Little Theatre has a treat in store in its upcoming production of
Out Of Sight, Out Of Murder running February 6-9 at Markham
Theatre For Performing Arts. This comedy by American
playwright Fred Carmichael provides an interesting twist to the old
story of writer’s block. What if the characters you have
imagined for your murder mystery suddenly come to life and want to
participate in the writing of the story?
That is what happens to Peter Knight (played by Ray Porrill) who has
rented an old house in the country to try to get the creative juices
flowing. He has imagined the characters but hasn’t worked
through the story. That’s when things get interesting!
On January 29, I dropped in on Markham Little Theatre at their
wonderful rehearsal venue on the grounds of Markham Museum. It
was, as always, an enjoyable evening, renewing acquaintances and
meeting some exciting new talent.
Directing Out Of Sight, Out Of Murder is Shari
Thorne-Kowalski. Shari’s first appearance with Markham Little
Theatre was a year ago as Constance in the Somerset Maugham comedy
of manners The Constant Wife. She followed that up as
Mickey in The Odd Couple (Female Version) this past
Shari has directed one-act plays but this is her first full-length
show. And with nine actors to cast, what a challenge she took
But she loved the script.
“And I knew that I could cast it well because I know an awful lot of
actors,” she told us.
It is indeed a remarkable group she has brought together, including
five actors who are in their first
performances with Markham Little Theatre.
The show’s Producer is Hendrik Verlinden who worked behind the
scenes in the company’s Outlaw which ran in November and
has jumped directly into his first experience producing an MLT show.
The varied, and detailed, work that goes into co-ordinating a
successful run—set production, publicity, keeping to the budget—all
fall on the producer’s plate. Hendrik is a young new recruit
to Markham Little Theatre and has been given the chance to learn as
he goes in a company with lots of veterans too, an approach that has
served MLT well over its 40-year history.
Penney Donevan is President of the board this year and updated me on
plans already well underway for a great program for 2008-2009.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. At the director’s table
were Vicki Tompkins who is both Assistant Director and Stage
Manager. There are two Assistant Stage Managers. Sheila
McHugh has performed many duties in MLT productions over the years
and Debra McIntyre was on stage last September as Sylvie in The
Odd Couple (Female Version). Costume design is in the
capable, and experienced, hands of Priscilla Marr.
Stepping forward on cue is Ray Porrill in the lead role of Peter
Knight, the frustrated mystery-writer who can’t get his novel past
the list of stock characters he has in mind. Ray, who lives in
Oshawa, is a veteran of many years in community theatre and played
alongside Shari Thorne-Kowalski in The Constant Wife.
“Peter is trying to figure out how
he’s going to write his mystery,” Ray explains, “and then all of a
sudden the mystery starts to create itself!”
All the characters have at least some lovable qualities and Peter is
certainly one that the audience will empathize with.
“Everything is out of control for him,” Ray smiles, “but everybody
just seems to be going along, ‘we’re just sitting around waiting to
be murdered, we hope we’re not next, but well, that’s the way it’s
written, we’re used to it’”.
The only real person, besides Peter, is Minna, played by Judy
Heffernan. Minna is the housekeeper of the mansion and cannot
see or hear these novel characters who are entering and leaving and
talking right by her. Things really get perplexing for poor
Minna in the second act when the mystery characters are working up
to a climax.
“The others just want to get rid of me,” she says. “They want
to get on with the murder.”
After working behind the scenes on several MLT
productions, Judy took to the stage for the first time last
September as Vera in The Odd Couple (Female Version).
The first of Peter’s characters to make an
appearance is the sultry Lydia Dillingham, played by award-winning
Michele Browne. The list of Michele’s credits would take us
through a good span of MLT’s history. Most recently she
The Odd Couple (Female Version) as Olive, playing opposite Kerry
Cogburn, the Butler, played by Michele’s husband,
Terry Browne, will be next to materialize. What would a murder
mystery be without a butler? A long-time pillar of MLT, on
stage, backstage and on the governing board, Terry is appearing in
his second consecutive production, having starred last November in
the all-male cast of Norm Foster’s Outlaw.
The couple have played together many times.
They’ve even played husband and wife!
“He was my boyfriend in A Streetcar Named
Desire”, she laughed. “It’s more fun when we’re not
husband and wife!”
Terry has greatly enjoyed the role of Cogburn,
and working with the cast that Shari Thorne-Kowalski has brought
“I haven’t had so much fun in a rehearsal, ever,” he said.
“We’re trying to make the parts big. The director told us if
we make the parts too big, she can always bring us back. But
she has given us a long leash.”
Carol LeBreton plays the ingénue Kay
Kelsey to perfection. Carol is in her first production with
Markham Little Theatre and audiences are in for a real treat.
Originally from Ottawa, Carol now lives in Whitby. She studied
theatre arts at Algonquin College in Ottawa and cut her theatrical
teeth there in such productions as Little Women. After
graduating from Trent University, and then doing her teacher
training at Queens, Carol is now a Grade 2
teacher in Ajax. Eager to get back into theatre, she found the
audition call for Out of Sight, Out of Murder on a website,
headed for the auditions, was asked to read again, and was thrilled
to land the part.
She loves the role of Kay.
“She’s so sweet, she sees the goodness in
everything,” she told us.
But if you want to know what happens to Kay,
you’ll have to come and see the play!
Jackie Del Greco plays the very wholesome Fiona
“Fiona is very uptight and proper, keeping track
of everybody,” she explained.
Jackie may be making her début with Markham
Little Theatre but she’s no stranger to the stage. In fact,
she is a long time member of Scarborough Players and has also
appeared with the Oshawa Little Theatre where, among other
performances, she played in Moon Over Buffalo in the role of
the mother of the character played by her current director Shari
With the Port Perry Borelians, she played in an
original show, The Mystery of Thade Mansion, as a character
who did a séance and then got murdered!
