New Season: Centralia Theatre Puts Safety First to Bring Back Shows
During the more than a year that COVID-19 shut down live theatre, Jordan Baker made himself one promise: When theatre returned, he was going to make up for lost time.
When he saw a call for new directors at the Evergreen Playhouse for their 2021-2022 season, he didn’t hesitate to apply.
“I thought ‘here’s your chance,’” Baker said.
Baker is making his directorial debut at the Evergreen Playhouse with “The Hound of the Baskervilles” which opens Oct. 15 at the Centralia theatre. It is the inaugural show of the Evergreen Playhouse’s return to a complete live theater season after COVID-19 shut down theaters nationwide. The five-show season also includes “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” (Dec. 3-19) and “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (March 25-April 10) alongside the return of “Next To Normal” (Feb. 11-27) and “Mamma Mia!” (May 6-22), which were canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19.
Based on the original novel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, “The Hound of the Baskervilles” is a classic whodunnit story with many twists and turns. After a mysterious death in the family, Sir Henry (portrayed by Chris Bolduc) inherits his family home and fortune, but apparently also a family curse. A legendary beast is believed to be stalking the Moors for new victims and Sir Henry calls on detective Sherlock Holmes (portrayed by Dan Overton) and Watson (portrayed by Nathan Crummett) to find out how to stop it. As an October show, it is meant to be a spooky tale that fits with Halloween, but Baker said the lack of any gore or strong language makes it a show that is pretty family friendly.
“It’s a Halloween show, not a horror show,” Baker said. “It’s a spooky show. It has some good scares in it but also a good amount of jokes and laughs.”
Baker said that there are many iterations of play versions of “The Hound of the Baskervilles” and this one calls for a 10-person cast. The remainder of the cast includes: Lucy Page as Lady Agatha; Michelle Koenen as Mrs. Barrymore; Jerrod Phelps as Barrymore; Lenora Page as Perkins; Katie Norbie as Kathy Stapleton; Scarlet Nixon Klein as Laura Lyons; and Nick Hall as Jack Stapleton. Playwright Tim Kelly wrote it to be set in modern times, but gave directors permission to choose any time period. Jordan said he preferred the story to be set in the Edwardian time period of the 1890s in which it was originally written. Part of that choice had to do with setting a scene that audience members could really lose themselves in, Baker said.
“Coming back with a show like this is great because it’s a show that completely distances itself from reality and that’s what we want theatre to be right now,” Baker said. “After a year of not having theatre, this is just doing something for the sake of doing something fun.”
Whether you know the original book “The Hound of the Baskervilles” or not, Baker said the show is sure to surprise and delight you. Kelly’s version of the story takes a number of liberties, including in character development.
“Even if you are a big Sherlock Holmes fan and a fan of ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ you might be surprised,” Baker said.
As the director, Baker said he also had Overton and Crummett explore a different dynamic between Holmes and Watson. Baker said he preferred more of a mentor and apprentice type relationship, with Watson trying out his first assignment alone when Holmes leaves him alone at Baskerville Hall to explore the Moors.
“Dan Overton and Nathan Crummett have really gotten into this dynamic and I think it’s a really fresh take on the two characters,” Baker said.
Bringing live theatre back while the COVID-19 virus persists has been a unique challenge, Baker noted. Earlier this year, the Evergreen Playhouse announced that proof of vaccination would be required of all audience members ages 12 and older and masking will be required for everyone at shows. All vaccine-eligible performers are also required to provide proof of full vaccination before rehearsals begin for their shows. Baker said safety protocols have been part of the entire process from casting to rehearsing and even small details such as props and stage intimacy. While it has been a very different experience for his first time directing at the theatre, Baker said he is grateful to the Evergreen Playhouse for giving them a safe way to bring back live, indoor theatre.
“I think the Evergreen Playhouse is doing everything right to bring back theater in person in the safest way possible,” Baker said.
If You Go …
What: Evergreen Playhouse Presents “The Hound of The Baskervilles”
When: Oct. 15-31 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. Special Pay-What-You-Can actor’s benefit Thursday, Oct. 21
Where: Evergreen Playhouse, 226 West Center St., Centralia
Tickets: $15 adults and $12 students/seniors. Advanced tickets can be purchased at evergreenplayhouse.com
The Evergreen Playhouse requires proof of vaccination with photo ID for all patrons ages 12 and older for entry to productions. Masks are also required for all audience members except when actively eating and drinking
Info: Evergreenplayhouse.com or @EvergeenPlayhouse on Facebook