Farmington's Theater Ensemble Arts debuts original Sherlock Holmes production this weekend

'Sherlock Holmes and the Sinister Trio' is writer Brit Ward's latest adaptation

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
  • "Sherlock Holmes and the Sinister Trio" will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 18 and Saturday, Feb. 19 at the Connie Gotsch Theatre.
  • Tickets are $10 for seniors and students, and $12 for adults.
  • Call 505-326-2839 for more information.

FARMINGTON — Despite having carved out a niche for himself over the past few years crafting new scripts based on well-known characters or stories from the public domain, Brit Ward said his latest effort, an original Sherlock Holmes play that will be produced this weekend by Farmington's Theater Ensemble Arts, was one of the hardest characters he has ever tried to write.

Ward — who also has written an adaptation of Shakespeare's "MacBeth" for a TEA film production and an adaption of the Robert Louis Stevenson novel "Treasure Island" for a TEA stage production — said the fictional detective created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is a distinct character, one who gets away with breaking a lot of rules. Ward said Holmes, with his towering intellect, also has a rather annoying habit of being several steps ahead of everyone else, essentially solving the crime before the audience has even had the chance to settle in.

Jeremy Orr, left, and Chuck Holmes rehearse a scene from the Theater Ensemble Arts production of "Sherlock Holmes and the Sinister Trio" opening this weekend at the Connie Gotsch Theatre on the San Juan College campus.

"Sometimes that removes a lot of the drama, and you have to find ways to put the drama back in," Ward said.

He compared the Holmes character to another well-known crime-fighting figure.

"It's essentially the Superman problem — he's all powerful," Ward said.

In order to gin up the suspense that otherwise might have been lacking, Ward said he went through several versions of the script and workshopped the play a couple of times with TEA actors and board members.

Brit Ward

"Revisions are a writer's best friend," he said.

Ultimately, Ward said he went through 10 drafts of the play, only to see it change again once rehearsals began and he began working with the cast.

"Aspiring playwrights should learn to listen to actors because they can do a lot with just a look or fewer words," he said. "They can go through and trim that for you."

Starting with the well-known characters of Holmes and Dr. Watson, Ward crafted the plot and other characters, so there is no question he was able to leave his stamp on this iteration of the famed sleuth. But he said he felt obligated to keep his interpretation of Holmes in the traditional vein.

Robert Bahr and Autumn Tschetter rehearse a scene from the Theater Ensemble Arts production of "Sherlock Holmes and the Sinister Trio."

"When there are certain distinctive characters and you get too far away from that, the audience will call you out on that," he said, explaining that he avoided mixing in any of actor Benedict Cumberbatch's Holmes personality quirks from the recent BBC series "Sherlock."

"I didn't want him to be a sociopath," Ward said, laughing.

Instead, Ward relied on the character of FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper, portrayed by Kyle MacLachlan, from the TV series "Twin Peaks."

"That was kind of my starting point, but it was not right," he said. "But it was what I was looking for in terms of Holmes being very standoffish and socially illiterate. That's why Dr. Watson is so important (as a buffer). Ultimately, we see this is a good guy. He just doesn't know how to say things."

Andrew Isaacson rehearses a scene from the Theater Ensemble Arts production of "Sherlock Holmes and the Sinister Trio" that opens this weekend.

Orr portrays Holmes in Ward's play, with Chuck Holmes taking on the character of Watson. The rest of the cast includes Autumn Tschetter, Debra Mayeux, Jason Dooley, Stephanie Lewis, Ben Burns, Robert Bahr, Talon Holmes, Arwen Austin, Clara Johnson, Andrew Isaacson and Kevin Tschetter. Joey Herring is the director, Daniel Cabrera is the production stage manager, and Esther Martin and Jacqueline Ball round out the crew.

Ward said he plans to perform yet another rewrite of the script once this production is finished, then perhaps shop the play to other theater groups. Still, he doubts he'll try the thriller genre again when it comes to writing, explaining that his strengths lie in other areas.

"I don't know that thrillers fulfill me as a writer," he said. "I was glad to write this because it was outside my comfort zone. But I think I'll stay true to my other genres."

"Sherlock Holmes and the Sinister Trio" will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 18, and Saturday, Feb. 19, with additional shows planned next weekend, at the Connie Gotsch Theatre on the San Juan College campus, 4601 College Blvd. in Farmington. Tickets are $10 for seniors and students, and $12 for adults. Call 505-326-2839.

Stephanie Lewis and Jay Dooley are featured in the Theater Ensemble Arts production of "Sherlock Holmes and the Sinister Trio."

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or measterling@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription.