The "Mystery" Behind Wilcox's "Drood"

Tech week for a high school theatre director is a time where you can almost feel your hair getting more gray by the second. But, in this midst of the insanity, Diana Torres Koss, director of The Mystery Of Edwin Drood at Wilcox High School found the time to shed some light on this often overlooked piece.

Paul Sawyer: High Schools are infamous for having the habit of picking "standard" or "safe" material. Picking "Drood" is a definite departure from that. Why "Drood"?
Diana Torres Koss: When the producer, Dani Salzer, contacted me about coming on board to direct a show at Wilcox, she suggested a couple plays/musicals, and "Drood" was one of the shows suggested on her list.  I immediately thought, "Aha! Of COURSE!" As much as I love and respect many of the theatre "chestnuts" produced by local high schools, I didn't want to churn out another "Our Town" or "Grease". "Drood" excited me as a show that is not only seldom produced at ALL by local theatres, but also seldom produced at the high school level.  I was in a production of Drood a long time ago (it was probably my first TheatreWorks show ever) and it was such an incredible, thrilling experience for me.  I had so much fun interacting with the audience and I remember there was a terribly competitive atmosphere among us "suspects" - we all wanted to be the Murderer and did our best to work the crowd for votes! I also felt that the melodramatic and metatheatrical nature of the piece along with the multiple plot endings would be an intriguing challenge for the actors. 
PS:Were there any challenges to getting the students on board with this obscure piece?
DTK: One of the problems with doing a musical that is not very well-known is getting students to audition in the first place.  I think many of the actors at this high school who had been in the previously produced show (A Midsummer Night's Dream) were intimidated by what they heard on the Broadway recording and thought the show required "legitimate"-sounding voices.  (Some of the kids even told me, "I don't sing opera".)  Once the show had been picked, I also had to get the designers and crew enthused about the show by describing the music hall setting and the multiple endings based on the audience votes.  

PS: What is the "thought" of the piece?
DTK: What if a performing troupe of actors put on a play of a story by Charles Dickens that didn't have an ending, because he died before he finished it?  What if the audience could create a new ending each night by means of a simple vote?  Who killed Edwin Drood? and why?

PS: Tell me about your concept for the show.
DTK: My concept was my biggest challenge: to transform ordinary high school actors into a British music hall performing troupe.  It's a terrific unifying/bonding experience for them.  They are learning how to be flexible and also how to depend upon themselves and each other as performers.  When the murderer is announced towards the end of the show, only two people know ahead of time just who the murderer is going to be, based on the audience votes.  Even the murderer doesn't find out until the exact moment of truth onstage!

PS: If you had one reason for someone to come see this production, what would it be?
DTK: The best reason to come see the show:  It's a different show each night!  At each performance, the audience votes on who they think the murderer is, but no one knows for sure who's been picked until confession time.  So you could come to all five shows and see five completely different endings. 

Wilcox High School presents The Mystery Of Edwin Drood 
Mission City Center for the Performing Arts - Wilcox High School
3250 Monroe St., Santa Clara, CA, 95051
May 5, 6, 13, 14 at 7:00pm
May 12 at 3:00pm
Tickets at the door: Students $6, General $10, Matinee $5
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