The UW-Stevens Point Department of Theatre and Dance starts its “What Lies Beneath” season with a staged reading of “Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express,” performed at the campuses in Marshfield, Stevens Point and Wausau. (Contributed)

UWSP offers staged readings of murder mystery

A classic story of murder, mystery, and mayhem will be shared by the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point’s Department of Theatre and Dance this fall with staged readings at the campuses in Marshfield, Stevens Point, and Wausau.

“Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express” will be performed at UWSP at Wausau at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 29; at UW-Stevens Point at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 30, and Saturday, Oct. 1; and at UWSP at Marshfield at 2 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 2. It is part of the department’s “What Lies Beneath” season of plays, musicals, and dance performances.

Tickets are $10 each and may be purchased online at tickets.uwsp.edu, by calling 715-346-4100, or by visiting the Information and Tickets Office in the Dreyfus University Center in Stevens Point. Tickets are also available at each venue starting one hour prior to each performance.

“We are looking forward to bringing this production to our campuses in Stevens Point, Marshfield, and Wausau,” said director Laurie Schmeling, a lecturer in Theatre and Dance. “Who doesn’t love a great mystery?”

Set on the Orient Express train between Istanbul and Paris in 1934, the play finds a group of travelers stuck on a track blocked by a snowdrift. When an American tycoon is murdered inside his locked compartment, the passengers rely on famed Detective Hercule Poirot to identify the murderer before they strike again.

Theatre and Dance Lecturer Parke Fech, a member of SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild) and Actors’ Equity Association, is playing Poirot, said Schmeling. “It’s a great opportunity for students to work alongside a faculty member who is active in the profession,” she said.

There is no set with a staged reading, rather actors read the play and stand as they perform. Stage directions are also read out loud. This allows the show to travel and offers audiences and actors a new experience in the theater that focuses on the words rather than blocking, lights and movement.

“We are presenting it as if it were a radio drama,” said Schmeling. “We are adding a few elements that are not always part of a staged reading. Hopefully, those familiar with the story will find our approach engaging.”