Origins of the 39 Steps Part II

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In Which a Story Plays on the Silver Screen: Alfred Hitchcock & the Film
Shannon Hurst

Be sure to check out Part I of the Origins of the 39 STEPS series: In Which a Story Cures Boredom.

Known the world over as the supreme Master of Suspense, filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock received his famous moniker following the debut of his 1935 film The 39 Steps. Released at a time where cinematic audiences were again on the verge of another World War, the film served to bolster Hitchcock’s career—leading him directly to a contract in Hollywood—as well as to secure the popularity of spy-thrillers on the big screen.

Having read John Buchan’s The Thirty-Nine Steps in grade school, a young Alfred Hitchcock believed the thrilling, expansive adventure and unsuspecting, innocent action hero would serve well as the foundation of a great suspense film. Once the burgeoning director had completed his first spy film, The Man Who Knew Too Much, he would begin to work on re-crafting Buchan’s novel. Altering the story’s title to The 39 Steps, Hitchcock recrafted many of the details of Hannay’s journey to first make it more suitable for cinematic audiences, then on the verge of yet another World War, primarily by including the addition of the now-iconic femme fatale and “cool blonde” female characters, and also to heighten its elements of suspense, or perpetual state of anticipation. The result was not only a tremendous success for its director, but another raving success for the story of Richard Hannay.

Hitchcock’s work on The 39 Steps and his other spy-thrillers helped to shape his aesthetic that is now familiar to his contemporary audiences. One such creative element employed by Hitchcock in this film he would refer to as his “MacGuffin”—a plot key that is both critically important but utterly vague; Hannay learns from Annabella, a mysterious femme fatale, that there is such a thing as the 39 Steps and that they are dangerous and important, but leaves Hannay and his audiences to fill in any remaining blanks. The film is briskly-paced—another alteration … Read the rest

The Trippers are heading to the Spoleto Festival in Charleston!

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American Stage is going to the Spoleto Festival in Charleston!

spoleto usa

Spoleto U.S.A was founded by Pulitzer-prize winning composer Gian Carlo Menotti and is the world-renowned, American counterpart of the famed Italian festival, Festival de DuMondi in Spoleto, Italy.

Dates: June 5th – 10th

We have been looking into this trip for several years, and it seems like Spoleto’s 4oth anniversary is a good time to go. World-class music, opera, dance, theater – this festival has it all! Additionally, Travel and Leisure and Conde Nast regularly list Charleston as the number one destination in the United States.

We will spend five nights at the 4-star Belmond Charleston Place Hotel, known for its southern hospitality and luxurious ambience. The hotel is centrally located on King Street and sits above the most elegant and refined shopping district in Charleston. It is also adjacent to the Old City Market.

(Photo: Belmond Charleston Place.)

(Photo: Belmond Charleston Place.)


The big opera this year is PORGY AND BESS, written in Charleston by George and Ira Gershwin, Dubose Heyward, a Charleston native and author of Porgy, from which the opera was born; and his wife, Dorothy.

Porgy and Bess design sketch by Jonathan Green. (Photo: Spoleto Festival USA.)

Porgy and Bess design sketch by Jonathan Green.
(Photo: Spoleto Festival USA.)

Porgy and Bess design sketch by Jonathan Green. (Photo: Spoleto Festival USA.)

Porgy and Bess design sketch by Jonathan Green.
(Photo: Spoleto Festival USA.)

Other offerings will be announced in January and will likely include a dance company, an orchestra, and at least one play. We are currently working with other arts organizations in the area to get the inside scoop on the “do not miss” events this season.

Additionally, the trip will include one of Charleston’s famous plantation visits as well as a city bus tour.

And let’s not forget the food! The trip also includes two group dinners and one group lunch at Charleston’s finest restaurants.

(Photo: Visit Charleston South Carolina)

(Photo: Visit Charleston South Carolina)

We offer all this for $3345 which includes:

  • Round-trip airfare
  • Five nights at the four-star Belmond Charleston Place Hotel
  • Breakfast daily at the hotel
  • All coach services
  • Round-trip baggage transfer
  • Two group dinners and one group lunch
  • Five Spoleto performances including Porgy and Bess
  • A guided city tour
  • A plantation visit
Read the rest

THE 39 STEPS – Special Performances

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the 39 steps special performances

Post-Show Talkback | Sunday November 29 & Sunday December 6 | 

Immediately following the the 3PM performance, stay for an opportunity to speak with the cast of THE 39 STEPS. (Limited Availability) Book Show Here.


