39 steps to fame


From left to right, seniors Grace Kennedy, Gabby Giacomo and Miranda Falk rehearsing The 39 Steps.

From left to right, seniors Grace Kennedy, Gabby Giacomo and Miranda Falk rehearsing The 39 Steps.
From left to right, seniors Grace Kennedy, Gabrielle Giacomo and Miranda Falk rehearsing The 39 Steps.                                Courtesy of Gabrielle Giacomo ’15

Seniors Gabrielle Giacomo,  Miranda Falk, and Grace Kennedy are making history May 15 with their self-directed production of The 39 Steps, the first ever fully student-directed play at Convent of the Sacred Heart. In addition to co-directing, these three seniors will also be starring in the thriller along with junior Tess Driscoll.
The 39 Steps was originally a film directed by Alfred Hitchcock in 1935 and loosely based on John Buchan’s book, The Thirty-Nine Steps. Playwright and comedian Patrick Barlow later adapted the story into its current version in 2005. 
It is the story of Richard Hannay, who is roped into a British counter espionage adventure. Upon setting out on a voyage to Scotland to stop an evil plot, Richard discovers that he is a murder suspect and the target of a nationwide manhunt. He then has to find a way to expose the infiltration, stop the information from leaking, and stay alive.
The catch in the stage version of this action thriller is that the cast will consist of only four actors. So, while one actor, Gabrielle, plays Richard Hannay, and Tess plays his three various love interests, the remaining two, Grace and Miranda, play the “clowns,” who are left to fill every other part.
Due to the nature of the play, there will be an extensive crew on the stage at all times playing various inanimate objects such as headlights, windows, and sheep. In charge of this large crew is senior Mary O’Sullivan, with senior Anneliese Hummel also helping as head of the technical crew.
Gabrielle, Miranda, and Grace chose The 39 Steps because they wanted a play with a small cast, no music, and a minimal set. The satirical nature, which blurs the borders between the audience, the actors, and the stage crew, also allows the student directors to take more liberties with the production.
“To an extent this is really a show within a show. In one scene we need two windows, but the props list only calls for one, so the stage directions literally instruct the character to pick up the window carry it across the stage, and then continue on with the scene,” Grace said.
The play is full of quirks and recycled set pieces. For example, throughout the show, a single trunk will transform from a table, to a bed, to a train car, and back to a regular trunk, without ever leaving the stage.
“I think it is definitely going to be hard to get everything together on time, especially since we only have about 40 rehearsals in total, but the relaxed nature of the play gives us more leeway with the production,” Miranda said.
Although Gabrielle, Miranda, and Grace will be directing, Miss Michaela Gorman, Middle and Upper School drama teacher, agreed to moderate the rehearsals, and she is confident that the students will be able to direct a successful play despite the obstacles.
“I really do think they can pull this off. It is a small cast, and they have lots of planning, so I think they know what they are doing. They have also been part of the drama program for a long time, and have really good instincts. Although it may be ambitious I think they are going to be very successful,” Miss Gorman said.
Though this type of student-run play is unprecedented at Sacred Heart, Gabrielle, Miranda, and Grace hope that their production of The 39 Steps will inspire rising seniors to continue the tradition.
“Even though we are graduating, we want to set the legacy for the drama department in the future, and we hope that through the generations, Sacred Heart students will take our ideas to the next level,” Gabrielle said.
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-Elizabeth Bachmann, Staff Writer