Everyone has a collection of firsts. From the first day of school to the first kiss…our firsts are always memorable, for better or worse. The first play I ever saw — or at least the first play that ever captured my memory — was The Mousetrap by Dame Agatha Christie. I have the distinct memory of my eight-year-old self hunkered down on the floor of the middle aisle (it was a high school performance and kids were allowed to sit on the floor in between the sections of seats), joined by my best friend, Karen. We watched the woman playing Paravicini (yup — they cast a woman! Ah, high school…) with bug-eyed fascination as she announced, “She cut off their tails with a carving knife — snick, snick, snick — delicious.” She spoke with malicious glee (not to mention an affected accent) and in that moment, I knew — I knew — she was the killer. Of course, I was wrong. But that didn’t matter; I was captivated and from that moment on, I was in love with the theatre.
The Mousetrap will always have a special place in my heart. The summer after my junior year of college I saw it in the London’s West End (where it is, to date, the longest running show EVER) and in 2010, I had the chance to direct The Mousetrap for Ghostlight Productions’ first annual dinner/dessert theatre. For those of you who have never read it or seen it and don’t have any idea what I’m talking about…all I can say is, you’re missing out.
As far as playwrights go, Agatha Christie has her hits and misses. I will always love her for The Mousetrap (no matter how cheesy the last two pages of the script are) and I will always look back fondly on my own high school experience in Spider’s Web. On the flip side, a part of me will always despise what she did to the play and film adaptation — her OWN adaptation, mind you! — of her incredible novel (and one my favorite books of all time), And Then There Were None. It kills me (pun unintended) and I don’t mean to give anything away, but let’s just notice the book and play are both titled And Then There Were None, not And Then There Were Two.
Regardless, Dame Agatha Christie is well-deserving of her title. The woman wrote not just plays (ha!) but over 80 novels and short stories, created beloved characters like Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot, and is one of the few female playwrights whose work is performed with consistency in high schools, colleges, and community theatre, as well as professionally.
So this is my salute to the first female playwright who ever reached me with her words, her story, and her characters; to the first female playwright who made me believe that the theatre was a magical place where an eight-year-old girl could witness imagination come to life; to the first female playwright who let me in on the secret: the theatre is full of wonderous, murderous fun…please, come on in.