Cardinal Stage will present “Sherlock in Btown,'' a walkabout radio play series featuring two original Sherlock Holmes mysteries set in Bloomington.
The spring series will premiere in April, and the stories feature recorded scenes corresponding to certain outdoor locations around Bloomington. The cast and ticket information will be announced later this month on the Cardinal Stage website.
“There's lots of people out there who love Sherlock Holmes as a character and love mysteries,” Kate Galvin, the Cardinal Stage artistic director and “Sherlock in Btown” director, said. “These plays are going to be a really fun way to experience a new mystery in your own backyard.”
Each participant will receive a link to a website that will have track listings and a map. Each track is a different scene that takes place in a different Bloomington location. Between each scene, the participant will walk to the next location and listen to the next scene, Galvin said. There will be about 10 to 15 minutes of walking for each episode.
Participants can do the walkabout on their own time or they can try the new guided option. For the guided option, Cardinal is working on a way to take people out in small groups and make the experience more interactive with puzzles, props and food, Galvin said.
Galvin came up with the idea for Cardinal walkabout plays as a way to have COVID-19 safe programming people could do on their own and outdoors, she said. Cardinal had a fall walkabout play series that featured original pieces from two local writers.
After a positive response from their audience in the fall, Cardinal decided to create another radio series for this spring, Galvin said.
The main difference between the fall and spring series is the fall series featured one original story told over four episodes, while the spring series is two different mysteries, Galvin said.
Additionally for the spring, Cardinal decided to feature original stories that starred a well-known character, Sherlock Holmes, Galvin said. Liam Castellan wrote the first mystery set in 1992, and Bruce Walsh wrote the second mystery set in modern time.
Castellan has worked with Cardinal before — he acted in the “Great Gatsby” and “The Christians?” and directed “Charlotte’s Web.” This is his first time writing for Cardinal and being a playwright in general, he said.
Castellan’s mystery begins at the School of Music in 1992. Sherlock and Watson are invited to Bloomington by a violin teacher, but it turns out they were brought to town to solve a case concerning mysterious threats. Castellan said he read most of Conan Doyle’s work after being asked to write this radio play.
“I picked up on the sort of patterns and tropes that Conan Doyle kept referring back to time and again,” Castellan said. “So I've come up with an original story that borrows little bits of dialogue, names and occasionally plot points from various stories and novels.”
Walsh, the creator of the second mystery, is working with Cardinal for the first time, he said. However, he has experience with site-specific writing. Working as a playwright in Philadelphia, Walsh wrote a play called “Guided Tour,” which took tourists through an imaginary tour of historical Philadelphia.
Walsh’s mystery begins in the Rainbow Bakery and is based loosely on “The Red Headed League” by Doyle, he said. He renamed Sherlock to Sherman and wrote him as a graduate student on campus. Walsh said he is working with inserting the character into a love triangle as well.
“What I've discovered, since I wasn't a big Sherlock Holmes person, is that it's a bit controversial that Sherlock would have a love interest,” Walsh said. “But dramatic writing tends to lend itself to those things. and it was a lot more fun to have him chasing after a purpose, beyond just solving a crime.”
Castellan said he encourages people to listen and experience the radio plays.
“If I end up doing my job the way I hope I do, it will help you see familiar places in town in a new light or encourage you to explore places you haven't been yet,” Castellan said. “That's a great thing for art to do: to take something you think you know and make you look at it afresh.”
CORRECTION: The amount of walking per episode was incorrect in a previous version of this article.