Express Childrens Theatre
446 Northwest Mall, Houston Texas
Phone 713-682-5044

Executive Director




(Background) Nicholas Lewis as Red Chief, (foreground L-R) Brandon Morgan as Sam and Alan Gardiner-Atkinson as Bill perform in RANSOM OF RED CHIEF showing at Express Children's Theatre June 3 - July 27, 2013 at 446 Northwest Mall, Houston Texas.  Photo courtesy of Express Children's Theatre.



Literary Classic written by O. Henry

Adaptation by Patricia Barry Rumble

Directed by Timothy Eric

Express Theatre at Northwest Mall

 June 3 - July 27, 2013




Interview with the Cast of Ransom of Red Chief at Express Children's Theatre


Interviews conducted by Eli Key-Tello
And Theresa Pisula
June 15, 2013


O. Henry's literary classic comes to life in this hilarious adaptation by Patricia Barry Rumble.  This is the story of two crooks, Bill played by Alan Gardiner-Atkinson and Sam played by Brandon Morgan.  They plan a get-rich quick scheme to kidnap the very energetic child of a local banker. But they get a lot more -- and a lot less -- than they bargained for. Their 10-year-old victim, who refers to himself as an Indian named Red Chief (portrayed by Nicholas Lewis) is barely missed. He is also exultant over having two playmates to tease, torment and awaken in the wee hours (audience participation encouraged).


Although faithful to O. Henry, the production, directed by Timothy Eric, acquires an emotional dimension by showing the parallel lives of Bill and Chief as neglected children.  They even form a bond. Played out on a set designed by Booker McIntosh with costumes designed by Shirley Marks-Whitmore, this delightful production is full of twists and turns.  Ransom of Red Chief is great summer fun for the whole family.


A mainstay at Express Childrenís Theatre, Nicholas Lewis has been working at Express for eight years.  He has been a professional actor or as he says "his acting period" has been going on ten years now.  Nicholas plays the title role of Red Chief a 9-10 year old boy named Johnny.  He is a native Houstonian and was interviewed by Eli Key-Tello at Expressí last show Legends of Wind and Fire.


Eli Key-Tello:  Please tell us about the part that youíre playingÖÖ.

Nicholas Lewis:  I actually play the part of Red Chief.  Heís about 9 to 10 years old, growing up in Alabama.  He likes catching frogs and bugs, you know, playing Cowboy and Indian that kind of thing.  Heís very mischievous.  This character is pretty much where they got the idea for Dennis the Menace and Home Alone.  If you think of those characters, thatís pretty much who this character is.


Eli Key-Tello:  What would you like to tell the Houston audience about this play?


Nicholas Lewis:  Well, Iíd like to tell them that itís a very physical piece.  Itís very physical.  It took a couple of weeks to learn and get our bit together, you know, get them tight.  Weíre still working on that though.  This is like our second week of performing, so weíre still investing in our physical capacities onstage.  You might see some of that today.  But yes, itís a very physical piece, very hard thing to do. 

Physical comedy looks easy and it looks fun but itís very calculating.  Itís very tedious to rehearse and do because you really have to be calculated not to hurt anyone.  It has to be controlled.  Thatís the one thing about this show thatís pretty interesting to me and I think a lot of people should know.  But it is very physical, it looks very easy but itís not at all.  You always have to be conscious onstage.


Theresa:  What is it like working with the other two character actors in this play?

Nicholas Lewis:  The other two actors in this playÖ.one Iím familiar with, I actually worked with Brandon Morgan in Pinocchio.  Iím actually familiar with his work.  It was very interesting working with the other gentleman Alan Gardiner-Atkinson.  He takes direction very well and he wasnít the original dynamic in the play that we sought.  But he adds a very quirkyÖ.he fits Bill, he does.  With his physical and verbal attributes, he is Bill.


Theresa:  What would you like the audience to gain from watching this play?  Is there a moral lesson?

Nicholas Lewis:  No, not really.  This is really more one of those light stories, something to entertain.  Thereís no moral story in this one.  We try to do that for the summer, our summer shows we do it light, try to have fun.  Because for the rest of the season all of our other shows we are teaching morals, weíre teaching lessons.  Even in our holiday shows we teach lessons.  We try to have more fun.  Itís lighter during our summer shows.  And this one we just want you guys to laugh and have fun.  Come along on the journey with Bill and Sam.  Have a little adventure with Red Chief, having to put up with his antics.  So, this one is a lot of fun.


Theresa:  Final question, what would you like to say to the Houston theatre-going audience?

Nicholas Lewis:  You all should see the show.  Come on and enjoy the show with us!





The other two characters in Express Children Theatreís production of Ransom of Red Chief are Bill played by Alan Gardiner-Atkinson and Sam played by Brandon Morgan.  The interviews were conducted prior to the 2:00pm matinee show.


Eli Key-Tello:  Please tell us about the part that youíre playingÖÖ..

Alan GardinerĖAtkinson:  I play Bill.  Bill and Sam are the con-men who kidnap Red Chief and plan to hold them for ransom.  Although it doesnít quite work out the way they expect it to.


Eli Key-Tello:  What inspired you to become an actor?

Alan GardinerĖAtkinson:  Well, way back when I was in high school 47 years ago.  I had an English teacher who encouraged me to try out for a play.  I did and I got a part.  I enjoyed it and Iíve been doing it off and on for about 40 years or so.


