Tag: mystery

Blog: The First Detective

WideEyedStudiosHedgerowChristieFinalHigh-181Edgar Allan Poe is generally accepted to be the author of the first fictional detective, for his trilogy of short stories featuring Le Chevalier C. Auguste Dupin.  Written before the word detective entered into the dictionary, Poe’s Dupin and the stories he was involved in set the framework for the entire genre of detective literature that would follow, inspiring characters and plots in both Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes novels as well as Agatha Christie’s writings on Hercule Poirot.  

Dupin was featured in three different short stories, each involving a serious crime to be solved.  The first, The Murders in the Rue Morgue involved the double murder of a mother and daughter.  The second, The Mystery of Marie Roget, a fictionalized investigation based off the very real murder of Mary Rogers, whose corpse was found floating in the Hudson River in 1841, as well as the final installation, The Purloined Letter, a blackmailing case where the compromising contents of a stolen letter are used against the queen of France.

The inspiration for Dupin is said to have come from the French criminal-turned-detective François Vidocq, who helped to establish the Sûreté nationale, the national police force of France.  In turn, Dupin went on to inspire the trope of the gentleman detective, the upper-class, well-educated eccentric who favors the quiet solitude of the English country.  The stories followed the format that would later be used throughout the Golden Age of Detective Fiction – a story told about the detective by a close friend/narrator, about the eccentric detective overcoming the bumbling constabulary to solve a crime that has stumped the police, analyzing facts throughout the story only to have a big reveal scene at the narrative’s conclusion.  Dupin’s narratives also included the first locked-room mystery in The Murders in the Rue Morgue, where the culprit has left behind what appears to be a perfectly locked and sealed crime scene, making it difficult to ascertain how the culprit entered and left, as well as the first known account of a murder mystery detective story based on an actual crime in  The Mystery of Marie Roget.

The character of Dupin hails from a wealthy, gentlemanly background, but has been reduced to more modest means, forgoing anything he considers non-essentials apart from an extensive collection of books.  He became acquainted with the narrator when the two were both independently searching for a “rare and very remarkable volume” in an obscure library, moving into a shared apartment shortly after.

Poe described Dupin’s methods as “ratiocination”, a form of reasoning where the detective solves a crime by putting himself into the mind of the culprit in order to figure out the exact thought process of the criminal and thereby figure out each step of the crime.  He combines his superior logic with his creative mind in order to pinpoint the “unintended”, paying specific attention to hesitation, eagerness, and word choice when investigating suspects and witnesses.  Dupin’s methods also emphasizes the importance of reading and writing, with many of his clues coming from newspaper reports or reports written by the Prefect.

Without Dupin, detective literature as we know it today would not exist.  On top of inspiring Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot, their respective authors wrote references into their works, giving a polite tip of the hat to the character that started it all.  Sherlock at one point mentions Dupin as an inferior intellect to his own, and criticizes Dupin’s method of “breaking in on his friend’s thoughts with an apropos remark” despite the fact that Holmes himself later uses the very same technique.  In addition to that, in Christie’s Poirot novels, the detective at one point pens a book about Edgar Allan Poe.  Dupin also received two film adaptations in the 1940s, though his name was changed from Auguste to Pierre, in Universal Pictures’ Mystery in the Rue Morgue and The Mystery of Marie Roget.  He appears as a character or reference in comics, such as The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Batman, as well as several novels about mysteries or Edgar Allan Poe, often ending up to be the author in disguise.  

Blog: Did You Know?

WideEyedStudiosHedgerowAgathaMarchEarlyHigh-18Hercule Poirot:

“One of the most famous fictional characters of all time, the inimitable Belgian private detective is synonymous with waxed moustaches, perfectionism and little grey cells. Poirot would be the first to call himself a great man – he has never been known for his modesty – but with such success in his career, it is difficult to argue with him.” From Christie’s website.

  • Austin Trevor was the first to play Poirot on screen (1931, Alibi).
  • Once famous, Agatha Christie refused to allow Poirot to appear on book jackets.
  • Christie thought Sad Cypress would have been a much better read without Poirot.
  • Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case was written in the 1940s and locked away until 1974.
  • It took David Suchet almost exactly 25 years to film 70 Poirot stories.
  • 1971.The Nicaraguan government put Poirot’s face on a postage stamp.

Thanks to dramaturg, Rebecca Cureton.

Blog: Agatha Christie Reveals Her First Secret

Zoran Kovcic as Hercule Poirot

Audiences can test their crime-solving skills against those of master detective Hercule Poirot in a “whodunnit” contest at the world premiere of The Mysterious Affair at Styles at Hedgerow Theatre from March 17 to May 8. Artistic Director Jared Reed’s adaptation of Agatha Christie’s first novel, published in 1920, brings the tale that introduced Poirot to the stage for the first time.

