On the Tuesday before opening night, Studio Players is 75 percent sold out of tickets for all performances of And Then There Were None, a thriller by Agatha Christie adapted from the 1939 novel that has sold more than 100 million copies worldwide.
While theaters around the country are struggling — Actors Guild of Lexington announced last week it is going on hiatus while it attempts to raise funds and find new theater space — Studio Players retains a strong following of supporters.
Gary McCormick, who directs the show, says Studio has created an environment full of dedicated volunteers who deeply care about the theater and that leaders select seasons by anticipating what their audience will enjoy.
McCormick was one of several directors to submit possible plays he would like to direct for this season and among them, And Then There Were None was selected.
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"The show was chosen because of the audience base at Studio Players," McCormick says. "It's such a well-known play and the who-done-it type thing is perfect for Studio Players.
"I love doing mysteries and creating those moments where you squirm in your seat," says McCormick, who has directed seven previous shows at Studio Players.
Widely considered to be Christie's masterpiece, the story is about 10 people — all of whom have been involved with another person's death but escaped consequences — being invited to an island. At the first dinner, they are "charged" with their crime and then systematically killed over the course of the play in ways that parallel the song 10 Little Indians.
McCormick and his cast and crew have experimented with ways to put the most thrills in the thriller.
"It's epic and majestic looking from the sweeping music to the set," McCormick says.
The set features an Art Deco-themed home overlooking the ocean, and special effects are featured heavily in the show. McCormick also is using an area of the theater that has never been used as a performance space before (but we can't tell you what).
McCormick's roots are on the stage as an actor and writer and for a time, stand-up comic. He caught the acting bug at Lafayette High School, which he attended with Jim Varney, the Lexington actor best known for making the character of Ernest P. Worrell famous with the catch phrase, "Know what I mean, Vern?"
"Jim Varney always beat me out," McCormick says. "I came in second in the talent contest to him and that's how I got interested in acting and playing goofy characters and writing."
McCormick has been directing since the late '90s and counts Studio as one of his favorite places to direct, largely because of the helpful community of volunteers who make his job easier.
"The support and the quality and the commitment that all the people have, who really are volunteers for the most part, is really incredible," McCormick says. "If you've got an idea, a certain type of set or something, you have a team of people that are committed to helping you."
McCormick says that support frees him to focus on the story rather than sorting out the logistics of things like props and costumes.
"The people who hang the lights, run the sound, costumers, prop people — they work just as hard as the actors but they never are seen by the audience and they're so supportive," McCormick says. "It all has to work together."
McCormick hopes that the performance and technical elements of the show will keep audiences on the edge of their seats.
"This is like when you pick up a book and start reading it and then you get 25 or 30 pages into it and you can't put it down," McCormick says. "I hope that's the way that people feel when they see the show."