The Growing Stage recently sat down to chat with Jon Klein, playwright of The Hardy Boys In The Mystery Of The Haunted House! During this interview, Jon talks about adapting the classic story of The Hardy Boys, plus why he loves family audiences and he shares advice for the young writer.
Hi Jon! Thanks for joining us! Tell our audience a little bit about yourself.
First, let me say that this is the first production of the play in decades, so I’m very excited about it! When the play premiered at Seattle Children’s Theatre in 1994, it was a big hit, and it had several successful productions around the country. However, a big movie studio suddenly bought the rights to all the Hardy Boys books, since they were planning their own film. That film was never made, but theaters were not allowed to produce my play for many years. That changed on January 1 of this year, when the book I adapted, The House on the Cliff, entered “public domain.” That meant that the original material was available again. And that led to this production! This is my first chance to see the play in nearly 30 years – so I’ll be coming to see it in person!
I have been a playwright and a theatre professor for most of my adult life. I’ve had over 30 plays produced, as well as one TV movie. But I didn’t study playwriting – I studied acting and directing. My interest in playwriting began when I became an apprentice at Actors Theatre of Louisville, and helped and observed one of the early Humana Festivals, which showcased new American plays. Later on, I returned as a playwright, and had two plays produced at the Humana Festival. As well as Off-Broadway, and around the country at different regional theaters.
Why did you decide to write a play adaptation of The Hardy Boys?
Seattle Children’s Theatre actually approached me to do a Hardy Boys adaptation. I chose which book to adapt. Rather than update it to the present day, I kept it in its original time, and tried to keep the old-fashioned tone (while gently making fun of it). It was so successful that they asked me to do a sequel, which I called The Secret of Skullbone Island. That was a big hit too!
Do you have a favorite character in the play? If so, who and why?
When I first wrote the play, my favorite character was Frank, the older brother. Now that I’m older, I naturally gravitate more toward their father, Fenton. I think about what it must be like to have two kids who are always getting into trouble!
What do you hope audiences will experience when they see The Hardy Boys in The Mystery of the Haunted House?
My primary intent is to entertain the audience, with occasional scares and lots of laughs. I also wanted to show young folks that seeing a play can be as thrilling as watching an adventure film – which is why I deliberately tried to put a lot of movie effects onto the stage – theatrically, of course!
The Growing Stage was fortunate enough to produce another play of yours, Bunnicula in 2005. What do you like about writing for family audiences?
Family audiences are my favorite audiences! They’re more direct with their responses, less inhibited, and not afraid to express their involvement! And I try to write shows that will entertain the whole family, not just kids. So they can all talk about it after the show ends!
Both Bunnicula and The Hardy Boys have a mystery/halloween type theme. Is that a preferred theme you like to explore in your writing?
Yes, between Bunnicula and the Hardy Boys, Halloween is my busy time as a playwright! But that’s just accidental, not intentional.
Any new projects on the horizon?
Speaking of holidays, I’m beginning work on a new play inspired by A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. But it will be very different! I have two other plays in the works for other theaters, aimed at older audiences.
What advice do you have for an aspiring young writer?
My best advice to aspiring young writers is to READ. Read as much as you can, especially in the forms that interest you – whether they be plays, novels, short stories or poems. It’s important to learn how other writers solve problems like structure, character and plot. There are no rules except that it needs to work, and other writers have figured that stuff out, so you can learn from them! And since theatre requires live performances, aspiring playwrights need to see as many plays as they can and learn more about them by joining drama clubs at school and in the community. You don’t need to be an actor (though that’s always helpful) – there are many things you can learn backstage or as part of a crew. Get involved!
Do you have any other hobbies or interests outside of writing/theatre?
I am very interested in most of the arts, and I will often be at a museum, watching a movie or listening to music when I’m not writing. And I love to walk and explore new hiking trails and parks – I actually do a lot of writing in my head while I’m walking!
Anything else you’d like to share with our audience?
Have a great time, don’t be shy, and let the actors know you’re enjoying the show!
Thank you to Jon Klein for joining us! To learn more about Jon and his plays, visit Jon-klein.com
The Hardy Boys In The Mystery Of The Haunted House runs October 13-29 with performances on Saturdays at 4PM, Sundays at 2PM and a special opening night performance on Friday, October 13th at 7:30PM. For full details and to purchase tickets, visit www.growingstage.com