The kids really, really wanted to do a play about zombies.
In November 2010, Laura and I were contracted at an area high school to craft and direct a one-act play for students to take to competition. (More accurately, Laura was contracted--I just weaseled my way in.)
At the first rehearsal, we explained to the students that they’d be very involved in developing their characters and the script. Almost immediately, one of the nerdiest--and just to be clear, I love nerds--shouted, “Zombies!” And then all the other kids echoed, “Yeah, zombies! We wanna do zombies!”
Here’s a dramatic re-enactment of how I felt about the idea at that moment:
So we set out to build the play. We decided pretty quickly that with almost no budget or make-up skills, we’d embrace not showing any zombies onstage, that we’d build on the fear of the monster on the outside. Through improv exercises with the kids, we quickly grasped the various social groups they came from in the school. Basically, it was The Breakfast Club, but instead of battling the adults in their lives, our characters would battle the undead.
While we were writing the script, Chuck Klosterman wrote a piece that opined the surge in zombie popularity in culture reflected how the endless onslaught of the undead reflects the endless onslaught of information and email and craziness we experience on the internet.
The show, which we had titled Freaks, remained a memory until last year, when Laura kept bringing it up. And so, when a couple performance spots opened up in the first block of ARTshare at the Southern, we took the leap to put it on and see if Savage Umbrella could take the idea into a full production in the future.
That’s how we get to here: a group of people in their 20s and 30s playing high school students. To further explore of different social groups coming together, we’ve decided to continue experimenting with some immersive staging (meaning the audience will split off and follow different characters at times).
And you’ll have your chance. Like all of our workshops, you’ll have your chance to give feedback via surveys and a facilitated post-performance conversation. These discussions help guide the future development of the work and keep the Savage Umbrella train rolling down the tracks.
Oh, and then there’s more(!). After the adventure and the talking, stick around for a live music by Artisanal Widget!
See you at The Southern 1/28 and 2/6!