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Laura Welsh Berg and Tom Ford

And then there were two...


Whodunit? Laura Welsh Berg and Tom Ford aren't telling. That would spoil all of the fun in And Then There Were None, the opening production of the Idaho Shakespeare Festival 2016 season, the company's 40th.

"I'm in three shows this summer: And Then There Were None, My Fair Lady and Twelfth Night," said Ford.

"I get a gold star; I'm in all four," said Berg, adding Love's Labour's Lost to her list.

Just prior to the launch of another summer under the lights, the two spoke with Boise Weekly about their love of murder mysteries, repertory theater and Idaho audiences.

Audiences may be surprised to learn this production doesn't conclude with the ending from the original stage or films productions, many called Ten Little Indians.

Ford: Our production climaxes with the same ending from the original novel [Agatha Christie's Ten Little Indians was first published in 1939].

Without giving too much away, it's fair to say at the ending is quite provocative. How did audiences react when you unveiled this production earlier this year at the Great Lakes Theater in Cleveland?

Berg: We had a lot of huge fans of the Agatha Christie novel who were pretty excited to see the ending that would reflect the way they first read it.

There are countless renditions of this particular story. How do you feel about witnessing other productions or films of the same show that you're preparing for?

Ford: When you hear someone else's voice portraying the same character, it gets in your head, and not in a particularly helpful way.

Berg: It's a choice I've grown into. I was obsessed with Kenneth Branagh's film of Much Ado About Nothing, and when I was cast as Beatrice, all I could hear in my head was Emma Thompson.

Charlie Fee is directing this particular production. Most of us know him as the producing artistic director. How does that differ from Charlie Fee the director?

Ford: He loves mysteries and thrillers, so he really dives into this genre. Some directors work well with performers, but the visuals aren't so great. Charlie is great at both.

Berg: He's always an advocate for the audience. He helped design the theater, so it's a bit of a master class to move through this space.

What's the secret sauce of enduring a summer of repertory?

Ford: A good night's sleep and the exact timing of your eating. And, particularly outdoors, you have to stay hydrated.

Can I assume that there is plenty of water backstage?

Ford: You bet. Dehydration can catch you unawares.

Berg: There are not many companies left in the nation that do repertory. It's a marathon, a lot of work and effort, but it's worth it because it brings us so much closer.

Nearly 90 years after its publication, it's stunning that And Then There Were None is still so popular.

Ford: It's the best-selling mystery of all time and the No. 5 bestselling novel of all.

Why do you think that is?

Ford: When you consider the time in which this was written and the fact that it was written by a woman, it's extraordinary.

Berg: The story is a deeply disturbing, yet very human, experience. Think of this: When might you finally admit your darkest secret?

Ford: When we performed in Cleveland, this production became the second-best selling show they've ever done.

Laura, you're in four shows this summer. Being in repertory, have you ever had the experience of breaking into the wrong character in the wrong production?

Berg: No. You would never mow the lawn with a vacuum cleaner.

All right, then.

Berg: It's the same motion, but they're different tools.