The Mystery of Irma Vep at PCA
by Anne Glasser
What do vampires, ghosts, mummies, werewolves, and a princess have in common? They come together for a fast-moving, campy Victorian play filled with satire.
The Mystery of Irma Vep begins with Lord Edgar bringing his second wife home to Mandacrest Manor. Edgar is still obsessed with his deceased wife, Lady Irma, and strange things begin to happen.
Recalling when she saw the play about 15 years ago, director Jean Lippincott smiles: “People need to laugh right now. This is the play to do that, and now is a great time to do it, because only two actors play all eight characters. It’s funny and clever.” Since living in Prescott she’s directed around a half-dozen plays, enjoying the creative process. She has taught acting in Prescott since 2000. “It fills my soul!”
Production manager Connie Arnold “keeps the trains running on time.”During this show, her job is to find people for the crew, lighting and sound design. She will work with Lippincott to help pull pieces of the production together, such as necessary meetings and finding rehearsal space. As the play moves closer to production, she does more during rehearsals. Her goal is to make everything Lippincott has done fall into place when the show goes live.
“My crews are people I have an insane amount of confidence in. I can’t speak highly enough of the volunteers we get.” Smiling, she holds her hand over her heart and says her favorite part is “calling the show, because it’s fun, exciting, and exhilarating. And man, when it goes right, it feels good!”
“The luxury we have in working with the directors at this theatre is truly a gift. I stand back and pull the pieces together, but I don’t do any of the creation. The people up front and behind the scenes, especially my stage crews, I give all the credit to. I am incredibly grateful for the people I work with.”
Leslie Ramsay, on the prop crew, says of Lippincott, “I love working with Jean! She is fun to work with, and such a good director!”
Describing her role in the play, Ramsay’s eyes light up. As someone who enjoys being creative and challenged, she has fun making the props she can’t find. During the play, look for an enormous portrait she painted. Costumer Karen Murphy has a friendly smile and a slight Texas accent. She started out acting, and later, when invited to help with costumes, she discovered she enjoys it. She decides on costumes after she reads the script and researches how other theatres portray the characters. “PCA has a nice selection of costumes. I start there and then go to thrift stores. I like to work with a color palette. If I can’t find what I want in the right color, then I look for style.”
A successful show “takes teamwork and practice. (I like) creating a vision in my head. I look for five things: the costume needs to fit the character, look good on the actor, fit the set, fit my vision and the whole show. It’s so rewarding! One of the things I love about theatre is it is a team effort. It takes a lot of collaboration. When it comes together, it is a great experience!”
Lippincott chimes in: “I have a good crew. Working on this play requires a well-oiled team. I like working with a group like this, where everyone is a team and they give their input. It really makes it a fun process!” Teamwork makes a successful play. Part of the team you see, others are behind the scenes, including dressers, sound and lighting operators, onstage crew, makeup artists and hair designers.
The Mystery of Irma Vep runs May 27-June 6, recommended for teens and older. Check the PCA website (pca-az.net) to purchase tickets or sign up for the newsletter.
A Prescott resident for over 20 years, Anne Glasser is the mother of two teens and passionate about equal rights, especially involving LGBTQ+ issues.