Playwright Ken Ludwig and director Rick Sordelet discuss PSF’s upcoming ‘The Three Musketeers’

Playwright Ken Ludwig at the entrance of Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival.

Playwright Ken Ludwig at the entrance of Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival. Photo by Lisa Panzer

Interview by Lisa Panzer

Ken Ludwig’s adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ swashbuckling classic ‘The Three Musketeers” began it’s adventure by commission for the Bristol Old Vic Theatre in London, England, where it opened in December, 2006.  The multiple award winning playwright has authored a couple of dozen theater works which are in continuous production in various languages around the globe, garnering him worldwide acclaim. He and director Rick Sordelet, known for his top-notch fight choreography on Broadway, the world of Disney, and the Metropolitan Opera, are currently collaborating on what promises to be an exciting revised, Americanized version of the play. An aficionado of fine literature, Ken Ludwig is rolling up his sleeves once more to revisit (and do some rewrites) since originally writing the play 10 years ago, when he added a heroine to the story named Sabine, d’Artagnan’s sister.

Playwright Ken Ludwig with Rick Sordelet at Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival. Photo by Lisa Panzer

When asked what he likes about this particular production, the playwright responded, “What I like about doing ‘The Three Musketeers’ when I wrote it about 10 years originally, is that it’s a swashbuckling story, the kind of thing you don’t see on stage very much anymore. So many plays are set in living rooms, and have small casts, if they’re straight plays, musicals are little bit different, but if it’s a straight play you rarely have a big swashbuckling story that you can throw your arms around. It’s a tradition in the theater that I love, and it was a staple part of American theater for a hundred years – 19th century, even into the 20th century.  People stopped writing them. And I think it’s important to write these kind of plays because families can come to see them. You get an uplift, you get a joy – you know, be optimistic.

It’s a bit like seeing an Indiana Jones movie. I think going to the theater should go back to be being like you feel like when you go to the movies. …We really enjoy ourselves, and we cheer and we laugh and we have a really good time. …It’s something I’m very much trying to have us regain.

It’s a great story. It’s a story about love, its got comedy in it, it’s a story about courage and personal courage, and it’s a story about compassion, having a heart. These young guys and young women — I put in women into a story that didn’t have when it was written by Dumas many years ago – are fighting for things they believe in and they are fighting for things that show their heart, that show their spirit, that show their courage, and this is an important thing to say these days. Its important to say that if you have a good heart, if you do things with a good purpose, if you have a sense optimism we can win the day. Move the ball closer to having society of the kind we want and like. If we link arms and do the right thing, and that’s what this play is about.”

During the first read-through they kindly took the time to talk a little about the upcoming production at the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival opening on July 14, 2017.

Lisa Panzer: I have actually played Maria in ‘Lend Me a Tenor’.

Ken Ludwig: Oh! How Cool!

Lisa Panzer: Can you tell a little about Sabine?

Ken Ludwig:  Very easy; will be happy to. Sabine is, well, I just looked at that piece, and like in so many pieces, they’re so male-centric, and our whole tradition, our story telling tradition as well our theater tradition is so male centric. So many great roles for men, not as many great roles for women. I just thought part of my life has been spent trying to right that wrong.

“Leading Ladies” has more women than men. My latest play that I just wrote has more women than men.  I just think it is who we are, it is who we are now it is how we live now it is who we are, so why shouldn’t our plays and theater reflect that? So Sabine is a great way to help tell this story it seemed to me. I thought when the show was done at the theater in Haymarket in London I might get some real criticisms from the critics, but no, everybody’s been fine with it.

Lisa Panzer:  Will the actors be involved in any of the revisions, at all?

Rick Sordelet: Absolutely. The way I like to work is very organic and immersive.  So all the actors will have the autonomy to discuss what it is they want to bring to the table.  This is a great opportunity to a have re-visit of a published play with the playwright and to say ‘hey you know what, we have the room to say ‘let’s play around with it, let’s kick it around the corner, as they say, see if we can come with other things that will make the play even more desirable’. That’s what were going to do.”

I can’t tell you how excited that makes me to work with someone of Ken’s caliber and to do this.


If You Go: Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival is a professional theatre company on the campus of DeSales University, as well as the official Shakespeare Festival of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and a leading Shakespeare festival with an emerging national reputation for excellence. “The Three Musketeers” will be shown in repertory ‘As You Like It’ with the same cast.

“The Three Musketeers” plays through July 12 – Aug. 6 at the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival held at the DeSales University, Labuda Center for the Performing Arts – 2755 Station Ave., Center Valley, PA 18034. For tickets, call 610-282-9455, or purchase them online.


Editor’s Note:

Delco Culture Vultures were invited to meet Ken Ludwig, award-winning playwright of The Three Musketeers at Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival on Friday, June 9. Ludwig was attending the first rehearsal of “The Three Musketeers”. We were delighted that reviewer and actress Lisa Panzer was able to represent us at this event. And we are particularly grateful to Ms. Panzer for attending the event as she herself was performing with The Savoy Company in H.M.S. Pinafore at Longwood Gardens later that same day.
Ken Ludwig is a Pennsylvania native born in York and graduated from Haverford College in Delaware County, PA before graduating Harvard Law School with a degree in international law. He has had 6 shows on Broadway and 7 in the West End and his plays and musicals have been performed in more than 30 countries in over 20 languages. His first Broadway play, “Lend Me a Tenor”, was written while working full time at the Washington law firm Steptoe & Johnson. It garnered two Tony Awards (nominated for seven). He has also won two Laurence Olivier Awards (England’s highest theatre honor), the Charles MacArthur Award, two Helen Hayes Awards, the Edgar Award for Best Mystery from The Mystery Writers of America, the SETC Distinguished Career Award, and the Edwin Forrest Award for Services to the American Theatre.
During PSF’s run of “The Three Musketeers”, Ludwig’s newest show, “Robin Hood!”, will be having it’s world premiere at the Old Globe in San Diego, California. Ludwig is one of this season’s most produced playwrights in America with shows including “Crazy for You”, “Moon Over Buffalo”, “Treasure Island”, and “The Fox on the Fairway”. PSF produced Ken Ludwig’s “Lend Me a Tenor” in 2014.