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Elden Street Players Reach NextStop

Herndon theatre goes professional, opens its first show.

The entire four person cast on the stage for “The 39 Steps”: James Finley, Emily Levey, Evan Crump and Nick Rose.

The entire four person cast on the stage for “The 39 Steps”: James Finley, Emily Levey, Evan Crump and Nick Rose. Ryan Dunn

“I think it is an incredible show and the actors, director and techies have done an outstanding job.” -- Herndon resident Theresa Nichols

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Emily Levey and James Finley in the NextStop production of “The 39 Steps” in Herndon. This is the new professional theatre’s first professional show.

NextStop Theater Company in Herndon began its production of Alfred Hitchcock’s “The 39 Steps” on Sept. 26. Adapted by Patrick Barlow, this comedic adaptation of a 1930s Alfred Hitchcock film is NextStop Theatre’s first professional production. Formerly known as Elden Street Players, the all-volunteer amateur theater group has gone professional, hiring Producing Artistic Director Evan Hoffman in January. Hoffman is the director for this production.

In the director’s notes for the production of “The 39 Steps,” Hoffman wrote, “For 25 years, Elden Street Players proved over and over again that great theatre is not a product of giant budgets and building, but rather a production of exceptional passion and dedication. NextStop is at its very core a recommitment to that ideal and the belief that our artists, our patrons, and even our little theater space are unique and extraordinary success is measured in our ability to make each tomorrow better than today.”

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NextStop Theatre Company's Artistic Director Evan Hoffmann seated at Industrial Strength Theatre in Herndon.

HOFFMAN HAS A HISTORY with the theatre in Herndon: at the age of 10 he was cast in a production of “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” with the Elden Street Players. “From the beginning, I was in love with the Elden Street Players,” said Hoffman. “There was dedication and enthusiasm combined with an incredibly loving community of artists.” After graduating college and working at several professional theatre companies in the D.C. area, Hoffman joined the Elden Street Players Board of Directors to help determine the future of the organization. It was ultimately decided Hoffman would lead the transition of the Elden Street Players into a professional theatre.

As the transitions continue, the Town of Herndon, the County of Fairfax, and the Commonwealth of Virginia have been supportive of these changes. The Arts Council of Fairfax County awarded a project grant to help fund NextStop Theatre’s production of "The 39 Steps" and the Town of Herndon and Virginia Commission for the Arts have awarded grants for general operating support to the organization over the next year.

One project the theatre engaged in was remodeling the lobby. “Money was spent to make the lobby aesthetically pleasing,” said Strategic Business Manager Matthew Thompson. In March 2012, Thompson was hired by Elden Street Players as their first paid employee. Another construction project was joining the backstage facility to the performance space.

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Costume designer Jenny O'Donnell.

The production “The 39 Steps” covers 140 characters with a cast of four. To accomplish this, Hoffman asked costume designer Jenny O’Donnell to assist in this project. “The play is set between 1935 and 1937,” said O’Donnell. “The clowns play a lot of characters, so we tried to keep the clowns fun.”

Herndon resident Theresa Nichols, one of several persons running the production’s soundboard, said: “I think it is an incredible show and the actors, director and techies have done an outstanding job.” Nichols was a board member of the Elden Street Players before she stepped down.

Evan Crump, resident of Silver Spring, Md. plays multiple characters and is credited as one of the two clowns. “This is my first gig with NextStep,” said Crump. When asked about playing several dozen characters with accents and different costumes, Crump laughed. “It was a challenge, but the fun for the audience comes in seeing the actors struggle… this production is a slapstick farce in the way the audience can enjoy.” The other clown is Nick Rose, a former resident of Herndon. Rose was approached by Hoffman this past winter and asked to audition for NextStop Theatre’s inaugural production.

THE PRODUCTION stars James Finley as the hero, Richard Hannay, and Emily Levey plays the role of Annabella, Pamela and Margaret, three women Hannay encounters during his adventure. “It has always been on my radar to work here,” said Finley. A resident of Alexandria, Finley was excited to hear Hoffmann was turning the Elden Street Players into a professional theatre. “This is an exciting role to get, it still captures the adventure, the suspense and man on the run, but with a dose of comedy.” The part of Richard Hannay is the only one where the actor does not double in another role in the play.

Other crew includes James Villarubia (scenic design), Kevin Laughon (props design) and Kat Brais (hair/makeup design). Susan Garvey is the production manager and Alexis Rose and Laura Moody serve as co-stage managers. AnnMarie Castrigno, a resident of Frederick, Md. handles the production’s lighting design. “One challenge Evan Hoffmann proposed was capturing the action and motion of a train scene,” said Castrigno. “That concept challenge was solved with five lights and a loop of 10 light cues.” Castrigno also lent a set of bagpipes that were used in this production.

On the theatre company’s webpage, NextStop says their new name seeks to honor Herndon’s heritage as a W&OD railroad town, their future on the Metro system with the Silver Line “and our belief that any of our current success is merely a NextStop on the journey begun as Elden Street Players.”

The production “The 39 Steps” will continue to show at the Industrial Strength Theatre at 269 Sunset Park Drive, Herndon, on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from Sept. 26 to Oct. 20. For more information, visit the official webpage at http://www.nextstoptheatre.org.