Did that prepare her
for Out Of Sight, Out Of Murder? I’m not telling.
Another new face to Markham audiences will be Mariana
Vomvas-Smyrniotes whose interpretation of the maid Addie will be one
of the highlights. The maid is always a suspect and this one
.... Could someone who cries so much be all that innocent?
Mariana’s theatrical career began as a high
school student at L’Amoreaux Collegiate in Scarborough. She
went on to win the O.A.C. drama award and then embarked on a
six-month stint touring Scarborough schools with a theatrical
group performing a play on bullying, Writings On The Wall.
Now living in Richmond Hill, Mariana works as a
speech and language pathologist at Scarborough
Grace Hospital. Wanting to get back to theatre, she looked on
the Internet for upcoming auditions and found those for Out of
Sight, Out of Murder taking place the next day. This was a
sign! She tried out for the part and got it!
What is Addie like?
“She’s a maid, not very bright, always crying,
very vulnerable, a little unstable, a little promiscuous,” she told
us. “A lot of fun to play!”
The audience is sure to love the stock “unexpected stranger”, Dick
Stanton. Rob Notman puts his considerable talent and
inexhaustible energy into creating a highly entertaining character
who, just the same, might be a murderer, or might be murdered.
Rob is also in his first production with Markham Little Theatre but,
despite his youth, has already plenty of experience. Raised on
a farm outside of Port Perry, Rob attended high school in Blackstock
where, in his final year, he had his first theatre role and won best
actor award in the local drama festival. He went on to perform
in shows with the Pickering Backwoods Players, including The Old
Lady Shows Her Medals and then, most recently, with On Stage
Uxbridge in the musical La Cage Aux Folles.
The drama festival in which he first broke in to theatre now invites
him back as an adjudicator.
Rob describes his Dick Stanton as “a little over the top, a bull in
a china shop, very youthful, with a lot of vitality.”
But there is still one stock character missing. Ah yes, the
lawyer who reads the will at midnight (never before). That
would be suspiciously smooth Jordan Dillingham, husband of Lydia,
and played by Dave Edwards.
Dave is thrilled to be doing his first show with
Markham Little Theatre. He has performed in many shows in
Durham region and it all started in 2000 when he began working with
a singing coach. His coach encouraged him to go into musicals
and that took him into productions like
Oklahoma and Biloxi Blues.
This in turn led to Stone Circle Theatre where he appeared both in
plays by local authors and in the modern classic Glengarry
I know the fate of Jordan Dillingham . . . but you didn’t really
expect me to tell you in this article, did you?
When, after a long and high-energy rehearsal, all the actors had
left, I sat down with Shari Thorne-Kowalski to hear more about
Out Of Sight, Out Of Murder.
How did you approach the first challenge, casting the nine actors?
Thorne-Kowalski: It was really
important that I know the characters inside and out. I studied
the play for a long time and while studying it I would think of all
the actors I know throughout Markham, Scarborough and Durham.
I would pick actors in my head and use them as examples of what I
would want my characters to be. That helped me to know exactly
what I was looking for when I actually held the auditions and actors
came in. But I made it known, to a lot of people that I knew,
that I was directing and that I would like them to come to the
auditions as well.
You must be very happy with this great cast.
Thorne-Kowalski: I think I was
very fortunate in getting the cast that I did and there were several
new people in the cast, some of whom I did not know beforehand.
This is new good talent, that I would definitely keep in mind for
the future. But I was also really fortunate in having so many
other really seasoned good actors who were kind enough to be patient
with me, being fairly new at this, and giving me what I wanted.
GuidingStar.ca: Had you seen this play
Thorne-Kowalski: No. I
just thought it had kind of an interesting twist, with the novel
characters. I could see them as being very stereotypical, so
they wouldn’t be human. They wouldn’t have any real emotional
growth. They would just be stereotypes . . . And I thought they
could be very funny.
GuidingStar.ca: . . . interesting.
Thorne-Kowalski: They’re very
funny. They’re exactly true to themselves all the way through,
from beginning to end. They can’t be anything other than what
they are and I found that really humorous.
GuidingStar.ca: . . . and Peter
Thorne-Kowalski: Peter would be
totally bewildered, by these characters coming to life, and then by
the way they behave. Then he finds himself growing to like
them. And throughout that process his problem of having
writer’s block and not knowing what to write . . . well, he lets
something natural unfold — although, of course, it’s not really
natural, characters coming to life — but he lets it unfold.
And it wrote the story . . . by being open to anything. I
thought the whole premise of that was really interesting.
GuidingStar.ca: What challenges
has the set presented?
Thorne-Kowalski: I have just an
amazing production crew. They are very seasoned. They
just asked me what I wanted and I gave them ideas of what I would
like to see and they have just put it all together. It’s been
GuidingStar.ca: I was down in the
workshop and there were people working away who have been there for
Thorne-Kowalski: It’s been quite
an experience for me. There is just as much passion and hard
work and spirit on the production side as there is on the cast side.
There really truly is and I wish that the cast could see how much
people put into making the cast look good.
Indeed, Markham Little Theatre has earned well-deserved accolades
for its stunning sets.
Co-set designers René Vriends and Ross Liversage gave me a tour of
the work in progress on a beautiful full box set that will include
three decorated walls, a hallway, fireplace and stairway.
So, what are you waiting for? Call the Markham Theatre for
Performing Arts at 905-305-7469. Out Of Sight, Out Of
Murder runs from Wednesday, February 6 to Saturday, February 9.