A Surfside Beach-based playwright is thrilled to debut her latest work for a weekend in Conway’s landmark playhouse.
Kathryn Martin premieres “Ten Little Murders” with shows at 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday and 3 p.m. Saturday-Sunday at Theatre of the Republic’s home stage, the Main Street Theatre.
A former Wall Street banker eluding federal authorities and former clients drives this comic murder mystery as he hides out in a remote estate in South Carolina, and other people mistaken for him fall prey to one pursuer.
Tim McGhee, Theatre of the Republic’s executive/artistic director, said welcoming a new play such as “Ten Little Murders” helps fill an opening on the calendar between shows in the troupe’s season series, “August: Osage County,” which closed Feb. 24 and “The Color Purple,” opening April 19.
“Something we’re going to try is to keep the theater busy all the time,” McGhee said of the “intimate facility,” which seats 300 people.
McGhee said such a “black-box-type venue” should work well for Martin’s play, and he’s eager to see how this use of the theater, which just had a costly roof replacement, fits with such weekend-long play runs. He also said other playwrights have contacted him about borrowing the space and that “we want to see how it works.”
Martin, who spent the past couple of years presenting plays in the Wilmington-Southport area, voiced her excitement about seeing her words acted out on this stage in the seat of Horry County.
Question | What prompted this project that turned into a show for this special weekend?
Answer | I was looking for an avenue back here in this area that had recognition in the community, and Tim and I have known each other for many years. He and I have collaborated on a couple of things in the past. ... He was looking for alternative kinds of shows ... and I pitched him the idea of doing one. ... I said what would fit perfectly with this would be this murder mystery, with a really small cast, and it would be done with one set, which is easy to put in.
Q. | How did this timing play out perfectly as you and McGhee ironed out the weekend for this?
A. | We originally talked about January, and then we were thinking about the next slot available, in March, after “August: Osage County.” This will capitalize on the snowbirds coming down; they tend to be big theater people.
Q. | What difficulties or challenges arise from orchestrating a play with fewer resources and a core cast?
A. | That is becoming the dominant play style in the straight play industry. Even on Broadway and off-Broadway plays ... they tend to be extremely simple, with small casts and sets. They have the same problems, like nonprofit theaters getting fewer donations than usual, with the economy being strong. Everybody is doing more with less.
Q. | How will this next production mark a new milestone for you?
A. | Having a real stage is a luxury for me. I’ve done plays at places such as an art museum, a bed-and-breakfast ... and a pancake house. This is like, real theater. They have lights, they have sound; it’s like Christmas for me.
Q. | How long has “Ten Little Murders” taken to have its curtain open?
A. | The writing is the quickest part, because the idea of the play rattles in my head for a while before it takes shape. What happens first is the germination of the idea, followed by the characters. When I get to the point when the characters start talking in my sleep, it’s time to start writing. When .. writing the play, I’m hearing their voices. Hearing people say dialogue is the hardest thing to write – their speech patterns, their inflections. It’s like they’re dictating, and I’m just writing it down.
Q. | What other productions are evolving in your mind, for possible development down the road?
A. | I have one that I’ve submitted to Atlantic Stage, for the New Voices PlayFest in later April. It’s a play I wrote many years ago when I was in Los Angeles. I almost got it produced there, then we moved away. ... It’s more of a serious play.
Another play I had produced at Coastal Carolina University ... close to 10 years ago, was a comedy that was very popular, but had a short run. I would like to produce that again, if Theatre of the Republic turns out to be the right venue. It ... was called “Wishful Thinking.”
Q. | Do such endeavors expressed in your plays take an autobiographical turn in any regard?
A. | It’s been about 15 years since my first show. My first show was in Los Angeles, back in the 1990s, a one-act play, part of a play festival. ... One or two of the plays have been self-reflective. It’s not something I have to write about. It’s more about writing about what you know.
Most of my plays are not about anything that’s happened to me. They’re just ideas that pop into my head. Most of what I write is comedy, and some of the stuff often connects with the audiences. Afterward, people will come up to me and say, “That happened to my cousin.”
Contact STEVE PALISIN at 444-1764.