Engarde! Join “The Three Musketeers” on a grand adventure

Matthew Johnston and Aaron Bayless practice dueling with fencing swords during a fight scene rehearsal for the ARC theater production of "The Three Musketeers" which runs from April 26 to May 5. (Photo by Emily K. Rabasto)

ARC theatre production touches on every end of the emotional spectrum to close out the season

Shots fire.

Musketeers charge down the staircase towards the rebel Huguenots who are attacking them. Two musketeers fall, and an explosion kills five combatants. The main character, D’Artagnon sees his comrades fall, then charges from the stairs only to be brutally slaughtered. The musketeers lie dead at the base of the stairs.

“Oh my… Oh, no… oh dear. This won’t do at all. Out, out, out!!!” cries Alexandre Dumas, the author of the story “The Three Musketeers.” “Never hurts to have the author on your side,” one musketeer comments as the scene resets and the enemy numbers are reduced.

Dumas is an author struggling to finish his newspaper serial on time. He is being harassed by his editor, so he begins to write “The Three Musketeers.” an adventure with action, daring and romance.

The American River College theater department’s production of “The Three Musketeers” opens April 26 at 8 p.m. The cast is already enthusiastic about the show which is heavily focused on fighting choreography. “There’s a lot of athleticism,” says Peter Messick, who plays Godeau. “[There is] very intricate fencing and knife work that you don’t always see at the community college level.

This version of “The Three Musketeers” has two stories. There is the narrative in which Dumas, played by Brandon Lancaster, is writing for all the action that happens with D’Artagnon and the Musketeers. this drama is what composes the second plot. “The two worlds collide, and the line is blurred between which is which,” explains Chealsea Ciechanowski, who portrays the Villainess. “Brandon plays Dumas, but also other characters, like ‘the wanderer’ who guides the musketeers along.”

“It takes stamina to be in this show. Everybody is in almost every scene and there is tons of fighting,” says Clay Kirkwood, who plays the main character D’Artagnon. “I didn’t know how to fence before. I’ve gotten most of my training from this show, and it’s been a great experience.”

The set design of the show is just as complex as the plot. The stage managers have a lot to keep track of between props and set changes during the show’s 29 scenes.

“Each scene breaks down into two parts, and we have three revolving platforms that will be rotating during the show,” explains James McMillon, the show’s stage manager. We’re using all live weapons except for guns. Our muskets don’t fire, but we’re using real rapiers and sabers on stage. They don’t make retractable daggers in the style of this time period, so we’re using real daggers and safety.”

The stage managers estimate needing a stage crew of about 10 people, where normally shows use crews around five.

“This script has so much gusto and panache,” says Kirkwood, taking a bite out of his plum during a rehearsal break. “When you watch it, you’re going to feel like you’re in a swashbuckling adventure, you’re going to feel moments of love, and moments of danger, and moments of despair. It’s like “The Princess Bride,” but live. And I’m the Dread Pirate Roberts.”

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