While most remember Ayn Rand for her seminal novel The Fountainhead, many fewer will know that she also wrote a play that was a hit on Broadway in 1935.
The Night of January 16 is an audience participation courtroom drama about the murder -- or is it suicide? -- of an ethically challenged market trader.
Performed by the Tybee Arts Performing Society (TAPS), the show is set for this weekend at the recently renovated Old Tybee School.
“The play has been produced under three different titles, which is really interesting considering who Ayn Rand was,” says director Carol Ingham.
“There were several different editions which she kept revising and changing, We’re using what’s called the ‘definitive edition incorporating the author’s final changes,’” she says. “But we’re not just using that dialogue, we’re using some from other drafts.”
The play’s title refers to the night that the murder of Bjorn Faulkner -- who, being dead, is never seen during the show -- took place. “Other titles that had been used for the play were Penthouse Legend and Woman on Trial.”
Despite its popularity at the time, few theatre aficionadoes would know about Rand’s play today.
“Nobody really does -- I only knew because maybe years ago I was in the play myself,” Ingham says. “It has a lot of great elements that are really interesting. The murder trial takes place in the thirties. The deceased is a very rich scoundrel, and by contrast he has this beautiful woman as his mistress and secretary.”
Ingham says because of a clear preponderance of Southern accents in this local cast, she’s decided to change the script’s location of the case.
“It’s being done in a Georgia venue. -- we’re using Atlanta instead of New York City.”
The play features one of the first uses of audience participation with individual members being selected for jury duty.
“The panel of jurors selected from audience, so this truly is audience participation,” she says. “Of course all the witnesses are very quirky and quite amusing.”
Ingham says actors have to be prepared to move on a moment’s notice each night, going with the whim of their impromptu citizen jury.
“Two different endings are written depending on whether the jury returns a verdict of guilty or not guilty,” she says. “From what I can gather it all depends on who’s in the audience that night as to what the verdict is. Every night it really is a different show.”
While many theatregoers may be used to the more cerebral courtroom goings-on of the infinitely more well-known Inherit the Wind, Ingham says TAPS’ production of The Night of January 16 will concentrate “much more melodrama – we’re doing it in all black and white because of the time period. The only other colors we’re using are on the defendant. She’s supposedly such a scandalous young woman so we’re putting her in red and black.”
Bonnie Terrell portrays the woman in question, Karen Andre, with her defense attorney played by Gail Byrd and Billy Doniel playing the prosecuting attorney.
Arney Correa plays “Guts” Regan, who Ingham says is “a mobster in on planning on whether it was a murder or suicide – nobody is quite sure.”
This will be the third production of the year for TAPS, part of the Tybee Arts Association. The first TAPS show in the new space was I Hate Hamlet.
“The place has great stadium seating. The acoustics are really not bad for us, because we had a big set that was absorbing the echoes you get in that type of building,” Ingham says.
“People will be extremely comfortable in this little theatre,” she says. ƒç
Tybee Arts Performing Society presents Ayn Rand’s Night of January 16 on Sept. 8 & 9 at 8 p.m. and Sept. 10 at 3 p.m. at the Old Tybee School performance space.
Tickets $12 adults, $10 students & TAA members.