Thursday, October 16, 2014

Playwright Eric Coble visits local schools upon the world premiere of SHERLOCK HOLMES: THE BAKER STREET IRREGULARS

Eric Coble speaks to students at
Parkside School for the Arts
In town for the world premiere of his play SHERLOCK HOLMES: THE BAKER STREET IRREGULARS, playwright Eric Coble arrived in Milwaukee Thursday morning.  The first stop on his weekend itinerary was at Parkside School for the Arts, a First Stage partner school, to visit with fourth and sixth-grade students that will be seeing the play themselves later this month.

Eric introduced himself to the students, explaining that well before the start of his playwriting career he was interested in storytelling and illustrating.  As a child, his mother would tell him stories and he would draw pictures to illustrate her tales.  This developed into his own interest in comic books.  In high school, he acted in a few plays, and later realized he could mix both of his interests – theater and storytelling – into playwriting.

Eric then explained the background behind his adaptation of Tony Lee’s and Dan Boultwood’s graphic novels The Baker Street Irregulars.  When adapting these graphic novels, which take place shortly after the battle between Sherlock Holmes and his nemesis Moriarity and Sherlock’s subsequent disappearance, Eric pulled parts from these novels which excited him the most.  Eric sought to find the fun and unique aspects of the characters, and how the Baker Street Irregulars – the street kids that took over Sherlock’s detective work after his disappearance – related to one another.

The Parkside students had the opportunity to ask extensive questions about Eric’s writing: 

Q:           “Can you turn any book into a play?”
A:            “Yes, although some stories may end up working best as books or even movies, such as the Harry Potter series.  The writer would need to use his or her imagination to figure out how the stories may come to life on stage.”

Q:           “Can you adapt a fairytale, like Fractured Fairytales, into a play?”
A:            “Absolutely!  In fact, I've done this with my play called Cinderella Confidential, which tells the story of Cinderella from the perspective of two investigative reporters that compete for the scoop of the century.”

Q:           “What do you look for when deciding to adapt a book into a play?”
A:            “I like to find a story that is interesting, exciting or funny to me.  Many times a theater, like First Stage, will approach me to adapt a particular book into a play.  I enjoy all sorts of genres, and I've written anything from comedy to sci-fi to mystery; plays for both adults or for children.”

Q:           “How is writing a play like writing a comic book?”
A:            “They are quite similar.  With each, you need to plan what each character will say throughout the story.  Then you draw pictures to go with that story that the characters tell.  But with a play, instead of drawing those pictures, you’ll indicate what the actors will do while saying those lines on stage and the director will decide exactly how that scene will look.”

Q:           “Have you adapted a comic book to a play before SHERLOCK HOLMES: THE BAKER STREET IRREGULARS?”
A:            “Yes!  Storm in the Barn is a play I wrote based on the graphic novel by Matt Phelan, which is about a boy discovering a way to save his family by bringing back rain to the farms and crops during the 1930s Dust Bowl era.  The book doesn't have too many words itself, but relies more on the pictures to set the scene and tell the story.


Want to learn more from playwright Eric Coble himself?  See SHERLOCK HOLMES: THE BAKER STREET IRREGULARS at First Stage opening weekend.  Eric will participate in our talkbacks following performances on Friday, October 17 at 7 p.m., Saturday, October 18 at 7 p.m., and Sunday, October 19 at 3:30 p.m.  Tickets start at just $14.50. Order online at FirstStage.org/Sherlock or call (414) 273-7206.

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