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‘Downton Abbey’ era whodunit coming to Sterling College Stage
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STERLING — On Oct. 16 and 17 Sterling College Theater will present “An Inspector Calls” by J.B. Priestly, a play that is set in the same era as the television show “Downton Abbey” and includes plot elements of a classic, British whodunit.

However, the play is not an ordinary whodunit, focused only on identifying a murderer. 

Sterling College theater professor Stephen English, the show’s director, said, “I chose this play because I think it has a really good social message, because I think it fits with the mission of our college about taking care of people and being responsible for one another.” 

He said he also chose the play because, “The period and the setting I think provide a significant challenge.”

One difficulty with presenting a show set in 1912 is finding appropriate props and set pieces. 

“Last night I was looking for an affordable candlestick telephone,” English said. “Probably the most difficult thing is finding furniture that is from the period that we can borrow or make, and it’s not going to cost us a fortune.” 

The show has also been challenging for the actors. 

“I like the challenge of the text for the students. Modern day times people don’t speak in really long sentences. It’s all short and not eloquent,” English said. 

In addition to speaking in long, eloquent sentences the students are learning to speak in various accents including the “brummie” of Birmingham, England.

Another area influenced by the setting of the play is costuming. 

Sterling College theater professor Sasha Hildebrand, who is the show’s costume designer, said that during the Edwardian period when “An Inspector Calls” takes place, “People still took the time to dress in their best just to have dinner with each other. There’s a sophistication in this time period that we start to lose a little bit when we get later on in the ’20s and ’30s.”

Since each person only has one costume for the show, Hildebrand said they can put a lot of time and care into each one. 

“The Edwardian period is about a lot of details as far as the dress too, so we’ll be doing a lot of hand draping, but also we’ll be hand beading some stuff,” she said. 

Although the props, set, language and costumes of the period make the show exciting to produce, none of these are Director English’s favorite aspect of the show. 

“I think more than anything else I like that this is a whodunit, but it’s not just a murder investigation. It’s a murder investigation with a point. So it’s not just finding out who was murdered or how they were murdered, but it deals with the idea of responsibility and relationship to this person,” he said.  

All performances of “An Inspector Calls” will take place in Culbertson Auditorium on the Sterling College campus. Performances will take place at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Oct. 16 and 17. Social distancing and masks for audience members will be required. Tickets are available at the door or online through Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for seniors and students.