purchased at www.gosaints.org/performances.
DIRECTOR’S NOTE: MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS
I first read this play about a year ago. My immediate reaction was that we couldn’t do it. There was no way to put a train on stage. Little did I know this would be the most fulfilling and challenging scenic project yet undertaken. Find a way or make a way… we officially selected this production about six months ago.
In the last year, the theatre department has grown. Our recent production of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, featured a double cast of actors. We look forward to producing Willy Wonka Jr. and The Addams Family later this year. Auditions for these productions start on Monday! We hope you can join us for those productions as well. Last winter, we joined the International Thespian Society, a national honor society for theatre arts. Last winter, we competed at the state level and had four students earn Superior ratings across five entries (top marks at the state level for monologue, musical theatre, and lighting design), more students will be inducted soon. This year, we are joining the Mississippi Theatre Association as well and taking multiple theatre pieces to competition. Good luck and well wishes go out to all our students competing this year.
Specifically for Murder on the Orient Express, thanks go to Dr. Foley for helping us research the context of this story based on the real-life kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby. In brief, Charles Lindberg was an American hero. He made the first solo transatlantic flight in 1927 from New York to Paris. His son, born in 1930, was kidnapped and ransomed for $70,000 in 1932. Not long after, his child was found dead. For two years, the FBI searched for the murderer and the nation was enraptured in finding him. This play imagines that the killer was not found. In reality, Bruno Hauptmann was arrested in 1934 and convicted. But, what would have happened in a world where he did not answer for his crimes?
One of my favorite questions for students – and one of the reasons I love the arts – is how do you know what you know? St. Andrew’s promotes the idea that we don’t teach what to think, we teach how to think. So, how do you think about this play? On the face of it, we have a comedy murder mystery. At the core, it is a play that questions the values of each character, neither glorifies nor condemns the actions of the characters and instead lets the audience decide the guilt.
As Hercule Poirot observes, the need for justice, order in the world, and morality is at the forefront of this plot. This play observes these ideals and questions. I hope we can also reflect on that as this semi-farcical-adventure proceeds into the depths of the human psyche. It’s a tightrope act that balances entertainment with engagement for the audience. Enjoy the show and thank you for supporting St. Andrew’s Theatre.
David Orace Kelly
Director of the Center for Performing Arts and Fine Arts Dept. Chair
DIRECTOR’S NOTE: THE LION THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE
I remember when the film adaptation of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe came out when I was in the sixth grade. I was personally more of a Harry Potter kid, so I didn’t take much interest in the movie and I didn’t read the books. I wasn’t even really familiar with the story until we chose this play for the season, only knowing that it was a beloved children’s book.
However, I believe that this timing was right. I genuinely don’t feel that I would have appreciated the story of the Pevensie children as much as I do now. Regardless of age, we all have challenges, our own evil witch, that we have to overcome in some way. Whether it be completing a big project, writing a paper, memorizing lines for the Middle School play, admitting that you need help, or asking a friend for forgiveness, big or small, we all have something scary that we have to face. Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy face a much more fantastical version of our inner struggles. The siblings are challenged not only to defeat the evil that has taken over, but to do it as the destined leaders of Narnia with Aslan’s guidance. I challenged my students to think about how the children must have felt in this strange world and how quickly they have to accept this call to greatness.
We all have our own versions of a call to greatness. Though, in most cases, Father Christmas doesn’t come with the tools that we need to face the battle. We have to forge our tools on our own with the guidance of others: our family, friends, and teachers. The support of a community, like ours here at St. Andrew’s.
To forge these tools and to grow as people, we must use our imaginations to see beyond what we think we are. To question why. To look at our situations with curiosity. To wonder why and how something works. To see someone in trouble and ask how to help. To figure out why it’s always winter in Narnia, but never Christmas.
To take that extra step and leave your comfort zone behind to become someone greater than you ever imagined. To imagine is to be brave. With bravery we create a better world.
As you travel through the world of Narnia with us, I hope you can see yourself and how much you have overcome to be the person you are now. Thank you for supporting the arts at St. Andrews, and I hope you enjoy the show.
Middle School Drama Teacher