An innovative book club about to start a new chapter not only features discussion of the storyline on the page, but it follows with a three-dimensional theatrical experience to see the work performed onstage.
The Sawyer Free Library and Gloucester Stage Company launch the second season of their Page2Stage series tonight at the theater with a discussion of the comic thriller “The 39 Steps” that will segue into a performance of the stage adaptation.
The book group gathers at 5:45 p.m. for the talk. The club is free and open to anyone, but registration is requested. The show starts at 7 p.m. Discounted tickets are $25 for those who join the book discussion.
Page2Stage is designed to explore connections between literature and performance. The two cultural organizations developed this program to offer patrons an opportunity to delve into the stories, first by exploring the literature that inspired the plays, then by seeing the works performed onstage.
“It’s a fabulous collaboration,” said Christopher Griffith, the interim managing director of Gloucester Stage. “This program explores the text that makes the plays come to life. It dovetails with the mission of the library to build community around stories, and it makes sense for the two organizations to come together for this program.”
Griffith credits Melanie Murray-Brown, Gloucester Stage’s development director, with the idea.
Murray-Brown, a library volunteer who sits on the library’s corporate communications committee, saw the natural connection for a collaboration.
“A lot of our shows are based on novels, so we tried this out last year,” she said. “We started with three events, and it gained momentum over the season, and we hope the same happens this year with our four events.”
The first event features the award-winning “The 39 Steps,” which was based on the 1915 novel of the same name by John Buchan. It became a 1935 film by Alfred Hitchcock and then a play that premiered on Broadway in 2008, adapted for stage by Patrick Barlow.
This fast-paced, witty play runs through July 28 at Gloucester Stage. It focuses on a man with little excitement in his life who meets a mysterious woman who has an unexpected demise. He then finds himself on the run from a spy ring called The 39 Steps.
The 2019 Page2Stage series continues monthly through October. Upcoming works will feature excerpts from Benjamin Butler’s circa-1890 autobiography on Thursday, Aug. 8; “Lifespan of a Fact” by John D’Agata and Jim Fingal on Thursday, Sept. 5; and “The Story of Edgar Sawtelle” by David Wroblewski on Sunday, Oct. 27.
The four selected literary works are available at Sawyer Free Library, 2 Dale Ave., Gloucester.
Griffith said Gloucester Stage recognizes the need to be a good community partner, and the 2019 Page2Stage series allows it to succeed in that objective.
“Opportunities like this are a great connector point for people to spend time at the theater while meeting new people and having discussions that center around interesting stories,” he said. “People are passionate about the stories and want to learn more, and this gives them that 360-degree immersion into the story.
“Plus, it’s interesting to hear the extra morsels they are able to pull out when they take a deep dive into these stories that you only have two hours to see onstage,” he said.
IF YOU GO
What: 2019 Page2Stage literary and theater series
When: Begins today with “The 39 Steps” and continues monthly through October
Where: Gloucester Stage Company, 267 E. Main St., Gloucester
How much: Book discussion free, with reservations requested; discounted show tickets $25, reservations required
“The 39 Steps” by John Buchan, book club discussion at 5:45 p.m., followed by performance at 7. Synopsis: This comedic mystery follows Richard Hannay, who, feeling hampered by a boring life, sets out for adventure. He quickly gets swept up in a ring of romance, murder and espionage.
Thursday, Aug. 8
“Ben Butler,” book club discussion of excerpts from Benjamin Butler’s circa-1890 autobiography at 5:45 p.m., followed by performance of Richard Strand’s stage work at 7. Synopsis: When an escaped slave shows up at Fort Monroe demanding sanctuary during the Civil War, Union Gen. Benjamin Butler is faced with an impossible moral dilemma. The play, which garnered critical acclaim during its off-Broadway run in 2016, is a smart and funny discourse on race, protocol and one’s sense of humanity.
Thursday, Sept. 5
“Lifespan of a Fact” by John D’Agata and Jim Fingal, book club discussion at 5:45 p.m., followed by performance at 7. Synopsis: A determined young fact-checker is about to stir up trouble. His demanding editor has given him a big new assignment: a groundbreaking piece by an unorthodox author. Together, they take on the high-stakes world of publishing in this new play about the comedy of conflict that becomes the ultimate showdown between truth and fiction.
Sunday, Oct. 27
“The Story of Edgar Sawtelle” by David Wroblewski and Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” book club discussion at noon, followed by performance at 2 p.m. Synopsis: “The Story of Edgar Sawtelle,” an Oprah Book Club pick and New York Times best-seller set in the American heartland, is a story of devotion, betrayal and courage. “Hamlet,” Shakespeare’s classic tale of revenge, comes to Gloucester Stage after two seasons of full-house student matinees.