No Props, Barely a Set…What Kind of Show is This?

We know what you must be thinking: I’ve never heard of this show. What exactly is this show about? (We covered that topic last week.) Not only is The Turn of the Screw an incredibly eerie and spooky ghost story, it’s also an nontraditional play for a director to tackle. There are no props. Only two actors (and those two actors play multiple characters), no costume changes, and its set in the early 1900s. Seriously…what kind of show is this?!

We took a few minutes with director Nathan Carlblom to dig a little deeper into this psychological thriller.

Duluth Playhouse: What attracted you to a script like The Turn of the Screw?

Nathan Carlblom: I was first drawn to the quality of the writing. There would be no script without Henry James’ wonderful story, but Hatcher’s adaptation is great. It is so well-written and so well thought-out that it’s very accessible to today’s audience without sacrificing the period’s charm and character.

Then there was the challenge of staging it: Two actors playing five roles, minimal staging, no props, no sound, no costume changes – oh, and keep it creepy without any of that being a distraction or making it corny. So the big question was, “How could we possibly make this work?” The chance to answer that question, I guess, is what made me want to direct it. Hopefully, we’ve answered it adequately. (A review in the New York Times called it a classic ghost story that keeps viewers guessing. Read the review here.)

IMG_6792_No2DPH: This is a script with barely any set, no props, and minimal lighting. How are you working with these one-of-a-kind circumstances to create the show?

NC: Well, we’ve had fewer production meetings than normal. 🙂

In his script notes, Hatcher specifically calls for minimal staging with no sound, no props, and no set or costume changes. It really requires the audience to use their imagination, so we’re trying to facilitate that as much as possible, in as many ways as possible. For instance, without costume changes, Luke (Moravec, who plays The Man) has had to work on separate physical and vocal nuances for each of his four characters. Curtis Philips designed us a minimal set that is very versatile, and Patrick Mulcahy will be further pushing that with his lighting design to reinforce location and mood.

I’m excited to see how it turns out. It’s certainly been a great challenge, but it helps when you get to collaborate with talented people.

Luke Moravec as The Man in the Underground's production of 'The Turn of the Screw.'

Luke Moravec as The Man in the Underground’s production of ‘The Turn of the Screw.’

DPH: What’s your favorite part of the story?

NC: My favorite part is at the end when Luke and Amber break into song after the alien invasion. It really brings the house down.

I’m kidding! None of that happens. My favorite part would give parts of the story away, so I’ll just say that this play and its ambiguity can mess with the audience’s mind a little bit, and I really enjoy that aspect of the script.

DPH: What’s the best part about working with Luke Moravec and Amber Goodspeed?
NC: They are extremely talented actors with great instincts. With their experience, they understand the effort necessary to create a good character, and they take direction very well. I certainly don’t take that for granted, but better than all of that is they’re really great people — friendly, funny, and warm. As a director, you have to be able to work with all kinds of people, but it makes it easier when you have a good working relationship as well.

DPH: How long have you been directing?
NC: I’ve been directing plays since 1996, and I’ve been directing in Duluth since 2001.


Don’t Miss the 2015 Underground Season Opener!

WHEN: Opening this Thursday, January 29 and runs through Saturday, February 7.
TIMES: All shows are at 7:30pm, and run Thursday – Saturday.
TICKETS: Purchase them online at, call 218.733.7555, or in-person at the Duluth Playhouse office located in the Duluth Depot.
TICKET PRICES: Adults – $16, Students – $12 (please bring student ID for college-age patrons)

Amber Goodspeed as The Woman in the Underground's production of 'The Turn of the Screw.'

Amber Goodspeed as The Woman in the Underground’s production of ‘The Turn of the Screw.’


One thought on “No Props, Barely a Set…What Kind of Show is This?

  1. Pingback: REVIEW: ‘Turn of the Screw’ staging feeds the audience’s imagination | The Duluth Playhouse Official Blog

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