The Belgian sleuth has recently resettled in England because of World War I. He is called in to help his friend Capt. Arthur Hastings at Styles Court, an estate outside London where Hastings is recuperating from a war injury. Its wealthy owner, Emily Inglethorp, is found dying of strychnine poisoning the morning after she was overheard arguing with an unidentified person. It’s a difficult case because there are so many possible suspects, all of whom could have had reason to want to Emily dead: her much younger husband, Alfred; her two stepsons, John and Lawrence Cavendish; John’s wife, Mary; Cynthia Murdoch, the orphaned daughter of a family friend; Evelyn Howard, her assistant; and Dorcas, the eavesdropping maid. Poirot and Hastings team up to search for clues and uncover a tangled web of lies and deceit.

Theatergoers can vote during intermission at each performance for the character they believe is the culprit. The winner, selected from those who correctly name the murderer, will receive two tickets to the next Hedgerow show, The Servant of Two Masters, a classic Italian farce by Carlo Goldini.

Zoran Kovcic leads an ensemble of new and veteran Hedgerow actors as Poirot, a role he’s playing for the fourth time, having received rave reviews for his previous performances in two productions of Black Coffee in 1993 and 2011, and in Alibi in 2001.

Two of his castmates from the 1993 Black Coffee, Shaun Yates and veteran actress Susan Wefel, portray Hastings and Dorcas. They’re joined by company member Brock D. Vickers as Lawrence, Fellows Allison Bloechl as Evelyn, Mark Swift as Alfred and Josh Portera in multiple roles; returning players Stacy Skinner as Emily and Ned Pryce as John; and newcomers Emily Parker as Cynthia and Bonnie Baldini as Mary. Reed also directed the production.

Adult ticket prices for Friday, Saturday evening and Sunday shows are $34; Thursday and Saturday twilight shows are $29. There is a $3 discount for seniors. Tickets for those 30 and under are $20. For groups of 10 or more, tickets are $18. Members can purchase half-price tickets for all shows. Prices include all fees and are subject to change.

For reservations or more info, call 610-565-4211 or visit www.HedgerowTheatre.org. Hedgerow Theatre is located at 64 Rose Valley Road in Rose Valley (near Media).


Podcast: Are Cynthia and Mary Scheming?

While this is not Emily or Bonnie, this is Zoran Kvocic solving the case of Yorick, in fact, being dead.

Emily Parker and Bonnie Baldini are new to Hedgerow Theatre. Both recent graduates, from Muhlenburg College and Temple University respectively, the two young actors join the cast of Stylesas tragic heroines, each with a secret to hide. In this podcast, they let us in on secret or two of their own.

Podcast: From Hercule and Hastings with Love

flea in her ear spring 2013 (23)Zoran Kovcic (Hercule Poirot) and Shaun Yates (Hastings) are no strangers. Since Shaun’s arrival at Hedgerow over five years ago, he and Zoran have been a team. Most recently, Shaun and Zoran have been the masterminds behind many of Hedgerow’s sets; however, with Agatha Christie’s The Mysterious Affair at Stylesthe two rekindle their acting relationship to make up Christie’s dynamic duo.

Blog: A Stylish Murder

Zoran Kovcic will play Poirot

Agatha Christie’s first published novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, comes to the stage for the first time at Hedgerow Theatre from March 17 to May 8in a world-premiere adaptation by Artistic Director Jared Reed. The work, written in 1916 and published in 1920, introduced the world to Hercule Poirot, who’s been called “one of the most famous fictional characters of all time.”

