An Interview with Maddy Shilts, Writer of Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Vanishing Ring


Sherlock Holmes promotional image


An interview with Maddy Shilts about their work on Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Vanishing Ring by Theatre 200 student Tory Noble.

How has working on this production been different due to the need for social distancing and virtual meetings?

Our biggest challenge starting off was scheduling. My director selected to do the semester online, so finding a co-director was really a top priority for us. That being said, there were students looking for projects to work on, including Cassie Duker, who agreed to come on and act as our stage manager/co-director hybrid to help manage in-person rehearsals. Our first week of rehearsals was virtual and that included table reads and character development. The director ran the virtual week and, as we got into the rest of the rehearsal process, Cassie took charge of in-person while we zoomed with the director, Alexandra Leurck. 


How has the process of blocking been impacted since actors cannot be together physically?

Of course, blocking for a camera is much more difficult when you have to keep COVID guidelines in mind because you have to be much closer to each other for a camera frame than you do on stage. The COVID guidelines were one of the things that I kept heavily in mind as I wrote the show. This show is specifically written for the current situation, and so I did the best that I could to ensure that no more than 2 characters are on stage at any time. I even let Watson pop off about people not adhering to medical and professional guidelines and gave him this monologue to kind of justify the masks. He’s a doctor, so he absolutely would!


How has your vision for the production changed as the guidelines for Coronavirus have changed?

Actually, I have two Sherlock Holmes plays. I have one full-length play that I’ve been working on for a good number of years and I have this one written specifically for Fringe with the guidelines in mind. Since there’s a 60-minute cap for the time length of projects for Fringe and the full-length play is 130-minutes, I decided to write another show in that same universe. A lot of the character descriptions apply to this show as well. I think the most set that I included in the stage directions was my descriptions for 221B because that is the only location that crosses over between the two plays. For the rest of it, I was really thinking ‘how can I keep this as minimal as possible?’. Then I was just thinking as the creator, the playwright, the team lead, and an actor, about how I can make this as least stressful as possible for people because I know there are so many other things going on in people’s lives right now.


What is one thing you would like your audience to know before they watch the performance virtually?

I am not gonna lie, the first word that popped into my head was “gay”. I mean that should be a given at this point with Holmes and Watson but I’m trying to think of something a little more profound. This is just something for people to have fun but obviously, there are comments on what is going on in the world today. They are a little subtle since it does take place in Victorian England so it’s a completely different situation, but this is supposed to be a fun and ridiculous show that I really hope makes people laugh.