By Priscylla Guzman
We spoke with Resident Acting Company member Elizabeth Bunch to reflect on her time at the Alley Theatre, specifically her journey throughout our Summer Chills productions. Elizabeth shared with us a trip down memory lane of her Summer Chills experiences that started in the year 2007. Here is what she had to say!
Summer Chills started around 1994-1995 and you started your journey with the Alley in 2002 and later joined in the Resident Acting Company. What was your first Summer Chills show and can you share that experience with us?
Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile was my first Summer Chills. A fabulous Agatha Christie, and I’m not just saying that because I got to play opposite my husband and be the murderer! That might be the moment when I finally felt like a company member. I loved learning from Alley company actors who had been working on these murder mysteries for several years. That production featured John Tyson, Jeffrey Bean, Elizabeth Heflin, and Annalee Jefferies! The wonderful James Black directed it. They really knew how to capture the tone and keep the audience on the edge of their seats.
Of all the Summer Chills shows you have been in, which one is your favorite and why is it your favorite?
How can I pick just one? I love being the guilty character. But I also love being an innocent person who helps solve the crime. If I was pressed to pick one, I must admit it was Clue, which was a bit of a departure from our usual Summer Chills. I was so obsessed with that movie growing up. I used to run around my family room acting out the whole thing and knew the entire script by heart. I told my kids that the chance for me to play Mrs. White was the equivalent to them getting to be Han Solo in the stage version of Star Wars.
Summer Chills is an Alley Theatre and Houston staple, and as someone who has brought that to fruition, how does it make you feel to know that you’ve been part of an ongoing, historic journey in the Houston theatre scene?
The story I have always been told is that there used to be no show in the summer months. However, the Alley’s commitment to sustain a Resident Acting Company meant they wanted to create a summer opportunity for the actors. Summer Chills’ origin was finding a fun play that the company could perform on one simple set with costumes, mostly pulled from our stock. The actors rehearsed very quickly and then they hoped to draw a bit of a crowd for the summer. Houston surprised the theatre by absolutely loving this genre and turning up in droves! Suddenly the theatre had found a perfect way to keep the audience and artists engaged for summer! I love that the story and the actors are what drive these shows, and I think the audience loves that too.
With Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, what excites you most about this show and your character?
It is such a joy to have Mark Shanahan back with us. I have acted with Mark in Hitchcock Blonde, Treasure Island, Harvey, The Hollow, and Witness for the Prosecution. And he has directed me in Hand to God, The 39 Steps (twice!) and multiple Sherlock Holmes plays. I am so proud to be in the first Alley production where Mark is featured as the director and playwright. I love the character Caroline he has created for me because I share her exuberant personality and adore how she is just a little bit sneaky herself…
Is there anything else you would like to share with our audience about the show?
The Agatha Christie play The Mousetrap has a speech included at curtain call that asks the audience not to share with others who turns out to be the murderer. I would ask the same…enjoy the show and tell your friends to come see it, but don’t reveal the ending, please!
Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd runs now through Aug.27. You do not want to miss this thrilling, mysterious whodunit world premiere!