Logo for The 39 Steps showing a line drawing of a man running from a train

“The 39 Steps” will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, Feb. 29 through March 2, and at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, March 2 and 3, in the Flex Theatre on the campus of Stephen F. Austin State University.

NACOGDOCHES, Texas – Who doesn’t like a spy thriller? Lovers of comic theater and classic movies will be in their entertainment element at the Stephen F. Austin State University School of Theatre and Dance’s production of “The 39 Steps,” a parody play adapted by Patrick Barlow from the novel by John Buchan and the film by Alfred Hitchcock.
“The 39 Steps,” will be presented Thursday through Sunday, Feb. 29 through March 3, in the Flex Theatre, Griffith Fine Arts Building, on the SFA campus. Directed by Professor Scott Shattuck, the play is full of rollicking humor, packed with “wildly inventive stagecraft” and features an intrepid group of seven actors playing dozens of roles.
“I was delighted when I was asked to direct ‘The 39 Steps’ because I was rolling in the aisles when I saw it in London’s West End several years ago,” Shattuck said. “I’ve had a lot of fun directing zany British comedy in the past.” He’s directed successful productions of Joe Orton plays and of Tom Stoppard’s funny adaptations off Broadway. Calling himself a “classic film buff,” Shattuck describes Hitchcock as “head-and-shoulders the top director of the 20th century.”
Shattuck said,“The 39 Steps” is not only a tribute to and a spoof of Hitchcock’s 1935 movie of the same name, but it’s also peppered with wordplay and references to his better-known pictures, such as “Rear Window” and “North by Northwest."

In “The 39 Steps,” a debonaire visitor to London has become bored and decides to pass time doing something “mindless and frivolous.” He heads out to go to a show.
“There he somehow finds himself swept up in mysterious international intrigue which chases him all the way to the Scottish Highlands,” Shattuck explains. “In the midst of the suspenseful fun, he meets shadowy femmes fatales, sinister heavies, clueless underwear salesmen and other hapless bystanders along the way. It’s a fast-moving comic action-adventure story that celebrates the magic of live theatre as well as the fun of old movies.”
Shattuck described the target audience of “The 39 Steps” as tweens through seniors, but even some younger children (8+) may enjoy it. Drinking, smoking, violence and sexual innuendo are depicted, but all in ways that are cartoonish or benign. Profane language is minimal and mild. There are loud “bang” sounds, flashing lights, stage fog and lighthearted suspense.
“Adults who have seen movies such as ‘Psycho’ or ‘Strangers on a Train’ may get a few extra laughs – or groans – but no prior knowledge is required,” Shattuck said.
In directing “The 39 Steps,” Shattuck said the play calls for all sorts of inventive stagecraft to portray planes, trains, automobiles and three different stages as well as chases through shadowy streets, under perilous bridges and over foggy moors, all on the Flex Theatre stage.

An ensemble of seven actors will portray numerous characters (the author estimates “approximately 200") with different accents, physical postures, occupations, ages and genders, sometimes with fast costume changes and sometimes just by changing hats. Shattuck believes the audience will be intrigued by “wildly inventive stagecraft,” including sets, costumes, lighting, sound, wigs and props, and the many faces and voices of the supporting roles, which will be played by five performers designated as “clowns” in the script.
“The 39 Steps” will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, Feb. 29 through March 2, and at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, March 2 and 3, in the Flex Theatre. General admission ticket prices are: adult, $15; senior (62+), $10; youth (high school and younger), $8; SFA faculty/staff, $8; non-SFA student, $8; and SFA student, $5. For ticketing information or to purchase tickets, call the Fine Arts Box Office at (936) 468-6407, or visit sfasu.edu/boxoffice. For information about the play, call (936) 468-4003 or visit sfasu.edu/theatre-dance.