Agatha Christie classic lets young actors explore their craft

Posted: January 26, 2018 at 1 a.m.

Courtesy Photo Hannah Morton and Warren McCombs, seated, pause for a photo during rehearsal with Henry Aggus and Sarah Grace Baxter. The FHS production of "And Then There Were None" runs this weekend.
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Courtesy Photo Hannah Morton and Warren McCombs, seated, pause for a photo during rehearsal with Henry Aggus and Sarah Grace Baxter. The FHS production of "And Then There Were None" runs this weekend.

It is, Mike Thomas says simply, what makes Agatha Christie's "And Then There Were None" a classic. Written in 1939 and presented "in period" with British accents, the ever-popular murder mystery still speaks to the actors and the audience.

Thomas is directing the Fayetteville High School production that runs this weekend and says he's loved watching the "really unique characters" his students have developed on stage.

FAQ

‘And Then There Were None’

WHEN — 7 p.m. today & Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday

WHERE — Fayetteville High School Black Box Theatre

COST — $7-$10

INFO — 445-1335

"I've cast all different grade levels and acting abilities and experience, and there's a place for all of them," he says. "That's the good thing about Agatha Christie."

In the play, guests arrive at a rock-bound island mansion, and as they are trying to figure out who their host is, they are all accused of unpunished crimes. Then they begin to mysteriously die, following the outline of the "10 little soldiers" poem over the manor's fireplace.

"I like it because it's really character driven for high school kids," Thomas says. "Agatha Christie has purposefully written these people into the room and left them there." The actors, he says, have to figure out what their faces are conveying when they're not speaking. "It gives them a lot of subtext. I always try to teach them you can say more when you're not saying lines than when you are.

"The students have really gotten into it," he adds. "They love the idea of doing a show that's kind of like a magic trick, a little sleight of hand, and they really work together to keep the audience guessing."

Thomas has also used the opportunity to show his students the collaboration that good theater requires. Thanks to the cooperation of the University of Arkansas theater department, the play's "very symbolic" set was designed by undergrad student Marian Wood. And the 10 ceramic statues that disappear along with the guests are unique to the production, created by FHS art students.

"There's also a neat theme about guilt and taking responsibility for your actions," Thomas says. "I hear them talking backstage comparing the characters to people in today's world. In this current political era of passing the blame, they can't help but bring their own ideas to it."

-- Becca Martin-Brown

bmartin@nwadg.com

NAN What's Up on 01/26/2018