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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Dallas WiertellaApril 30, 2024

The Mouse Trap

Behind-the-scenes of FRT season finale

Agatha Christie’s murder mystery has excited audiences for 58 years, and now the play is coming to NMU.

“The Mousetrap” exemplifies the murder mystery genre. Mollie and Giles Ralston are the owners of Monkswell Manor, a mansion-turned-hotel. The hotel currently has four guests and an additional traveler, whose car crashed into a snow bank.

The group finds itself snowed in when they receive word that there’s been a murder in London, and the killer has fled to the countryside near the hotel.

When one of the guests at the manor is murdered, the guests realize the killer is already among them.

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Director Paul Truckey, associate professor of communication and performance studies (CAPS), said the play is probably the most famous murder mystery of them all because of its unique twist.

Truckey referred to the play as “one of the old chestnuts,” or historical plays that have been done many times. “Mousetrap” began in 1952, and its run has been going on ever since; the play now boasts the record for more than 23,000 performances.

Another unique aspect of the play, Truckey said, is that the twist has remained a secret because there hasn’t been a film adaptation of the play and there aren’t many productions of the play in the U.S.

“The play is only done at the university or community level. There’s only ever been a major production in London, there’s never been a Broadway production, so it actually probably isn’t seen all that much,” Truckey said.

Other than the possibility of giving away the twist ending, Truckey said one of the issues of doing a familiar piece is that there might be some similarities between past performances, but he is expecting no major issues.

The stage will be set as the inside of Monkswell Manor, and Truckey said the mansion will be set in the Tudor style.

“(The manor has) been around for a long time, so it will have elements from a lot of different eras drawn into it,” he said.

Denise Townsend, CAPS artistic intern production stage manager for “Mousetrap,” manages behind-the-scenes, collaborating with the director and the designers to make sure everything is coming along at a timely pace.

“I’m also the communication between the actors and the director. I take notes for the director during rehearsals and tend to the actors’ needs during rehearsal as well,” Townsend said.

She said keeping the communication lines open is the most challenging part of her job because it takes a lot of respect and patience when under duress, but once everything is worked out, it’s also the most satisfying.

“When the actors are really positive about the day and the director is happy, that makes me feel good to know … everything’s running smoothly,” she said.

Truckey said working with Agatha Christie’s writing has been an excellent experience for him and the cast because the play is so well-written and she keeps the identity of the killer secret right until the end of the play.

“Nothing’s given away that makes you lean towards thinking it’s one person or the other. You could come in here and easily think that any one of these people could be the murderer,” he said.

The cast has been excellent so far, and Truckey said he expects solid acting performances from all of them.

“They’re just some of our best people we have here. They all get along, they’re all having a wonderful time here, we’ve had a lot of laughs, and it’s been a lighthearted and fruitful experience,” he said.

The Forest Roberts Theatre will finish up their 2009-2010 season with Christie’s “The Mousetrap” on April 14-17 at 7:30 p.m. and April 17 at 1 p.m.  Tickets cost $8 for NMU students and $12 for general admission and can be purchased from any of the NMU EZ Ticket Offices at the Forest Roberts Theatre, NMU Bookstore, the Superior Dome or the Vista Theatre in Negaunee.

‘The Mousetrap’ cast bring characters to life characters to life

The cast of “The Mousetrap” is challenged to keep the audience guessing through the entire play, and many individuals channeling eccentric characters should make for a fun-filled night.

Aaron Sarka plays Christopher Wren, whom he described as unpredictable.

“He’s probably the most off-the-wall character in the show. I get to pretty much play a lunatic, which is always a fun time,” Sarka said.

Sarka’s plan is to have fun with Wren and find ways to make the audience raise an eyebrow at his crazy antics.

One of the most difficult things, Sarka said, is to make the audience suspicious of every character in the play, but not overly suspicious.

“It’s a murder mystery. You’re supposed to suspect everybody, but at the same time, have doubts about everybody. Having a balance between those two has been the most difficult thing to do,” he said.

Sarka also said he believes the play’s twist ending will interest audiences.

“I think it’s something that, especially at the time it was written, no one was ever going to figure out. (The end is) very out of the blue,” Sarka said.

Ella Bartlett will be playing Miss Casewell, and referred to her character as the new woman of the 1950s.

“She’s an independent, intelligent world traveler,” Bartlett said. “She’s described as masculine because she wears pants, and she sits improperly in chairs.”

Bartlett said that Casewell is a straightforward character to slip into; she doesn’t let anyone push her around and she is adventurous.

“I always try to create a backstory for her. I figure out where she’s been, what made her the way she is,” Bartlett said. “Pre-performance, I try to listen to music that is timely (to the show).”

Because of the play’s time setting, Bartlett said it adds to the overall difficulty of the acting.

“The challenge with the show is you’re not only doing these ridiculous characters, you’re doing them from a different country and a different time period,” she said.

Still, the cast has been working well with the differences, Bartlett said, because their bonds are strong.

“We’ve worked on stage before together,” she said. “We know each other’s ways of doing things,” she said.

With Christie’s writing, Bartlett said there are a lot of things the cast does to add their touch to the play, because Christie has left room for some comedy.

“The sky’s the limit with (the) number of silly things that you can do, little bits you can add in,” Bartlett said.

Ben Filipowicz plays Mr. Paravicini, whom Filipowicz said is a weird and mysterious fellow.

“He just kind of stalks around and leers at the young women. He’s all around a creepy guy who’s there to set the tone of the show,” Filipowicz said.

Filipowicz said it’s nice that the play has never been made into a film because it eliminates the possibility that an audience will expect a performance to mimic the film. He also said it’s easier for the cast to develop their own characters without the direction of a film.

“I’m not really careful; I could start channeling that person’s version of the show. In one respect, (a film is) helpful as research, but in another respect it’s dangerous,” he said. “We want to set the tone.”

The ending is good, Filipowicz said, but in the era of films with crazy twist endings, he feels some people may guess the twist by the time the play ends. Still, he expects audiences will enjoy the play.

“Even if you figure (the twist) out, the play’s still good,” he said.

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