Archive for Thursday, April 14, 2005

Principal finds joy on stage

April 14, 2005

Europe's longest-running murder mystery is being performed in Lawrence for the next two weekends.

The Lawrence Community Theatre's rendition of Agatha Christie's "Mousetrap" began Friday. The show, which has played for more than 50 years in London, is under the direction of Michael Doll, who is helming his first show at the theater. He says the cast and crew haven't changed anything from the original script.

"I think the audience is in for a treat," he said. "It really keeps you guessing all the way to the end."

The cast, a mix of Lawrence Community Theatre veterans and rookies, will take the audience through Christie's classic whodunit tale of eight people snowed in at a guesthouse. Among them just happens to be a detective, played by Mark Mackie. Other characters include the homeowners, played by Chris Price and Catherine Skorupski; four people who were invited to stay at the house, played by Jane Malin, Charles Decedue, Kendra Verhage and Joshua Chaikin; and a man, played by Tom Jerome, who seeks shelter after he overturns his car in the storm.

When one of the guests is murdered, the detective goes to work questioning the remaining characters, who all seem to avoid the truth. With snow-blocked roads and no phone lines, the detective must act quickly before another guest is killed.

Jerome, a former principal at Nottingham Elementary in Eudora, didn't want to give away too much about his character.

"I'm just the unexpected guy who just showed up," he said. "I really don't want to say too much else about it because that's the fun part of the play. It really takes different turns and direction and you never really know for sure about the different characters ... It's a mystery. It's a whodunit mystery."

Jerome, who retired from Nottingham in 2001, has been involved with the Lawrence Community Theater since last fall when he volunteered to help build sets. He soon joined the Vintage Players, a group he described as "Folks like me who are retired from different things."

The Vintage Players meet once or twice a month, Jerome said, to talk about plays and acting and to put together original skits to perform at nursing homes and elsewhere in the community.

He said being in "The Mousetrap" has been an exciting time for him.

"Oh, it's been great," he said. "I've had the opportunity to work with a lot of talented people. It's been wonderful."

Jerome said that he had been busy since his retirement because he liked to keep trying new things.

"I've just been trying to look for different experiences to keep me active and keep me young," he said. "I've been very busy."

The cast and crew of "The Mousetrap" have been rehearsing since early March.

"It's been pretty intense," Jerome said. "It's definitely not just an easy thing to do. There's a lot of work with it."

Doll, who studied theater at Fort Hays State University, said his first directing experience with the Lawrence Community Theatre had been satisfying and he hoped to work with the theater more. Before moving to Lawrence, Doll taught high school drama and did some community theater work in Kansas City. He now works as a technical producer at Kansas University's Hoch Auditorium.

He said the show would keep the audience guessing.

"It's the classic whodunit. Everyone is suspect," he said. "There are lots of twists and turns, and it kind of keeps you going to the very end."

It is estimated that more than 10 million people have seen "Mousetrap" since it made its stage debut in 1952 in London. Doll said he was hoping for that kind of success in Lawrence as well -- on a smaller scale, of course.

Emily Miller (emiller@newsmwc.com) contributed to this story.

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