There are spies. There are thrills and intrigue. There is a young duo whose quest for adventure leads to charm and mystery, perhaps more than they signed up for.
Along with it all there will be an entirely new type of fall production at Anoka High School for the next three weekends beginning Nov. 20, as the theater department puts on Agatha Christie’s “The Secret Adversary,” a radio drama in three parts.
“Agatha Christie is the best selling novelist in history, having only been outsold by Shakespeare and the Bible,” Anoka Theatre director Jake Sullivan said. “It seemed only natural to go to the Queen of Crime to find inspiration for a thrilling mystery. This story, ‘The Secret Adversary,’ is her first to feature two of her most beloved characters, the crime-solving duo of Tommy and Tuppence. This is a spy thriller, so of course there’s lots of action, secret hideouts and dastardly villains, but it’s also got lots of charm, due in large part to the new life our cast brings to Christie’s wittily written characters. This is also a brand-new adaptation of the story, so even if you’ve read it before, you might hear something new!
“When planning the fall production, safety was our paramount concern, so an audio drama that could be completed remotely if need be seemed like the perfect solution. There are difficulties, of course – we are recording all of our dialogue over a video conferencing system and editing it all after – but knowing we can still make theater happen while being safe is the most important thing.”
The plot, set a century ago, provides a series of thrills, twists and turns to keep viewers on the edge of their seats.
It’s 1919, and Tommy and Tuppence are young, broke, and in love (though they’d never admit it). Restless for excitement, the duo embarks on a daring business scheme, but they get more than they bargain for when their first assignment draws them into a diabolical conspiracy concerning a master criminal known only as Mr. Brown. It isn’t long before they find themselves plunged into more danger than they ever could have imagined – a danger that could put an abrupt end to their business … and their lives!
“My favorite part of this production is the storyline and wittiness of the characters,” said Mackenzie Moe, who plays Tuppence. “I think this script is very clever and well-written. I also love the mystery aspect of it because I have never done a mystery before. I think it’s very cool that there are three episodes that come out at different times. It feels like I am on a television show!”
In a year that has been filled with uncertainty and finding new ways to perform while in-person shows are not viable, the three-weekend series is an innovative throwback to an old theater medium.
“Growing up, I loved listening to old radio shows with my grandpa, and we have really taken inspiration from those classics,” Sullivan said. “In a time of so much uncertainty, I’m so glad that we as an Anoka Theatre family could come together, both for our own stability and desire to perform, but also to create something for the community at-large to enjoy from the comforts of their own home. We all need a little escapism right now, and this is the perfect venue.”
Rehearsals and the show itself have transitioned online this year. It has been a time of learning and working through new challenges, and of setting aside some traditional acting methods not prominent in an online format.
Through it all, it is still an opportunity for the cast and crew to gather and act with one another, doing what they love.
“With this fully-remote radio-style production, there isn’t blocking to learn, technical elements to hone or even really lines to memorize,” Sullivan said. “That might sound like a downer, but really, it’s let us really dive into the characters and plot, to see what really makes a thriller tick, how we can really draw in our audiences in this limited, but very freeing medium.”
“It saddens me that we didn’t get to meet in person at all, however, I am grateful we get to do a show,” Moe said. “It is different and challenging to record at home, as well as only using our voices to act. I am used to using my voice, body, facial expressions, etc. during performances. However, during this performance we only have our voice, so I have to portray everything through that element. This show is similar to our past productions because the sense of community is still there. I still get to see Mr. Sullivan and my castmates’ faces every day, which is comforting when we’ve been stuck inside. I believe our rehearsal process has run fairly smoothly, and I’m excited for everyone to hear the final product!”
The show is being presented in a serialized, radio drama format. New episodes of the story will premiere over the course of three weekends. Buying a ticket grants access to all three episodes, which will be available for listening at anytime once they have premiered until Dec. 10.
“It’s comforting getting to perform right now even if it’s not in person,” Moe said. “It’s something to look forward to and find a sense of normality in. Theater is a huge part of my life and I’m pretty lost without it, so it’s great to be able to perform. I am excited for everyone to get to know my character, Tuppence. She’s very witty and aggressive, but she definitely has a secret soft side, which I love. I am also excited for everyone to experience a different side of Anoka theater that they have never seen before!”