Dennis Markam on the tension, passion and humor of Valance.
What sort of person is going to love this show?Everyone. This show has a lot of the grand Western tropes -- gunfights, tough men and women, justice -- with a very human and personal story at its core.
What’s challenging about bringing this script to life? Valance has been a fairly easy birth. There's a script (by Jethro Compton) that is inherently gripping, so when you add in a very insightful and talented cast it becomes very easy to mine these wonderful little moments that the playwright has peppered through the script. There's an exciting mix of high tension with deep passion with these light, winning moments of humor.
Why did you want to be involved in this production? I've been excited to direct on the Main Stage again, but the timing and the projects haven't lined up over the past couple seasons. When Joel (former Artistic Director) decided to start the season with Valance he was pretty adamant that he wanted me involved somehow -- either acting in it or directing. When I first read the script and saw how much heart and how much nuance was already baked into the it -- before even adding in the moments and layers our actors bring to the production -- I jumped at the chance to direct it.
What will audiences be thinking about in the car as they drive home after this show? I'd be really interested to find out. There are a bunch of things to take away from this show, which I think is part of its beauty. You can talk about the social justice aspect, the central love story, the themes of legends versus reality. I'm looking forward to our Theatre Club nights (October 7 and 21) to see which elements resonated most with the audiences.
How is this production bringing something new to this story? For those who are exclusively familiar with the movie, there are a number of differences large and small. To me, this script is a cleaner, more pared down version that gets to the heart of the story and the hearts of these characters in a much more efficient and engaging way. In our production we are trying to eschew a lot of the cinematic elements of westerns that have kind of become cliché in favor of a more truthful, direct telling of this story.
What’s going to surprise people about this show? I think a lot of people will be surprised at how invested they get in these characters. Westerns -- by and large -- aren't known for their character development, but, especially with these terrific actors we've gathered, we have a production that feels very lived in.
Who in the show is most like their character? Nate Smith (Ransome Foster). A lot of the more charming moments that we've come across are ones that he naturally brought with him to the role.
Who’s the least? Heather Kellogg (Hallie Jackson). Hallie is very warm and fun like Heather, but also has a very tough exterior that Heather has had to put on for the role.