Craft Beer Night with Green Bench Brewing Co | Wednesday December 2 | 

Arrive early on Wednesday December 2nd for a special craft beer tasting hosted by Green Bench Brewing Co before the show. Tasting begins a 7PM | Performance at 8PM. Book Show Here.


Young Professionals Night with Station House | Friday December 4 | 

For the young and the young-at-heart! Come see THE 39 STEPS and then enjoy a special after-party Meet & Greet reception with the Cast & Creative Team at Station House (260 1st St S – just a few blocks away!). One Free Beer or Wine per person, Appetizers served, Live Jazz. Performance at 8PM | Meet & Greet at 10PM. Book Show Here.  *It is not required, though suggested, to have seen THE 39 STEPS.Read the rest

THE 39 STEPS – Audience Response

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Take a look at what audiences are saying about THE 39 STEPS adapted by Patrick Barlow, based on the Film by Alfred Hitchcock, and directed by Stephanie Gularte. The cast includes Richard B. Watson, Juliana Davis, Joey Panek, and Jed Peterson. For tickets and more info CLICK HERE.

THE 39 STEPS | Nov 18-Dec 13 |
Mix a Hitchcock masterpiece with a juicy spy novel, add a dash of Monty Python and you have THE 39 STEPS, a fast-paced whodunit for anyone who loves the magic of theatre! Packed with non-stop laughs, over 150 zany characters, an on-stage plane crash, missing fingers, and some good old-fashioned romance!… Read the rest


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39 blog

In Which a Story Cures Boredom:  John Buchan & the Novel

by Shannon Hurst

The spy thriller is an inescapable staple of both film and literature so entrenched in our national consciousness that it may hardly seem plausible the genre has existed for only a century.  Indeed, even the vast expanse of the James Bond universe, for instance, traces back to a singular story from 1915 called The Thirty-Nine Steps.  The short thriller (or “shocker” as this type of story was first known) was penned under a pseudonym of British war correspondent and propagandist John Buchan who, bedridden by an ailment and unable to engage in the war, turned to writing an adventure story to cure his boredom.


First printed in a now-defunct British publication of adventure stories for young men called Blackwood’s Magazine, Buchan’s story chronicled the exploits and misadventures of Richard Hannay, an unconventional character for contemporary literature of the time.  Hannay is an everyman, discontent with life, who is thrown unwittingly into a world of espionage and covert government efforts.  Rather than his fictional counterparts, he acts independently through his own resourcefulness and ingenuity than within the confines of any political or aristocratic system.  Both the magazine story and subsequent novel achieved monumental success – even now, as the novel has never gone out of print – which could be attributed in part to its relatable protagonist being hurled into such a thrilling adventure, and in part because of the particularly topical relevancy to its early twentieth-century readers.


The Thirty-Nine Steps plays heavily on the robust patriotism and xenophobia of a country in the midst of the First World War.  Not only could its readers relate to Hannay, they could relate to the events depicted in the story, or at least find them plausible.  Buchan’s readers to this point had engaged with this type of literature, known as Invasion Literature, for decades as it played on British anxieties of possible intrusion and destruction.  The country’s nervous and fearful sensibilities would continue through to the Second World War, when a new generation … Read the rest

Theatre Travel with the Trippers: New York, New York… It’s a Helluva Town!

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  •  We fly nonstop to New York.
  • We’re met by our trusty bus to transport us to the SOFITEL, 45th St. off 5th Avenue near all the shops! (The bus will be with us during the entire trip fortransporting to theatres and all events.) The 4-star Sofitel has walk-in showers andtubs and an excellent restaurant where we will enjoy a fabulous breakfast daily.
  • We enjoy a festive group dinner.
  • We see four outstanding performances.
  • We visit the recently renovated Sagamore Hill, the “summer White House” home of Theodore Roosevelt and enjoy a group lunch in Oyster Bay.
  • We enjoy an excellent Sunday brunch together.

The four days we are there will be filled with THEATRE, the main reason we go to New York!


Here are some of the shows we’re considering:

  • She Loves Me – Laura Benanti and John Radnor star in Roundabout Theatre’s new version of this charming musical comedy classic.
  • Paramour – an exciting new experience that unites the signature spectacle of Cirque du Soleil with the storytelling magic of Broadway.
  • School of Rock – featuring 14 amazing child rock stars, this new musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber with book by Julian Fellowes (Downton Abbey) is based on the cult film.
  • Dry Powder – In this Public Theatre production, John Krasinski stars in a viciously, delicious new drama about the people who mold our economy.

Of course, if exciting new shows pop up, our ticket guru, Caryl, is always watching out for us.


