echo 37 presents Rope

By Monika Cieslak

“You either go to the theatre or you don’t, but if that one Hitchcock fan decides to come out to see our play then that’s great too,” says Dave Gagnier of Echo 37’s new play The Rope.

Echo 37 is a new theatre company in Calgary. Their goal is to bring plays made famous through film back to the stage.

"Often the film adaptation is very different from the original play and we’re giving people an opportunity to see the classic in a different light," Gagnier explains.

The Rope, despite being only the third play produced by Echo 37, boasts ticket sales and viewer enthusiasm landed them in the Engineered Air stage of the Epcor Centre.

"We wanted to offer something new to Calgary," says Gagnier. "Contemporary theatre is represented in Calgary and the bigger plays are well-attended but we wanted to offer something different, something that would spark new interest in the scene."

Why should you be interested? If the student rate ($15) and a theatre lobby that sells wine, drinks, and ice cream as snacks, doesn’t entice, the subject certainly will.

"It’s a play about university students," states Gagnier. "Two brave scholars–at least I think they’re brave–who decide to put into practice some of what they’ve learned from philosophy."

Made famous by Alfred Hitchcock’s film of the same name, The Rope was first a play written by Patrick Hamilton. It may have been based on the murder of 12-year-old Bobby Franks in 1924.

Richard Leopold and Nathan Loeb, two academically succesful students of the Universtiy of Chicago murdered the boy "in a spirit of adventure."

"Although Hamilton has denied the play was based on these events, there is no way he could have gotten away from the story, it was everywhere [in the USA]," Gagnier explains.

With so much excitement circling the story Gagnier would still like his audience to attend the play with an open mind.

"I know that people are coming to these plays with baggage," he says. "Most everyone, if not scene the actual film or play, knows the plot, but I hope the audience can look past that and watch with an open mind."

As Gagnier notes, the film can be a major problem.

"Some directors tell their cast they can’t watch the film. They’re afraid of the amount of influence the film has on the play," he explains. "I agree it must be minimal, but I don’t tell my cast not to see the film. I ask them instead to see the film, if they so choose, and forget what they’ve just seen. I can tell if someone is playing Jimmy Stewart instead of his character. I don’t want someone to be giving me his best impression of Jimmy Stewart and the cast knows that."

Gagnier directed and acted (as Billy Bibbit) in Echo 37’s last play, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. "I’ve seen the movie and read the book but I was also really interested to see it as a play," he states. "The most difficult part for me wasn’t the influence from the novel or the film, but from having to play such a self-conscious character on stage but needing to be a strong-minded director off stage."

Halloween is over but if you’re still in the mood to be thrilled go see The Rope running through Nov. 14.