‘Whispers at the Manor’ takes the stage next week

By Rob Vogt
Live theatre will take the stage at the Claresholm Community Centre next week as SUCH Drama presents “Whispers at the Manor”.
Performances are May 22 through May 24 at 7 p.m., with performances at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. on May 25.
The musical was written by local writer Annalisa Harrison who is also the production’s stage manager.
She describes “Whispers at the Manor” as a heart-warming and mysterious musical that combines friendship, romance and supernatural elements. It showcases the growth of the teen-aged characters as they come together to solve the mystery of Thornfield Manor and help a lonely old man find closure.
“Whispers at the Manor” has a cast of 25 members from Stavely, Claresholm, Nanton, and Nobleford.
It is directed by Jennifer Kewley, and Chris Slevin is the musical director.
Harrison said writing the script locally came somewhat by accident.
Members of Stavely’s Unique Character House, or SUCH Drama group, were wondering what to do next.
They looked at a number of scripts but could not find one that was just right.
“I decided to sit down and write a treatment and the first three pages,” Harrison said.
A treatment is a detailed synopsis of the project.
She sent it to Slevin, who had directed several of SUCH Drama’s previous productions, and she said it was great.
Harrison then finished writing “Whispers at the Manor”, which took a solid month of work.
“I have never done something like this,” Harrison said.
“Whispers at the Manor” is set in the 1950s, and uses pop songs by artists such as Journey, Celine Dion, Radiohead and Billie Eilish set to ‘50s-style arrangements.
With the help of award-winning composer Alec Harrison, they were able to do that.
Growing up, Harrison loved Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys mysteries. She also wanted to write a show involving teenagers where there’s a mystery they’re trying to solve.
The result of all of these elements is “Whispers at the Manor”.
Harrison said it is a strange situation to have a story living in her head for a month then see it come to life.
“It’s been the most rewarding thing to watch people find their characters,” she said.
This is also Kewley’s first time in the director’s chair, and the reason is clear.
“We’re always asking our kids to stretch out of their comfort zones,” she said. “Maybe we should do that as well.”
Consequently it is also Harrison’s first turn as stage manager and Slevin’s as musical director.
“We’ve all taken roles we had a small hand in, but never the main job,” Kewley said. “(But) we all have someone we can ask who’s done the job before.”
It is also the first time “Whispers at the Manor” has ever been performed, so there is no reference for what it should look like.
In order to prepare for that, Slevin did an exercise with the actors. She had them put together a suitcase of their character and present it to the group. That meant filling it with items the character would have and use.
“They have developed characters in a unique way,” Kewley said.
It is all part of the collaboration that has gone into “Whispers at the Manor”.
“We’re a team,” Kewley said. “We’ve (put on) this play as a team.”
Tickets are available on Eventbrite. They are $30 per person for the general public, and $25 per person for children 13 and under and adults 65 and older.

Stavely’s Unique Character House or SUCH Drama Group is putting on “Whispers at the Manor”, a locally-written story by Annalisa Harrison, from May 22 to 25 at the Claresholm Community Centre. Here, the cast and crew take a break from rehearsals at the Stavely Youth Hall. Photo by Rob Vogt