Interview: Roxanne Wach of THE 39 STEPS at Chanticleer Community Theater

Now Through May 22nd.

By: May. 17, 2022
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Interview: Roxanne Wach of THE 39 STEPS at Chanticleer Community Theater

Mix a Hitchcock masterpiece with a juicy spy novel, add a dash of Monty Python and you have The 39 Steps, a fast-paced whodunit for anyone who loves the magic of theatre! This two-time Tony and Drama Desk Award-winning treat is packed with nonstop laughs, over 150 zany characters (played by a ridiculously talented cast of four), an onstage plane crash, handcuffs, missing fingers, and some good old-fashioned romance.

Tell me a little about your introduction to this show/script. How did you hear about it?

I saw The 39 Steps about 10 years ago and thought it looked like a lot of fun.

What drew you to direct this specific production at PACE?

Chanticleer asked me to direct it. It's fun to be directing in their new theater with so much space. We actually had to reduce the playing space for a cast of 4. They just would have been swimming on that large stage.

Can you tell me a little about your audition process for this production? What were you looking for and what led you to the wonderful cast you've assembled?

I pulled a few scenes from the script and explained their context and the characters, and also the dialects. I let everyone play with the portrayals, telling them that I wanted to see what they would bring to the table. The first four actors who read together were my cast. There was such chemistry there and I saw characters that I could build on. You know comedy is so difficult and I was never worried about it with this cast. They all really understand the humor in the script and know how to make the most of it. We also understood where we were all going. I loved that they played with the characters and allowed me to hone and guide them. We laughed so much in rehearsals, which was just wonderful. I'd really forgotten how healing laughter can be, and there's a lot of it in The 39 Steps!

What is The 39 Steps about and what are some ways it stands out from other scripts out there today?

The 39 Steps is basically Alfred Hitchcock's 1935 movie, except it's all played by four actors and a lot of costumes, hats, wigs and dialects. Three of the actors are playing multiple characters and one is just one character, but he's a good guy that everyone thinks is bad. So, there's that. It's just been so much fun working with my cast and crew. Lots of funny people involved and our time together has just been so enjoyable - which definitely translates to the stage.

What were the biggest challenges and biggest surprises about this process for you and the cast?

There are so many details! Multiple characters, fast costume changes, wigs, many dialects, props... It can be overwhelming. There are 150 sound cues - and the cues aren't just atmosphere, they cue action. I decided to design the sound myself, so we could have it very early in the process. We were all talking about that last night. It was so helpful to have all those things timed out ahead of time. I think the biggest surprise for me was how quickly the cast got off book! I think we were maybe two rehearsals into the process when they started putting books down on various scenes. There are a lot of words in this show. Everyone has worked so hard on all of it. There's been so much collaboration and support of each other. I think that the cast is so happy with the crew's assistance, and also their comedy (because of course they're on stage, too). Last night was our opening performance, and they were surprised at a few things that got bigger laughs. I wasn't surprised at the laughs, but that they were bigger than I though. I love that.

What do you hope audiences walk away with after experiencing this production?

I'm so glad to have had this time filled with so many laughs. I truly hope that audiences come and jump into our adventure and share many, many laughs. It was so fun watching our audience leaving with such big smiles on their faces.