In the theater world, a “triple threat” is a performer who can act, sing and dance. When Shawnee Little Theatre’s upcoming classic comedy “Noises Off” opens April 5, that title will take on a different meaning.
The Stewart family — Connie, Christina and Ginny, mother, daughter and daughter — will become SLT’s triple threat as they play opposite each other in pivotal roles in the same show.
“Noises Off” is a 1982 play by the English playwright Michael Frayn. The idea for it came in 1970, when Frayn was watching from the wings a performance of “The Two of Us,” a farce that he had written for Lynn Redgrave.
He said, "It was funnier from behind than in front, and I thought that one day I must write a farce from behind."
The play takes its title from the theatrical stage direction indicating sounds coming from offstage.
In Act I of “Noises Off” we witness the disastrous final dress rehearsal.
In Act II the set revolves and we hear the same play but see the shenanigans going on backstage.
When the set revolves again, in Act III, its closing night and nobody really cares what happens.
Connie Stewart (the mother) plays a fading TV star who is the top-billed star as well as an investor in the doomed play within a play. She’s also dating a much younger actor.
Christina Stewart (the eldest Stewart daughter) plays an inexperienced actress who pays absolutely no attention to others — in performance or backstage. Never diverting from her script, regardless of the mayhem going on around her, she is involved romantically with another actor in the show.
Ginny Stewart (the other Stewart daughter) plays the assistant stage manager and understudy to all female roles. She is highly emotional, skittish, over-sensitive and part of a backstage love triangle.
All three Stewart actresses have appeared in numerous SLT productions — just not in a major ensemble role in the same production. The family of actresses lives in Moore, but commutes faithfully to be a part of SLT productions.
Connie has appeared at SLT in “Steel Magnolias,” “Little Women,” Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” “9 to 5,” “Exit Laughing” and the recent production of “Oklahoma!”
Commenting on her upcoming part, she said, “To have the opportunity to perform with my girls is a dream. I love that we all share the love of theater.”
Connie calls her role in “Noises Off” her dream role.
Christina, who just completed her B.A. in theater performance at Oklahoma City University, has been featured on the SLT stage in “Oklahoma!,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “9 to 5,” “South Pacific,” “Steel Magnolias” and “Annie.” An SLT participant for nine years, Christina calls the community theater her second home. Laughing, she said performing with her mom, sister and boyfriend in “Noises Off” sure helps save money on gas. Christina hopes to become a drama teacher. Her dream role would be either Eponine or Fantine in “Les Miserables.”
“I love a good song to belt and a dramatic death," she said.
Ginny is a senior at Moore High School where she is active in drama. At SLT she was in “Oklahoma!,” “9 to 5,” “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” and “Annie.” “Noises Off” marks her first SLT major role in a comedy. When asked what role she’s always wanted to play, Ginny didn’t hesitate.
“I’ve always wanted to play every Disney princess, because the magic of Disney is just so powerful,” she said. “And who wouldn’t want to be a princess?”
Summing it up, Connie Stewart said, “This is my home. SLT is family. We are blessed to have such quality theater so close to home.”
All three Stewarts will be memorized, polished and ready for the lights to come up in their shared major-role family debut at Shawnee Little Theatre.
Joining the Stewarts in “Noises Off,” the ensemble cast includes Eric Hopkins, Matthew Moreillon, Bruce Fry, Matt Longacre, Nicki Sherman and Tom Dicken.
Directed by Elijah D. Gragg, performances are April 5, 6, 11, 12 and 13 at 7:30 p.m. and April 7 at 2 p.m. General admission reservations will be available at shawneelittletheatre.com beginning March 26. The SLT box office will open April 1 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday for walk-up and telephone reservations at 405-275-2805.
The original production of “Noises Off” opened in 1982 in London with ecstatic reviews, running until 1987. The American version premiered in 1983 on Broadway and garnered four Tony Award nominations. It has become a staple for community theaters on both sides of the Atlantic. Shawnee Little Theatre first produced the comedy farce in 1987.
Shawnee Little Theatre is a non-profit, all volunteer community theatre celebrating its 52nd year of producing shows in Shawnee. The upcoming 2019-2020 season of shows will be announced during the run of “Noises Off.”
Season sponsors include Action Physical Therapy; BancFirst, Berkshire Hathaway Benchmark Realty; Turner and Cindy Davis; the Fowler Auto Group; Matt and Shelli Hopkins; Dr Kirk Hoster and Dr. Jordan Ewert, optometrists; Metro Brokers, the Presley Group, Shawnee Milling Company and St. Anthony Shawnee Physicians.