MASC to perform ‘The Scarlet Pimpernel’

MARSHALL – For the upcoming production of the Marshall Area Stage Company, some of actors are not only trying to make sure their voices will be understood on the radio, they also have to do it with a French accent.

There will also be a few French phrases spoken as well.

MASC is presenting the radio show “The Scarlet Pimpernel” at 7 p.m. Oct. 25-26 and 2 p.m. Oct. 27, at the Marshall-Lyon County Library. The show is being directed by Paula Nemes.

Set in Paris in 1792, “The Scarlet Pimpernel” is about Sir Percy, an English baronet who saves people who are about to be executed. He does so under the identity of “The Scarlet Pimpernel.”

“The fictional character of Pimpernel covertly works to save the few people he can,” said Kurtis Parlin, who portrays Sir Percy.

Historically, the show is fairly accurate, Parlin said, as it takes place at the beginning of the Reign of Terror, following the start of the French Revolution.

Michele Knife Sterner, who plays Marguerite St. Just, said the story compares to that of “Zorro” and “Batman.”

“As a kid, I was a fan of ‘Zorro,'” Sterner said, adding how the story of “The Scarlet Pimpernel” kind of overlaps it. “They both fight for something.”

Zorro is the secret identity of Don Diego de la Vega, a nobleman, and billionaire Bruce Wayne’s secret identity is Batman. Their other persona is involved in high society, Sterner said, and in Sir Percy’s case, his “Pimpernel” fights the French government.

“It’s a very interesting story of a dark time period,” Sterner said.

Parlin is used to being onstage whether it’s acting or singing. He said that doing a radio drama is a new experience.

“It’s particularly different because you don’t get to rely on the cues you normally would,” Parlin said. “You have to project everything with your choice of words and the sound of your voice.”

Denise Fick learned about the radio show during MASC’s Shakespeare in the Park production of “The Tempest.” What drew her was the fact that she didn’t have to memorize any lines to be part of “The Scarlet Pimpernel.”

“I thought it would be fun,” she said. She plays Comtesse de Tournay

Bethany Hopper, who is new to Marshall, originally thought it was a regular, onstage show. When she found out it was a radio show, she decided to give it a go anyway.

“I thought ‘what the heck,'” Hopper said. Hopper portrays Suzanne de Tournay in the radio show.

Hopper said her family and in-laws like “The Scarlet Pimpernel.”

“It’s a mystery, interesting and capturing with the whole scenario,” Hopper said.

For the show, some of the actors have to develop a French accent for their characters. Nemes said Alyssia Coudron, who taught French at Marshall, came to rehearsal one evening to get a few pointers on the language.

“How the French language is different from English, phrasing,” Nemes said.

“You want to do it justice, but on the other hand, you just have to go for it and make it work,” Sterner said about doing a French accent and speaking the language for the radio drama.

“I’ve been trying to learn French to no avail,” Fick said. “It’s a way to get my toe in the water.”

“I thought it would inspire me to learn French,” Hopper said.

Sterner said she’s been watching movies where English speakers are using French accents and one of the grad assistants she works with at Southwest Minnesota State University is French and she’s asked her questions.

“The fluency of it,” Sterner said. “It’s (French) real guttural and nasal.”