Thursday, October 6th, 2016
Why do the flamboyant, silly moments (like the Chicken Dance/Spaghetti Town) get away with being in a show structured mainly around scaring the audience?
Those moments are really about breaking audience expectations, and playing with the idea that “anything can happen…” violence can only take so many forms before excessive… it can even destroy horror in show. But these moments of craziness can also break the tension. One key element is duration. Has to be in moment where it has time to take too long- where it can break the "comic" timeline and ride into terror. These also can be pressure release moments- if the audience is tense for too long, they can get exhausted. This is something I learned from foreign horror films. American films don’t have as many of these reality-breaking moments. Japanese horror definitely dives more into this stuff. It adds a different kind of danger.
How dark do DP horror shows get “on-average;” do they all tend to include wacky moments or sparks of humor? Or have a few been considerably serious? First starting on horror, yes. Grand-Guignol, straight naturalism were influences. But now it’s less exciting, less unexpected; boring. Slightly has to do with our first question. Also, beauty question from last week; it can come out in humor, or abstraction, or well-arranged moments. DP's show Frankenstein lived in the darkness, the shadows, but they're not the only places that scary things reside.
Specifically regarding horror, how does gender affect the shows DP creates? I try, (and I recognize this is all coming from my very white, cis-gendered middle-aged male perspective), to both write and cast shows with the best actors, regardless of gender. If the person is right for the role, they’re right. It’s like when you read the lame-ass character descriptions many women have been posting today- “beautiful” is not a character attribute- any physical attributes are not character attributes. However, as a director, I am definitely telling a story with the way I cast a show, which I am very aware of. For example, the original casting of this production featured an African American woman as the lead role, and her “nemesis” in the production goes to great lengths of talking about the “darkness in people” and how he tries to “get it out”. In the original production, the lead role was played by a white woman, so this language seemed innocuous. However, when it’s a white man talking about a black woman, it tells a very different story, so I actually began rewriting sections of that character, as I didn’t feel qualified or competent all of a sudden making this show about race. The casting ended up going a different direction, so the point became moot, but it was definitely something I took into consideration. I could definitely see this happening around gender or ability, too.
What is the trickiest part/responsibility/stage of rehearsal for the role of Director?
Honest answer: Scheduling. “Artsy” answer: Petty things. Losing momentum. Energy definitely also goes into shaping feedback per actor- not everybody can take the same note the same way... I tend to give more negative critique typically (although have also received requests for more positive feedback from time to time...) but the form of that feedback varies from person to person.
What does it take to start a theatre company?
“You’d better have a clear idea of what you’re doing differently than everyone else.” Oof. ‘What do you want to do, and why?’ And, time. So much time.
Besides actor availability, how do you decide to structure at what point certain exercises and scenes get worked on? Adjusts per crew, per show. With Senseless, a lot of the show revolves around specific, sharp movements, so the beginning is about staging and as soon as staging is learned, we can move to acting notes. As a director, your need to know when one thing is mastered, so another thing can be added on.
What is the scariest thing that has happened to you?
Aside from a couple situations of physical peril, I often have moments, whenever I'm up too late and turn the lights off, that I'm convinced there's a man with a pig's face waiting for me. I have no idea what that's about.
What is your favorite movie? Finding Nemo, World War Z, The Shining, Audition (Japanese horror film)
Thursday, September 29th, 2016
What are the most important aspects of Senseless? The “justice” that the play is constantly leading up to; the viewer’s desire to see Alex get her revenge against Taylor Colt.
How does “testing out” versions of the script build and change the end result? It allows the benefit of hearing the lines/ideas read out loud, for the sake of knowing whether or not said drafts make sense, if the scenes flow well together.Also lets drafts slowly evolve with the cast’s particular voices, and leads to lines being written with the personality and delivery of each actor in mind.
What have you learned about performing horror, and how? What led you to discovering the necessity of “not breathing” when acting in a suspenseful show? When I read descriptions of the Theatre du Grand-Guignol, there were always people who would faint during Performances. I thought part of this might be due to the fact that they weren't breathing, caught up in the suspense of it. As performers, we can absolutely manipulate the breath of the audience, and in doing so ratchet up the tension.
What are, in your opinion, the similarities of horror and comedy?
They’re essentially the same thing; Tension is a knife edge. Horror balances on it carefully every step, Comedy comes from falling off.
What is the intention of including more “abstract” or “profound” language in horror? (example: Megan K’s final monologue in senseless, surreal phrases from Taylor Colt…)
It helps build the world. The plays are reflections of reality, while these “weirder” lines and phrases help establish the crookedness of the world we’re looking into. They also help “hijack” an audience’s brain- language as a tool to weave the world around an audience.
How does staging horror differ from filming horror, and delivering horror as a movie? We’re all in the room together. The actors in horror theater need to be just as potentially terrifying as the characters they are playing… The actual relationship between audience and actor becomes much more profound. More real.
Do your own shows scare you? What would a live horror show have to do to scare you?
Not after hours and hours of rehearsal, although I'm occasionally surprised... the thrill comes from
succesfully terrifying audiences.
What is horror’s relation to beauty?
There is absolutely room for beauty in horror. It's so fragile, so fleeting... (Examples we discussed were The Cell using beautiful imagery as a way to clash and twist against the ugliness one might expect to see in a psychopath’s mind. And, Dracula, which is simply a gorgeous horror film.)
Would you ever consider developing a horror show about aliens? Or a “monster”?
Short answer: Yes. Long answer: It would be REALLY hard to pull off effectively. