Theater by the Book, a series of informal play readings for the community co-presented by Sierra Stages and the Miners Foundry Cultural Center, returns Wednesday, May 22 with a reading of the Tony Award-winning play Sleuth, directed by Susan Mason and featuring local actors Jeffrey Mason and Danny McCammon.
“We kicked off the “Theater by the Book” series in April with a reading/singing of a children’s musical Stone Soup which has a musical score by Ken Hardin, Artistic Director of InConcert Sierra,” explains Peter Mason, board member of Sierra Stages. “We expected about fifty audience members, but had over one hundred and fifty in the attendance. The feedback on the show was overwhelmingly positive.”
Sleuth has all the ingredients of a top-class thriller – a plot whose twists and turns are breathtakingly audacious and fiendishly cunning; suspense and excitement galore; and a brilliant parody of the Agatha Christie country-house thriller. Written in 1970 by Anthony Shaffer the play is set in the English manor house of Andrew Wyke, an immensely successful mystery writer, played by Mason. Wyke’s home reflects his obsession with the inventions and deceptions of fiction and his fascination with games and game-playing. He lures his wife’s lover, Milo Tindle played by McCammon, to the house and convinces him to stage a robbery of her jewelry, a proposal that sets off a chain of events that leaves the audience trying to decipher where Wyke’s imagination ends and reality begins.
“I love Sleuth. It is fun, interesting, and rarely ever done because of the production challenges,” explains Susan on why she suggested the play for the series. “The play reads very well and I’m interested in the creative process of reworking a familiar play in a way that is new to me and the audience. Plus it was a great opportunity to work with my husband again.”
Susan grew up in Grass Valley and met Jeffrey while performing in a production of Oliver! at the Nevada Theatre in 1976. Since then the two have worked together in over thirty shows and lived throughout California and Oregon. The Mason’s threw themselves back in to local theatre two years ago after Jeffrey retired from teaching theatre arts at the university level. Most recently, Susan directed Assassins for Sierra Stages and Alice in Wonderland for Quest Theatreworks and acted in Sierra Stages’ production Death of a Salesman, while Jeffrey has directed The Music Man and Death of a Salesman for Sierra Stages. Both also participated in the popular 24 Hour Plays produced by Sands Hall at the Miners Foundry.
“My love of theatre comes from my love of dramatic literature,” explains Susan. “There is so much good literature out there, you can’t run out of good material. I also love watching the audience see something come alive in person.”
Also in the cast is seasoned actor Danny McCammon. McCammon has performed in numerous local productions, including Sierra Stages’ Assassins and CATS’ Journey to the West. He also performs in the Best Friends Club Sketch Comedy Group, and will be seen in Sierra Stages’ summer production of the musical Avenue Q at the Nevada Theatre.
The Theater By the Book readings are FREE (with a $10 suggested donation). Each reading is on a Wednesday evening – doors open at 7 and the reading begins at 7:30.
“We thought it was important that the play readings be free, but we are also asking for a suggested contribution of $10 to cover royalties for each play and the promotion and fixed costs for the Foundry,” says Peter Mason. “Although not designed as a fund raising event (after all, admission is free), any proceeds from the series will go to the Miners Foundry and Sierra Stages, which are both 501(c)(3) organizations with a goal to provide cultural activities for our community.”
The rest of the play reading series will be entertaining as well, with a wide variety of plays: Sleuth will be followed with a comedy (Lettice and Lovage), a drama (The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds), a sprawling historical epic with music (Zoot Suit) and one reading to be announced. Jeffrey Mason will direct the Peter Shaffer comedy Lettice and Lovage the third installment of Theater By the Book on Wednesday, June 19, 2013 at the Miners Foundry.