MANISTEE — A hit play written by a graduate of Muskegon Mona Shores High School on Oct. 18 will receive its Michigan premiere in Manistee.
In “Miss Holmes,” Chicago playwright and professional actor Christopher M. Walsh (pictured) reimagines both Sherlock Holmes, the world’s most iconic fictional detective, and Holmes’ friend and biographer, Dr. Watson, as women.
In the production by the Manistee Civic Players (MCP), “Miss Holmes” will play six performances at Manistee High School, 525 12th Street, Manistee, from Oct. 18-27.
Walsh is a 1991 Mona Shores graduate who attended Muskegon Community College and Grand Valley State University. He moved to Chicago in 1994. There he graduated from Columbia College where he met his wife, Mandy, the first actress to play the title role in “Miss Holmes.”
“Miss Holmes” premiered at Chicago’s Lifeline Theatre in 2016, and also has been performed by the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company and in Door County, Wis. It has been popular with both audiences and critics.
Manistee’s “Miss Holmes” is being directed by Ann Genson. She first got to know Walsh in the 1990s when she was on the staff of Overbrook Theater at Muskegon Community College. There, she costumed Walsh is both William Shakespeare’s tragedy “Macbeth” and British playwright Joe Orton’s farce “What the Butler Saw.”
“It is exciting to be directing a play that is not only a Michigan premiere, but also written by a friend,” Genson said. “This is a wonderful script and, although it centers on the women of Victorian England, it is just as empowering for women today. I cannot wait for people to see it.”
For his part, Walsh says he’s looking forward to seeing the Manistee production, most likely on its second weekend.
“My love for theatre began in western Michigan, so I’m excited to finally have a chance to bring something back where it all started,” he said. “And I’m thrilled that Ann Genson, a friend from way back in my community theatre days in Muskegon, is working on the show. I can’t wait to see what she’s done with it.”
“Miss Holmes” is set in a time and place where gender roles were rigidly defined. Dr. Dorothy Watson and Miss Sherlock Holmes dare to challenge societal norms by providing a necessary, if unconventional service.
Inspired by the works of Sherlock Holmes creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, “Miss Holmes” reexamines the world of Holmes and Watson, exploring the added challenges and risks faced by the two principal characters as women.
As a professional actor, Walsh has performed with the renowned Steppenwolf Theatre, as well Lifeline Theatre, The House Theatre of Chicago, and other theatres in the Chicago area.
Walsh the playwright was nominated for a Joseph Jefferson Award (Chicago’s top theatre award) in 2014 for his adaptation of Charles Dickens historical novel “A Tale of Two Cities.” Walsh’s radio play “Fracture Zone” won the coveted Bloody Axe Award in WildClaw Theatre’s 2014 Deathscribe Festival of horror radio plays.
The MCP cast of “Miss Holmes” is headed by Devin McClure in the title role, and Faith Dyga as Dr. Watson.
Also in the show are Laura Lambert as Lizzie Chapman, Scott Sturgill as Thomas Chapman and Michael Stamford, Zane DenHartog as Mycroft Holmes and Edwin Greener, Cheryle Morin as Dr. Elizabeth Anderson, Josh Gordon as Inspector Lestrade and Reginald, Mimi Stansell as Mrs. Eudora Featherstone, Joan Grew as Mrs. Hudson, Ron Grew as the Superintendent, Lauren Hanna as Peggy, Amanda Pefley as Martha and Eddie Akins as the Orderly.
Genson is a first-time director for Manistee Civic Players, but has has directed many productions around West Michigan, including for Central Park Players in Grand Haven and White Lake Youth Theatre in Whitehall. She also is an accomplished actress.
Performances of “Miss Holmes” are 7:30 p.m. Oct. 18, 19, 25 and 26, and 2 p.m. Oct. 20 and 27 .
Tickets are available at the door or by calling (231) 723-7188.