afO's decision to stage Sherlock was elementary
Adaptable character a great opening for season
Nate Chen, playing Sherlock Holmes, is surrounded by “Irregulars” played by Josette Wilhelm, Jack Hanson, and Josh Hanson.
September 12, 2019
There are few literary figures and cultural icons more pervasive and enduring that Sherlock Holmes. Older generations and classic movies fans still cherish the performances of Basil Rathbone, but modern-day audiences are seeing Robert Downey Jr., Jonny Lee Miller, and Benedict Cumberbatch play the wily detective in a batch of contemporary films and television series.
What has helped maintain the love for Holmes is how adaptable the character has been since he was introduced by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in 1887.
Get things started with a bang
It’s little wonder then that all for One Productions, which has a knack for finding deft and fresh adaptations of literary classics, is tapping into the love of Sherlock in the first production of its 2019-20 season, Sherlock Holmes and the 1st Baker Street Irregular.
“We were trolling play catalogs with several of us looking through things,” said Lauren Nichols, all for One’s artistic director. “Several people read this one, and we thought it was a great short play and a great choice for all ages. Normally our board of directors don’t get involved and don’t pay much attention to what we decide to produce because they trust us, but this particular title caught their interest because of the familiarity of Sherlock Holmes. We thought we could get things started with a bang.”
Nichols, who is also directing the production, likes the variety of characters in the adaptation as well as the themes which dovetail nicely with the faith-based mission of all for One.
“There are a lot of young characters and of course a familiar backstory,” she said. “It’s a nice script and talks about charity and compassion. The cast includes three girls and three young men, and two of the characters are under the age of 10. We cast Jack Hansen as one of the young boys. He played Tiny Tim in our production of A Christmas Carol last year. We also have two adult actors who are new to us, and we’re doing some doubling of roles. My husband Dennis has three small roles, which is just the kind of thing he likes to do.”
Youth and Accents
Working with young actors is not new to Nichols, but she tries to find some who have previous experience.
“We’re not Youtheatre so we’re not primarily a training company,” she said. “We like to hit the ground running, but we do have one young girl, Bella, who has little experience, so she’s been working with my assistant director so that she’s ready when it’s time for her to rehearse a scene. It’s a short play, so when we rehearse one scene, we can run it some more which gives us the luxury of repetition. I feel very comfortable with how it’s developing on stage.”
Nichols has never shied away from stories with English settings. In fact, she often embraces them, having staged everything from Jane Eyre to The Secret Garden and An Ideal Husband to Sense and Sensibility. One likely reason she is comfortable in directing such plays is that she herself is comfortable with accents and with coaching them in her actors’ performances.
“Accents don’t scare me, and Cockney is much easier than Yorkshire,” Nichols said. “Most of the cast is very good and comfortable with doing the accents.”
Accents will be part of all for One’s next production as well, the Christmas-themed Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley, based on the characters in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
Miss Bennet will continue all for One’s Christmas-themed November productions which they began as an annual tradition last year with a unique take on A Christmas Carol.
Nichols admitted that they could have just as easily used Sherlock Holmes and the 1st Baker Street Irregular in that slot since it’s set during the holiday season. But she found a special way to connect the show to the kind of charity we more typically see at the holiday season.
“At one point our Irregulars will be begging money and will walk into the audience,” Nichols said. “I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if they really collected money, and the audience knew it was going to a charity?’”
With the money gathered at Sherlock Holmes’s six performances benefitting Vincent Village, an agency which provides shelter, care, advocacy, affordable housing, and support services for homeless families in Fort Wayne, those who attend this first production of all for One’s new season should be sure to bring some cash along — as well as an eager anticipation for an evening with literature’s favorite sleuth.
“As we work on this script we keep finding the humor, and there’s quite a bit to be had,” Nichols said. “We have a creative, energetic cast, and we’re putting more physical comedy into it. I think it’ll appeal to adults who already know the character, but we’ve worked really hard to make sure it’s very understandable to those who are having their first experience with Sherlock Holmes. It’s just written very intelligently.”