Professional actor and 1988 Herndon High School graduate Nick Rose, 42, has come full circle.
Twenty-five years ago, as a senior at Herndon, Rose helped to found the Elden Street Players community theatre company, which earlier this year transitioned into professional acting company Next Stop Theatre. He then moved to Ohio, where he became a founder of the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company.
But next week, NextStop will be kicking off its inaugural season with the play Alfred Hitchcock’s “The 39 Steps” and Rose has returned to his acting roots and will be one of four actors in the production who between them will perform more than 140 different roles.
“When [NextStop Producing Artistic Director] Evan Hoffman contacted me through Facebook, I knew I had to get involved,” Rose said of his return to Herndon.
“I knew of him as one of the co-founders of the Elden Street Players,” said Hoffman. “I wanted to let him know about the transition. After speaking with him, he asked if he could audition as an actor for The 39 Steps, so I said ‘sure’ and now I’m really glad he’s involved. He is a very funny and thoughtful actor.”
According to Hoffman, the play is a humorous interpretation of Alfred Hitchock’s big budget 1935 film about espionage and murder, performed specifically for a theater audience. The play’s four actors - a leading man, a leading woman and two “clowns” - will play more than 140 different characters throughout the production.
“Our production takes the story of a large movie and makes it more engaging by way of theatre magic,” said Hoffman. “Much of the dialogue and scene structure remains the same, but the play will have more laughs than suspense, and its 35 scenes will utilize creative theatrical effects to engage the audience as opposed to using Hollywood movie special effects. For instance, in the film there is a scene that takes place atop a moving train. We obviously cannot put a real train into our theater, but the way we stage that scene will make the audience believe that is what they are seeing.”
The setup in the Industrial Strength Theatre, where NextStop is housed, lends itself to creatively staged productions. The main stage is a black box, 42 feet wide and 24 feet deep, and arena-style seating faces it. None of the 114 seats are farther than 20 feet from the performance space.
“That’s the way we always wanted it,” Elden Street Players co-founder Les Zidel said. “We wanted to try more experimental work. We didn’t want to be just another community theater that was doing ‘Hello Dolly.’ We wanted to do serious drama. We did Shakespeare our second season, and started doing plays that no one around had ever attempted.”
Rose said that the creative, almost rebellious spirit of the Elden Street Players--and now NextStop--is a legacy that he takes pride in.
“When Les first approached me and told me about starting the Elden Street Players in 1988, I hoped that it would become a success,” Rose said. “Reston had a community theatre, but Herndon needed one of its own. We assembled a cast that was ready for anything, and then I wrote a script called “Death by Direction” and we performed it in the Herndon Community Center. That was a great beginning that sparked the community’s interest in live theatre, and I am glad to see that it has only gotten bigger and better in the 25 years that followed.”
“Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps” will begin its run with two preview showings: Thursday, Sept. 26 at 7:30 p.m., and Friday, Sept. 27 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20 for these performances.
Opening night will be Saturday, Sept. 28 at 8 p.m. The play will run Thursdays-Sundays through Oct. 20. Tickets range in price from $25 to $27 depending on date and time of performance. “There will be a series of sporadic guest star cameo appearances by local politicians and others on some nights throughout the production,” said Hoffman. Herndon Mayor Lisa Merkel, Delegate Tom Rust (R-Dist. 86), Supervisor John Foust (D-Dranesville) and others are all scheduled to appear in scenes.”