Monday, June 10, 2013

Sherlocking in Houston

On Saturday June 8, 2013, a group of dedicated Sherlockians from Dallas piled into two Hansom cabs and headed to Houston. The three and a half hour trek turned out to be unremarkable but the anticipation grew worrisome as the local Houston traffic drew to a crawl when the group made it closer to their downtown location. The reason behind the trip was a visit to the Alley Theatre where they were staging Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Suicide Club. With the assistance of an iPhone GPS, the group arrived thirty minutes prior to the opening of the curtain.

The Alley Theatre runs a Sherlock Holmes play just about every year and each time the attendance is tremendous. Saturday’s performance was no exception. With a seating capacity of 824, Saturday’s matinee featured very few empty seats. This production featured a circular stage, with one section about three feet wide near the outer portion of the stage which rotated. This allowed the actors to stand on this part and then rotate out of the scene. In one particular scene, Holmes and Watson walked in one direction as the section rotated in the opposite direction, giving the perfect allusion of the pair walking through the streets of London while in the same point on stage.


Each actor delivered his or her line in a loud and succinct fashion and was clearly heard throughout the theatre. There were a few drawbacks, such as Dr. Watson not having a moustache. Also the allusion to Holmes’ 7% cocaine use even though the play was set in 1914, well after any mention of drug use in the Canon. However, the final scene’s subtle touch far out-shines these minor distractions. In the final scene, the audience was treated with a little bit of Sarasarte‘s Carmen Fantasy #1, a piece of music with which Holmes was surely familiar.

The play, written by Jeffery Hatcher, is based on the characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and those in the Suicide Club by Robert Louis Stevenson. It is an interesting bit of history that Doyle and Stevenson both graduated from the University of Edinburgh and were equally attracted to each other’s work. Sadly, Stevenson’s premature death occurred before the two great authors could collaborate in real life. With Mr. Hatcher’s deft hand, the audience witnessed what might have happened.

Todd White, Sherlock Holmes, plays the lead role with the right touch of haughtiness and aplomb. Sidney Williams, Dr. Watson, was more in the Nigel Bruce vein, and  pulled it off extremely well, even sans the moustache. Happily, Moriarty and Irene Adler made no surprise appearances. They seem to invade nearly every Holmes production ever staged. There was a Russian prince and a French lover and even an Inspector that was not named Lestrade or Gregson. The host of other players each accomplished their roles flawlessly.

The two act play included a short 15-minute intermission and was well worth giving up a Saturday afternoon to see. Co-director’s Gregory Boyd and Mark Shanahan run a tight production and with professional guidance. I hope that anyone in the Houston area before June 23, 2013 will have the opportunity to catch this fun little romp.

Friday, June 7, 2013

2013 Annual Picnic

Over the Memorial Day weekend, more than two dozen Sherlockians gathered at the Hobbs House for our annual Sherlock Holmes Picnic. My wife, Joyce, is a party planner extraordinaire. This year, we cooked burgers and it was her idea that everything on the menu be able to be eaten without cutlery. So we enhanced the burgers with chips, cookies, and Klondike bars and plenty of wet-wipes. No one complained or left hungry, for that matter.

In front of my house there is a 'No Outlet' sign. I just happened to have piece of cardboard-box that fit the sign perfectly. A quick substitution of the Master's Silhouette made it easy to identify where the picnic was happening. It was just one of those details that make hosting a Sherlockian gathering so much fun.
The converted No Outlet sign in front of my house
Since it is said "a picture is worth a thousand words" I will let the pictures tell the story instead of typing all of the words. From the platter of Kitty Winter's Biscuit Barrage to Inspector Lestrade's Lemonade every detail received special attention from Joyce's discerning eyes. A tribute to a house full of Sherlockians, that those same details did not go past unnoticed.
More finger food

Everyone had their own name tag. One of the pet peeves of the party planner extraordinaire is attending a Sherlockian event and no one knows Mary Morstan from Mary Sutherland. Each tag badge featured the new Crew of the Barque LONE STAR logo, their name, the date (May 26, 2013), and 'Annual Crew of the Barque LONE STAR Picnic' on a background of green for keeping the memory so.
The name tag alone will one day be a collector's item.
The Inspector Lestrade's Lemonade was made with more love than a Led Zepplin song lyric and was gone faster than parsley melts into butter on a hot summer day. Details, details, details.
Pucking good refreshment
Mrs. Vickie's potato chips morphed into Queen Victoria's Crisps for the afternoon and made Mrs. Hudson proud. They looked simply marvelous in front of the vintage forty-eight star American flag, very fitting indeed for Memorial Day. From Mrs. Vickie to Mrs. Hudson to Mrs. Joyce we tip our deerstalker to you.
Queen Victoria's own crisps
Writers Carole Nelson Douglas of the Midnight Louie and Irene Adler fame and TD McKinney of the Gay and Lesbian fiction fame were just two of the guests that held court, enthralling others with their tales of earning a living by their wits alone. Mrs. Joyce, in her kitchen, held her own court, impressing all with tales of her culinary genius. Cheers to her, indeed.
From left to right, Pam Mason, Carole Nelson Douglas, Joyce Hobbs
Terri Haugen, and David Haugen's left shoulder
David and Terri Haugen of Seattle, Washington were on their final leg of a multi-month holiday to Europe. Neither fly so getting from Seattle to Europe includes a touch of creative planning that would make Rick Steves proud. I hope our Texas Sherlockian hospitality made a lasting impression. They certainly impressed us with their wit and charm.
David Haugen and me in my library.
Alas, like good things, they come to pass all too soon as did the 2013 Annual Crew of the Barque LONE STAR picnic.

Happy Blogging!