OVER THE LAST quarter-century, Pittsburgh’s Prime Stage Theatre has brought award-winning educational plays to schools and theatres across the region.
This fall their stage settings expand into the psychological realm, when the Prime Stage Mystery Theatre podcast premieres online Oct. 1, just in time for the Halloween Season.
The initial 5-episode program is titled A Knavish Piece of Mystery and was written by acclaimed sci-fi/mystery author and Pittsburgh native Lawrence C. Connolly.
Each 10-minute episode presents clues and complications as the protagonist — named You — tries to solve the mystery. With the interactive format, listeners can insert their own plot twists on the way to the eventual climax.
“Even before the pandemic, we were looking for innovative ways for audiences to engage with our theatre offstage,” says Prime Stage Theatre producing artistic director Wayne Brinda. “We had just commissioned Lawrence C. Connolly to write a new play for us [Frankenstein premiering in November, 2021], and we asked if he had any ideas.”
He had plenty, and Prime Stage Mystery Theatre podcast was born. In addition to writing and voicing A Knavish Piece of Mystery, Connolly — an accomplished guitarist and composer — arranged background music and effects.
“It’s a bit like the old radio serials,” notes PST operations director Tina Marie Cerny. “Like radio, podcasting is a personal medium that speaks directly to the listener and incites their imagination in a similar way to actual live theatre.”
Making sure A Knavish Piece of Mystery keeps listeners riveted to the action was no problem for suspense veteran Connolly, whose work has appeared in Amazing Stories, Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone and numerous sci-fi and horror anthologies. His story Echoes has been the basis for two films, and his six published books include the Veins Cycle novels, supernatural thrillers set in rural Pennsylvania.
The mystery podcast is Prime Stage Theatre’s latest effort to stay connected with their audience as pandemic restrictions limit in-person performance options. Each week since April, the theatre’s Youtube channel has posted a Storytime Friday video featuring local authors and performers reading original and classic literature excerpts.
While Prime Stage Theatre’s Fall 2020 mainstage shows will be ticketed for school audiences to view online (Mockingbird – Oct. 18, Einstein: A Stage Portrait – Nov. 13, One Christmas Carol – Dec. 11), what had originally been conceived for ensemble casts will now be one-person performances.
“That’s the beauty of live theatre,” notes PST education director Linda Haston. “When you have a powerful story, there are so many ways to tell it.”
Prime Stage Mystery Theatre will be available online at www.primestage.com.