Here’s what the trip includes:

  • Round trip air, bus service from and to N.Y. airport
  • 4 nights in a luxury hotel with breakfast daily except Sunday
  • 4 great theatre events with round trip bus service
  • A day trip with lunch
  • A splendid group dinner and an elegant Sunday brunch
  • A $200.00 tax-deductible donation to American Stage

The helpful Tom Block is our trip leader, and your traveling companions are sure to be among the kindest and … Read the rest

THE 39 STEPS – Trailer

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Take a look at our trailer for THE 39 STEPS adapted by Patrick Barlow, based on the Film by Alfred Hitchcock, and directed by Stephanie Gularte. The cast includes Richard B. Watson, Juliana Davis, Joey Panek, and Jed Peterson.

THE 39 STEPS | Nov 18-Dec 13 |
Mix a Hitchcock masterpiece with a juicy spy novel, add a dash of Monty Python and you have THE 39 STEPS, a fast-paced whodunit for anyone who loves the magic of theatre! Packed with non-stop laughs, over 150 zany characters, an on-stage plane crash, missing fingers, and some good old-fashioned romance!

Click Here for Tickets and More Information About THE 39 STEPSRead the rest

THE 39 STEPS: From Page to Screen to Stage

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39 steps movie

If you’re anything like me, the version of THE 39 STEPS you’re most familiar with is the 1935 Hitchcock film starring Robert Donat and Madeleine Carroll. If you are me, then you watched it as part of a fairly random Hitchcock marathon during which you learned valuable lessons like “Communism is bad” and “Anything can be explained by Freudian psychology.” As we prepare to bring THE 39 STEPS to life onstage, however, I thought it would be fun to explore the many of versions of this now-classic tale.






While Hitchcock, Master of Suspense that he was, turned THE 39 STEPS into a thriller laced with plenty of political intrigue, the 1915 John Buchan novel is surprisingly fun. Narrated by Richard Hannay, the main character in all three versions, it feels like an adventure story being recounted by an explorer. It was, in fact, written as much to amuse its author as to entertain its readers. According to Buchan’s dedication to his friend Thomas Arthur Nelson:

39 steps book


You and I have long cherished an affection for that elementary type of tale which Americans call the ‘dime novel’ and which we know as the ‘shocker’ – the romance where the incidents defy the probabilities, and march just inside the borders of the possible. During an illness last winter I exhausted my store of those aids to cheerfulness, and was driven to write one for myself.




That’s not to say that there isn’t plenty of political intrigue in the novel, only that our dear Mr. Hannay isn’t exactly unwilling to become involved. Bored with life in London, his reaction to revelations about spies and assassinations and conspiracies is a cool, “Things did happen occasionally, even in this God-forgotten metropolis.”


In the many versions of THE 39 STEPS, plenty of things happen, at least all the versions except Monsterpiece Theatre’s THE 39 STAIRS, a parody by Sesame Street featuring Grover the Muppet.


The play, written by Patrick Barlow, takes elements from both the book and the film to create something entirely new. … Read the rest

5 Questions with Paul Wilborn

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There are few movers-and-shakers in the Tampa Bay arts scene quite like Paul Wilborn and wife Eugenie Bondurant. We at American Stage are lucky and thrilled to host their American Songbook Series and Mr. Wilborn was kind enough to answer five burning questions to help promote this weekend’s Skylark: The Songs of Hoagy Carmichael & Johnny Mercer.

Can you give us the Paul Wilborn and Eugenie Bondurant origin story?

A Los Angeles based Associated Press reporter (Paul) and a beautiful actor (Eugenie) are invited to the same party in LA in 2002. They are engaged six months later. In 2003, they move back to Tampa (Paul’s hometown) so Paul can become the Creative Industries Manager for new Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio. Paul is asked by the Palladium Theater to do an American Songbook cabaret series. He tries out many female singers but doesn’t find the right match. Eugenie, who has never sung in public, takes over that role and quickly becomes the star of the show! When Paul is picked to be Executive Director of the Palladium, the cabaret series moves to American Stage.

You have been a great pioneer for cabaret in Tampa Bay, what do you think is so special about this particular genre of performance?

Cabaret is a marriage of music and theater. It’s not just a band playing songs. If we do our job right, the audience takes a journey with us, much like they do seeing a play. And I think in this digital, electronic world – there is a hunger for intimate live performance. That’s what we try to do. As a former journalist, I love telling stories. That’s why are shows are a mix of music and anecdotes. As for being a pioneer – we’ve built up a great following now, but being a pioneer meant playing to lots of small audiences early on.

There are probably some patrons who do not recognize Hoagy Carmichael and Johnny Mercer by name, as well as, others who look forward to being reintroduced to their work. What inspired you to pick these two artists and how Read the rest