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University Theatre opens with The 39 Steps

39 Steps 2011-v.scene
Tressa Preston

Athens, Ga. – University Theatre kicks off its 2011-2012 season with Broadway’s longest-running comedy, The 39 Steps. The production will run in the Cellar Theatre of the University of Georgia’s Fine Arts building Sept. 22-24 and Sept. 27-30 at 8 p.m., with a matinee on Oct. 2 at 2:30 p.m.

Ben Brantley of the New York Times called The 39 Steps an “…absurdly enjoyable, gleefully theatrical riff on Alfred Hitchcock’s 1935 film,” which was adapted from the John Muchan novel. In Patrick Barlow’s stage adaptation, four actors portray 39 characters in a shot-for-shot remake of the classic mystery thriller.

“A fast-paced whodunit that blends a Hitchcock masterpiece, a juicy spy novel and a dash of Monty Python, The 39 Steps presents what would become classic film conventions for mystery thrillers: the wrong man, mismatched lovers, the mysterious woman in black and spies in disguise,” said director George Contini, associate professor in UGA’s department of theatre and film studies. “The 39 Steps is a great show for our particular department as it allows us the opportunity to explore how the same story is told through two very different media: film and theater. Hitchcock uses the artifice of theater as a reoccurring image in the film, and the play uses that as its jumping-off point in a loving homage to the film.”

“I’m especially excited about this production because The 39 Steps so brilliantly brings together both sides of our department: theater and film studies,” said department head David Saltz. “The play stands very well on its own, but it is even more fun to watch if you’ve seen the film first. We’ve scheduled free screenings of the film to make that as easy as possible.”

Members of the UGA and Athens communities are invited to attend free screenings of Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps Sept. 14 in the North Psychology Journalism Auditorium at 3:30 p.m. and in room 53 of the Fine Arts building at 7 p.m.

A stage and screen panel, sponsored by the department, will examine The 39 Steps, discussing the text’s evolution through screen and stage on Sept. 16 at 4 p.m. in room 101 of the Miller Learning Center. Participants include Mathew Bernstein (Emory University), and George Contini, David Saltz and Fran Teague (UGA theatre, film studies and English). Richard Neupert (UGA film studies) will moderate the panel and audience discussion.

Tickets to the play are $15 for general admission and $12 for students with a UGA I.D. They can be purchased online through, by phone at 706/542-4400, in-person at the Performing Arts Center box office or at the door before the show. For more information, see


Note to editors: An image from The 39 Steps is available for download at

Caption for photo: Tressa Preston, MFA performance student, portrays Annabella Schmidt/Pamela/Margaret and Edward McCreary, junior theatre and economics double major is Richard Hannay in the University Theatre’s The 39 Steps.