You may be aware that people like Sherlock Holmes.
In fact, saying, "I love Sherlock," in the Chicago Theatre community is something akin to saying, "I breathe and have a pulse."
Also, we really dig murder mysteries. For a culture with access to cable television packages boasting near-infinite channels, it's amazing how many of those channels we fill up with marathons of procedural dramas. And we keep making more - in all different flavors: sometimes we like our cases gritty and hardboiled, sometimes kooky and academic. Other times we like an untimely death to serve as the backdrop for a romance. And when one serial has run its course, we spin off a new version, with a new team of investigators in a new city.
As human beings, we cannot quantify the mysteries of death or the capacity for darkness in the human soul...but exploring one individual's sad demise at the hands of a malefactor - an identifiable party that can ultimately be brought to account by an investigator armed only with intellectual analysis and progress...this is an experience that helps us come to terms with those mysteries.
The everyday Victorian reader was no different. The time they lived in bore witness to rapid and dramatic change, brought on by new technologies, rising entrepreneurship, and sweeping global influence. As the world around them was reshaped by these forces, the Victorians depended steadfastly on a deep sense of national identity. That identity was characterized by stoicism and a perceived moral mandate to civilize the world. When a series of brutal murders in Whitechapel captured the national consciousness and put an harsh spotlight on the living conditions of the lower classes, that sense of identity was a little bit upended, to say the least.
What is the meaning of progress and moral steadfastness, when it gives rise to poverty, social injustice, and cruel depravity?
The Hound of the Baskervilles is set in 1888, the year of the first Ripper murder. If you do the math, a full 37 of the canonical Sherlock Holmes stories are cases of murder, attempted murder, or manslaughter - vastly more than any other case type. Like I said, we all have a need to understand an existence that is complex, unknowable, and inhabited by darkness. This play is a story about what happens when a person is removed from the rules and relationships they depend upon to keep the darkness at bay. It's also a story about what (or who) we rely on to bring us back when we go down that road.
We know the friendship of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson was never ordinary because it was tested over and over again by the extraordinary. When hardened murderers and blackmailers gave way...it was to the domestic battles of obsessive behavior, addiction, and new marriage. And when these battles too were brought to a head...it was in the face of criminal masterminds, the apparent supernatural, and the prospect of an emerging Great War.
The first time Idle Muse Theatre Company undertook a Sherlock Holmes adventure, it was something of a milestone production, one that defined who we were as an organization and the kind of work we wanted to produce. The road from there to here has been fraught with all manner of extraordinary challenges and crises. On occasion, it's been all we could do to keep the darkness at bay. The friendships and community that were forged on that journey however, have never failed to bring us back - and they can be called nothing less than extraordinary.
Everyone has their own reasons why they love Sherlock and Watson...and I can think of no better way to formally open our 10th Anniversary Season.