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What sorts of plays interest you the most?
I love plays that have both complex characters and complex, chewy language.
Why did you decide to become an actor?
It was the one thing (and I mean the ONE thing!) that my older brother couldn’t do to save his life. And it’s good training for sainthood. In the last act of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, Emily famously asks, “Does anyone ever realize life while they live it…every, every minute?” To which the Stage Manager replies, “No. Saints and poets maybe…they do some.” On stage, I can do that for whole seconds at a time…
What is the most interesting show you’ve seen recently?
I loved the first season of Broadchurch, on BBC. Beautifully acted and directed a lovely look at how a mysterious death affects a whole community.
What’s your favorite mystery book, play, TV show or movie?
I’m very fond of Laurie King’s Sherlock Holmes/Mary Russell novels. I’m a bit of a Sherlock snob, and these are the only (new) novels that I think get him right—and they’re great fun.
What is the most challenging part of being an actor? What is the most fulfilling?
The most challenging part is being (figuratively) naked onstage. We spend most of our lives carefully building up deflectors and defenses to keep people from seeing our inner selves… but to do this job properly, we need to learn to strip that all away: “This is what it’s like to be (a part of) me.” The most fulfilling is when an audience, through laughter or (better yet) silence, says, “Yes, that’s what it’s like to be me, too.”
What advice would you give an aspiring actor?
Do as much theater as you can. See as much as you can. Find some good, rigorous training. Never be satisfied.
What interests you the most about Busman’s Honeymoon?
The relationship between Peter and Harriet. They’ve spent books and books being clever with each other; here (in addition to being clever), they have to learn to be intimate. It’s lovely to watch—and challenging to do.
Karen Lund & Terry Edward Moore celebrate the Opening Night of Busman’s Honeymoon with a wedding cake in 1998.
What is it like returning to this show after several years?
When I first reread it, I thought that I didn’t remember a thing. But the more we’ve worked on it, I’m conscious that many of the discoveries are re-discoveries. It’s wonderfully appropriate that the only other returning cast member from that production is Nolan Palmer, who played (and plays) Peter’s valet, Bunter. Since Peter’s relationship with Bunter is the twenty-years-long constant in the books, I love revisiting and reinvesting that with Nolan. But it’s also great to have all the new energy from the other actors—and to fall in love with a new Harriet!
Do you have any interesting memories from the original production you would like to share?
We dyed my hair blond for that production—and for many years my driver’s license picture was startlingly blond. This time they’re planning a wig… probably because I have less hair to dye.
Having played both Lord Peter Wimsey and Sherlock Holmes twice at Taproot, how would you compare their characters and their styles of deduction?
Sherlock is more methodical—I can’t imagine Lord Peter publishing a study of 140 kinds of tobacco ash, or making an inventory of the various kinds of soil found throughout London, as Sherlock did.
You have had a prolific theatrical career, including many shows here at Taproot. What would you say is the highlight of your career so far?
That’s like asking which is my favorite child.
What is one thing people probably don’t know about you?
Like Sherlock, my avocation is playing music—though in my case, the cello.
What inspires you?
My wife, my kids, a beautiful piece of music, a sunny day… but mostly, walking into a rehearsal room with a good script in my hand, and a handful of fine artists to play with and dig deep with. It doesn’t get better than that.
Where’s your favorite place to go in Seattle?
Besides that rehearsal room? I love both Carkeek Park, in northwest Seattle—sky, sea, beach (and for added excitement, the occasional train!)—and Benaroya Hall, which is like sitting inside a giant cello. How’s that for two extremes?
Is there anything else you would like to say?
(Re)read the Lord Peter books. They’re great fun!
Scott Nolte, Taproot Theatre’s Producing Artistic Director, has long been a fan Dorothy L. Sayers’ detective novels, having discovered them many years ago, in Taproot’s early days, while the company was on tour in Canada. Sayers (1893 – 1957), a prolific author and theologian, wrote twelve mystery novels and several short stories which featured her brilliant detective protagonist, Lord Peter Wimsey. Nolte originally produced and directed Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey murder mystery Busman’s Honeymoon as a part of Taproot’s 1998 season and is excited to have the play returning to the Jewell Mainstage again this season.
“The Wimsey stories are fun and smart,” Nolte said, “Sayers’ insights into humanity and into British society, the enticement of solving the crime and the humor of the characters make her stories a great reading experience.”
As an enthusiast of the Lord Peter detective series, Nolte had been aware of the novel Busman’s Honeymoon, in which Wimsey solves a murder while on honeymoon with his new bride, mystery writer Harriet Vane; but when Nolte found out that Sayers had originally written the story as a play, he was certain he wanted to produce the dashing detective’s story as a part of Taproot’s 1998 season. However, when he began to inquire about the production rights for the script, he discovered that he would need to do some sleuthing of his own in order to bring the show to Taproot’s stage.
While the play Busman’s Honeymoon had been well received when it debuted in London in 1936, the script had very few additional productions after Dorothy L. Sayers had adapted the script into a novel for the Wimsey mystery book series in 1937. The play had been written as an attempt by Sayers and her colleague M. St. Clare Byrne to write a fair-play detective story for the stage.
