PNC Odyssey Part of World Premiere of “Bette Davis on the Edge”

The Purdue University North Central Odyssey Arts Series, the Festival Players Guild and the Michigan City Public Library are together sponsoring a world premiere performance of the new solo play, “Bette Davis on the Edge” at the Mainstreet Theatre, at 807 Franklin St., in Michigan City.

The 90-minute play, written and performed by Christine St. John, will be presented on Friday and Saturday Sept. 12 and 13 and Friday and Saturday Sept. 19, and 20. All shows begin at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $20. For reservations, call (219) 874-4269 or email info@festivalplayersguild.org. Following its opening here, the play will transfer to New York City and London, England.

“Bette Davis on the Edge” is directed by Jane Brody; lighting, set, and sound design is by Duane Thompson with costume design by Anna Glowacki and graphic art by Tim Jarmain-Groves.

The play is set in the early morning hours of Oct. 31, 1962 with motion picture legend Bette Davis waiting anxiously for the reviews of “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” If the picture is a success, it will hail the desperately needed comeback for the star’s fading career. If not, it will provide a sad and embarrassing epitaph. As she waits, she reflects on her career, from the “talkies” to the present day. Her story is the entire history of the American Motion Picture industry.

St. John was intrigued by a “situation wanted” advertisement that Davis placed in “The Hollywood Reporter” in August 1962 and she subsequently embarked on research at the Motion Picture Academy Library in Los Angeles and the Bette Davis Archival Collection in Boston. She intended to create a play that was more than a catalogue of showbiz reminiscences. The result was “Bette Davis on the Edge.” The play is packed with drama, intrigue and comedy, providing a unique and touching insight into both Hollywood in its heyday and arguably, the finest actress of her generation.

“Bette Davis on the Edge” is St. John’s first play. A graduate of The Goodman School of Drama of the Art Institute of Chicago, she furthered her studies at the Sorbonne and The American Center, Paris with Blanche Salant. She has appeared in numerous productions in the U.S. and United Kingdom.

She lived in London, England for the past 24 years and was a founding member of the touring group Act 3 Theatre Company performing in the works of Noel Coward, Anton Chekhov and adaptations of Edith Wharton. St. John has been involved in theatre in development projects in Ethiopia and India and has been a Fellow at The Royal Geographical Society in London since 1993.

“Bette Davis on the Edge” director Brody is an award-winning stage director, master teacher, former actress and casting director. Her passion for the past 30 years has been helping and developing actors. She founded the Chicago Acting Studio in 1980 and has been a casting director since 1986. Her casting company, Jane Brody Casting, now known as Paskal-Rudnicke Casting, was instrumental in casting movies and TV shows including “Groundhog Day,” “The Women of Brewster Place,” “A League of Their Own” and “Public Enemies.” Her students include Michael Shannon, TR Knight, Alex Koch, Christine St. John, Peggy Roeder, Adam Brown, Melissa Peterman, Eric Stonestreet and many other well-known working actors.

A unique twist of events brought “Bette Davis on the Edge” to Michigan City. After one Chicago theatre didn’t work out for the play, St. John and Brody started looking for a suitable place for the play. During a visit to the Royal George Theatre in Chicago, a friendly couple seated in the lobby offered a helpful solution to their problem – hold it at the Mainstreet Theatre. Making the suggestion were Jan and Marian Dick. Jan Dick is acting president of the Mainstreet Theatre Festival Players Guild.

Brody was familiar with the theatre, so she and St. John accepted an invitation to tour the theatre.

“I realized almost as soon as I walked in the door of Mainstreet that this was a very special place with creative and imaginative people and so when Mainstreet agreed to present my play, nothing on earth could have made me happier,” said St. John.

“The moral of this story is that one should always talk to strangers in lobbies and that there are no strangers,” added Brody.

To celebrate the world premiere performance of “Bette Davis on the Edge,” the Michigan City Public Library is hosting A Bette Davis Film Festival featuring films that span Davis’s career. The films will be shown free of charge at the Michigan City Public Library, 100 E. Fourth St. in Michigan City.

On Saturday, Aug. 30 at 1 p.m., “Of Human Bondage” an 83-minute film made in 1934 will be shown, followed at 3 p.m. by “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” a film made in 1962 and running for 134 minutes.

Saturday, Sept. 6 will feature a 1 p.m. showing of “Dark Victory” from 1939 and running 104 minutes. At 3 p.m. “All About Eve” will be featured. This film was made in 1950 and runs 138 minutes.