Eli Key Tello:  Where are you from?

Alan GardinerĖAtkinson:  Iím originally from Galva, Illinois.  I lived in Minneapolis for about 15 years before moving to Corpus Christi for about 18 years.  Iíve been in Houston for 3 weeks now.


Theresa:  Wow, youíre here in Houston.  But you live in CorpusÖÖ.

Alan GardinerĖAtkinson:  .....about four hours away.


Theresa:  What would you like to tell the Houston audience about this particular play?

Alan GardinerĖAtkinson:  Well, itís very physical.  Thereís a lot of physical comedy in it, a lot of things to laugh at and have a good time with.  The kids all enjoy it.  And if you come, youíll have a lot of fun!




Eli Key-Tello:  Can you please tell us about the part that youíre playing?

Brandon Morgan:  The part that Iím playing in Ransom of Red Chief is the part of Sam.  Now he is, what you would say, the smarter of the two kidnappers.  Even though (Bill and Sam) they are of the buffoonery sort.  But heís the mastermind behind the whole plan.  Sam is the one who thinks about it, who hatches it as Bill is the muscle behind everything.  Bill takes care of the kid while I go out and make sure the plans go according to the correct way.  Thatís basically all about what Sam is.  Heís just the man behind the show.


Eli Key-Tello:   Where are you from originally?

Brandon Morgan:  Yes, Iím from Houston, born and raised.  Originally from the North side of Houston, the Greenspoint area.  I went to Eisenhower high school after which I went to Prairie View for about 3 years and then started professionally acting.


Eli Key-Tello:  What inspired you to become an actor?

Brandon Morgan:  Thatís a funny question because all my life Iíve never thought that this is what Iíd be doing.  Iíve been a professional actor for about a year now.  So for about two years ago, Iím a passionate swimmer.  Iíve been a swim instructor for the YMCA so thatís my job.  One day somebody just called me to come to an audition and I did and here we are today.


Theresa:  What would you like to tell the Houston theatre-going audience about this play?

Brandon Morgan:  I would like to tell everyone that this play is extremely funny.  If you love stories, ďstory-storiesĒ then you should definitely come out to see it.  And Express Childrenís Theatre is a whole lot of wonderful every season.  Our next show would be the follow up for the Christmas show and itís a show about someone who kidnaps Santa.  So, weíre excited for you to come out and see us.



This production was generously underwritten by The Cullen Trust for the Performing Arts

About Express....


Express Childrenís Theatre is Houstonís oldest and largest performing and arts education organization dedicated specifically to children and families. We are celebrating our 22nd year of creating and presenting professional, culturally diverse performing arts designed to educate, entertain and enrich young lives.


This season includes a wonderful array of innovative programs that reflect the rich cultural diversity of Houston. With stories that excite the imagination and raise the spirit, these adaptations of classic tales bring our favorite fictional characters to life in outstanding theatre for children and those who are children at heart. Created and performed by Houstonís finest theatre artists, Express productions teach life lessons by looking at familiar themes in new ways. We strive to honor the curiosity and complexity of young minds and seek to engage and excite them as they learn and participate.


Express Theatre was founded in 1991 with two shows, four actors and a shoestring budget. Since that time, we have been the proud recipient of two Austin Circle of Drama Awards, three B. Iden Payne awards for children's theatre, and a cover story in Stage Directions magazine. The Children's Hilltop Theatre Festival produced at Miller Theatre each summer was named the 2010 Best Theatre Production for Children by the Houston Press. This season we will present over 300 performances reaching over 75,000 children in venues throughout Texas.


Express offers weekly performances at its 90 seat theatre in Northwest Mall (located between Hempstead Road and 18th Street, just off 610 Loop in Northwest Houston). Our Touring Series brings the magic and excitement of quality theatre directly to children in their schools and communities. We also present performances at Houston Community College's Heinen Theatre, and free performances at Miller Outdoor Theatre, as well as numerous Public Libraries and Community Centers.


Express Childrenís Theatre is funded in part by Houston Endowment, Inc., The Meadows Foundation, The Cullen Trust for the Performing Arts, The Wortham Foundation, Inc., The Brown Foundation, Inc., The Albert and Ethel Herzstein Charitable Foundation, The Humphreys Foundation, Kinder Morgan Foundation,


BBVA Compass, Target, Texas Commission on the Arts and the City of Houston through the Houston Arts Alliance and Miller Theatre Advisory Board.


Nicholas Lewis as 10-year old Red Chief and Alan Gardiner-Atkinson as the kidnapper Bill in RANSOM OF RED CHIEF showing at Express Childrens Theatre June 3 - July 27, 2013 at 446 Northwest Mall, Houston Texas.  Photo courtesy of Express Children's Theatre.


Express Theatre at Northwest Mall

Fridays, June 14, 21, 28, July 5, 12 & 19 at 10:00 AM

Saturdays June 15, 22, 29, July 13 & 20 at 2:00 PM,

For additional performance dates, please check the website



Miller Outdoor Theatre

Free performance on Friday

July 26, 2013 @ 11:00am



Touring throughout the greater Houston area

June 3 - July 27, 2013



Express Theatre


446 Northwest Mall, Houston Texas USA