According to Sayers, in a fair-play detective story “every clue must be shown at the same time to the public and to the detective, so that both have an equal chance to solve the problem. The public must not be told the secret of the crime beforehand; nor must the detective acquire any private information which he does not immediately impart to the public.”
Terry Edward Moore & Karen Lund in Busman’s Honeymoon at Taproot Theatre (1998). Photo by John Ulman.
The fair-play rule can create some interesting challenges when staging a play that are different from the writing of a novel. A detective novel relies on the author’s descriptions and explanations of what is going on, whereas a play depends on what the audience can experience for themselves as they observe the action on stage. Therefore, in the case of Busman’s Honeymoon, it is only fair that the murder weapon be onstage and in plain sight from the very beginning, thus enabling the audience to have a fair chance at solving the puzzle.
At first, when Nolte tried to reserve the production rights from Dramatist’s Play Services in order to produce the play for Taproot’s 1998 season, he discovered that the script was out of print.
“We’re working from photocopies of a photocopy of the original 1937 script; there are no published actor-formatted scripts available,” Nolte said, “there are also no other contemporary productions that we can refer to and glean staging insights from. We’re on our own!”
Although there are now newer stage adaptations of select Sayers’ novels being adapted by other playwrights, (such as the script Taproot used for its 2012 production of Sayers’ Gaudy Night), Busman’s Honeymoon has the unique distinction of being the only Lord Peter play-script penned by Sayers herself.
Terry Edward Moore & Alyson Scadron Branner in Busman’s Honeymoon at Taproot Theatre (2017). Photo by Erik Stuhaug.
“Busman’s Honeymoon was a delight to work on in 1998,” Nolte said. “We did Gaudy Night a few years ago, in which Harriet Vane accepts Lord Peter Wimsey’s proposal to marry. It seemed especially opportune to join them on their honeymoon by revisiting this play.”
So what’s it like to return to a project like this after so long? “I’m conscious of a déjà vu feeling,” Nolte said. “It’s a bit of a reunion with the characters, the story – and we’re staging it in the same performance space.”
Another part of that reunion is the return of Taproot’s original Lord Peter Wimsey, veteran actor Terry Edward Moore.
“Terry’s great fun to work with,” Nolte said. “And he’s also a huge fan of Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey novels and short stories. Our loyalty to the Busman’s Honeymoon story and characters is strong, coupled with our understanding of the differences between reading a novel and performing it live, onstage.”
“We don’t want to simply replicate what we did in 1998. Since it’s been 19 years since we last did this play, we’re building on more theatre experience and accommodating a new cast, and we have resources and skills that have grown since then.”
In Taproot Theatre Company’s Isaac Studio Theatre
212 N 85th St, Seattle, WA 98103
Monday, May 22 at 7:30 PM
Peace Concert, a Ghost Light Project, is a free, non-partisan, curated event featuring local music, spoken word and other creative art forms. The goal of this concert is to offer a creative peaceful demonstration along with practical resources which can encourage positive change. The theme of this event is immigration. A donation will be asked for in support of participating organizations.
Featuring music by A Total Fiasco; opera by Molli Corcoran; songs by Bethanie Russell, Chelsea LeValley, Shana Bestock, Asha Stitcher, Sarah Deiner, Lydia Hayes; gospel music by Rev. Kelle Brown; music and folk tales by Ben Hunter; comedy by Troy Mink; jazz guitar by Gordon Tibbetts; stories by Hana Lass and Adham Smadi; poetry by Lama Chikh; a special prayer for peace by the lamas of Sakya Monastery and a group number led by Tyler Kimmel.
City of Seattle Deputy Mayor Hyeok Kim will start off the event with a word about Seattle’s status as a Sanctuary City. Organizations represented include World Vision, World Concern, The John Perkins Center for Leadership & Reconciliation and El Centro de la Raza.
Yes, you’ve seen this article already this year – but we think it’s worth mentioning again. We’re four months in to working with our new ticketing software and we have learned a lot about how it works! That said, you could still help us by following these helpful tips:
We’re excited to continue serving you throughout the rest our 2017 Season!
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By Dorothy L. Sayers
Directed by Scott Nolte
Featuring Jenny Cross, Keith Dahlgren, Robert Gallaher, Reginald Jackson, Frank Lawler, Terry Edward Moore, Pam Nolte, Nolan Palmer, Kevin Pitman, Alyson Scadron Branner, Dustin Trabert and Brad Walker.
MAY 17 – JUNE 24, 2017
Previews: May 17 & 18 at 7:30 PM
Opening Night: May 19 at 8:00 PM
Pay What You Can: May 24 at 7:30 PM
Wed/Thu: 7:30 PM
Fri/Sat: 8:00 PM
Sat Mat: 2:00 PM
Approximate Running Time: 2 hours and 30 minutes, including on 15 minute intermission
Busman’s Honeymoon is recommended for ages 12 and up. Children under 5 are never admitted.