    The story takes place at an estate outside London, Styles Court, owned by Emily Inglethorp, a wealthy heiress recently remarried to her much younger husband, Alfred, believed by some to be a fortune hunter. Also in residence are her two stepsons, John and Lawrence Cavendish; John’s wife, Mary; Cynthia Murdoch, the orphaned daughter of a family friend; Evelyn Howard, Emily’s assistant; Dorcas, the maid; and Capt. Arthur Hastings, recuperating from injuries received in World War I, who’s just arrived to visit his friend John. On the morning after Emily has been overheard arguing with an unidentified person, she is found dying from strychnine poisoning. Because there are so many possible suspects, Hastings enlists the help of his friend Poirot, the ace Belgian detective recently relocated to England because of the war, to help solve the case.
    Agatha Christie plays have long been a mainstay and quite popular at Hedgerow, but this one is unique for several reasons.“It’s the very first Hercule Poirot mystery, and it has never been performed onstage,” said Reed, a Juilliard graduate who is also directing the production. “He [Poirot] is insufferable! He’s cute and brilliant and pompous. We’ve been waiting to adapt this story for years.” Reed has adapted several plays over the years such as The Odyssey, The Iliad, and most recently Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Christie has presented somewhat of a challenge for him, as her attention to detail makes it difficult to modify.“You approach the work carefully,” he explained. “The hard part was in trying to get the length down without cutting plot points. It’s really amazing with Christie: everything is needed, whether it’s a clue or a red herring.”
    Zoran Kovcic is Poirot, a role he first played in 1993. The Rose Valley resident has acted and designed and built sets at WideEyedStudiosHedgerowMurderRunFinalHigh-36Hedgerow for more than 20 years. Stacy Skinner of Media, whose previous roles include Gertrude in Hamlet, portrays Emily. Ned Pryce, a University of the Arts graduate who played Jonathan Harker in Dracula, makes his second Hedgerow appearance as John Cavendish.  Company member Shaun Yates, a Texas native who now lives in Bryn Mawr, is Hastings. Hedgerow Fellow Allison Bloechl and company member Brock D. Vickers, currently earning rave reviews for their multiple roles in Or, are Evelyn and Lawrence. Fellow Mark Swift, who was Renfield in Dracula, plays Alfred, and Fellow Josh Portera (Otto inBullshot Crummond) portrays several characters, including toxicologist Dr. Bauerstein. Longtime company member Susan Wefel is Dorcas.
    There are also two local actors making their Hedgerow debuts. Emily Parker, originally from Somerville, N.J., was invited to audition by fellow Muhlenberg College alums Bloechl and and Portera, and was cast as Cynthia. Bonnie Baldini, a graduate of Upper Darby High School and Temple University, is Mary. They both currently reside in the Brewerytown section of Philadelphia.
. Hedgerow Theatre is America’s first repertory theatre, founded in 1923. It is located at 64 Rose Valley Road in Rose Valley (near Media).

Top Seven: Books on Storytelling

WideEyedStudiosHedgerowOrFarceFirstHigh-31Crafting a story is a beautiful thing. It takes hours, if not years, of unseen sweat and ink. When it comes to theatre, those stories get seen as many angles as possible before they every reach the stage. Artistic Director Jared Reed sees a lot of angles at Hedgerow. He functions as an actor, director, lighting designer, playwright, father, son, leader, and as many job titles as the theatre can throw at him. At his core, Reed is a storyteller, and one working doubly on his craft at the moment as he spearheads the adaptation of Agatha Christie’s The Mysterious Affair at Styles. Therefore, we wanted to know what are Reed’s cornerstones of creation.

1.) Constantin Stanislavsky, “An Actor Prepares”

2.) Edward Gordon Craig, “The Art of the Theatre”
3.) Peter Brook, “The Empty Space”
4.) Aristotle, “Poetics”
5.) John Gardner, “The Art of Fiction” 

Clues: Facts of the Case

Ned Pryce from Dracula

Allow us to shed some light on the upcoming mystery: strychnine. If you are an avid mystery lover, and if you are reading this you are, then you will love a clue or two to get a leg up on the competition. Well, enjoy these facts on an essential point in Agatha Christie’s The Mysterious Affair at Styles. 


The 19th century witnessed the birth of the Industrial Revolution which is responsible for scientific advances, as well as technological. This progress  caused a boom in medical science which led to numerous remedies for ailments. Some of these were quite dangerous including morphine, cocaine, and opium.  The Victorians’ reliance on medicines and tonics carried over into the 20th century.

Emily Ingelthorp’s tonic contains the alkaloid, strychnine. By the first half of the 20th century, people were ingesting strychnine as a tonic or in pill form for gastric health. The plant source of alkaloid strychnine was discovered in 1818. This discovery was made by French chemists Joseph-Bienaime Caventou (1795-1877) and Pierre-Joseph Pelletier. Strychnine comes from the seeds of the nux vomica tree that grows in India. Although strychnine is a poison, it has been used in the past as a medicine. Strychnine was once prescribed as a remedy for heart and respiratory complaints and as a stimulant (or body “upper”). It is no longer used today because the size of an effective dose would be toxic. (Encyclopedia)

Podcast: Making a Murder at Hedgerow

WideEyedStudiosHedgerowDraculaFinalHigh-57It takes a lot to make a murderer, especially one that is supposed to entertain, delight, and mystify. Yet, Dame Agatha Christie always seemed to be up to the task.  In 1920 with the release of The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Christie has been tantalizing us with mysteries ever since and allowing the little grey cells of Hercule Poirot to solve them.

In this week’s podcast, Ned Pryce, Mark Swift, and Josh Portera circle up to talk about the creative process of creating a mystery and the work going in to this world premiere adaptation of Christie’s first murder mystery.