Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Spotlight: In the director's corner with VERDICT's Virginia Olivieri

Bella Tindall, Carrie Ellen Jones, and Peter Cunniff
Photo by Renee Ashlock
by Monica Sampson

Bright red blood-stained walls, mysterious hidden clues, and a round of ‘whodunit?’ You’ve entered the thriller world of an Agatha Christie play. This is typically the case when theaters put on some of Christie’s well known works such as The MousetrapAnd Then There Were None, or Witness for the Prosecution. However, this narrative is being re-written by Scottsdale Desert Stages Theatre’s newest production.

Enter into a unique kind of Christie play, as PHX Stages sits down for an interview with Valley Director, Virginia Olivieri for an inside look into the rehearsal process, director’s vision, and conceptualization of Desert Stages Agatha Christie play Verdict.

 “I love plays that tell fascinating stories” says Olivieri filled with excitement, as she begins to explain the decision process for picking Verdict for Desert Stages' Actors Cafe.

Agatha Christie's Verdict first opened in 1958 to rave reviews from the thrill and chills seeking community. Today its being reimagined, Olivieri stressed, “this version of Verdict isn't anything an audience will expect,” jokingly, Olivier noted, this show is not to be confused with the 1982, Paul Newman film, under the same name, or a courtroom drama, instead Olivieri wants audiences to be prepared for a thought-provoking thriller.

As she details, “This is the story of a misguided idealist who loves so intensely, it becomes ultimately destructive and unattainable.”

Olivieri’s Verdict takes place in the intimate setting of the Actor's Cafe, where only a few rows of seats separate the audience from the actors, and maybe Olivieri hopes, “this might just be the trick to allow audience members to engage in a mentally, and morally stimulating show’.

Verdict is a psychological thriller, unlike more popular Christie plays, the murder in this show never comes into question, but rather the why’s and how’s as Olivieri explains.

Suspensefully, this is where the true art of the rehearsal process was found says Oliveri, “Actors don’t always agree with characters they are playing and especially in this show, we spent time having to understand why someone would do something immoral, or illogical” Analyzing the moral gray areas of their characters became a top priority for Olivieri and her actors during the shows rehearsal process.

Peter Cunniff, Charles Sowder and Carrie Ellen Jones
Photo by Renee Ashlock

Olivieri explained that “Christie’s work is philosophical in nature, leading the actors to spend rehearsal time not only working on their characters but working through emotional, and moral dilemmas”.

This philosophical approach to theatre is exactly what Olivieri hopes audience members take away from the show. At the end of the night, Olivieri stressed the hope she has for audience members to turn the evening into a conversation.

“I challenge you to take two hours of your time, and go listen to something that is maybe something you’ve never seen, or thought you would like and then, afterword go talk about it”

Indefinitely, Verdict is not a “whodunit” but, that’s where Olivieri says some of the most magical theater experiences can take place, turning an outward “who done it”, into a personal, what would I do in this situation.

“I guarantee you will come away from this show having felt something,” closes Olivieri. “Resonated in some way, and asked yourself, what would I do?”

CLICK HERE for more information on Verdict at Desert Stages Theatre, which runs through March 4th

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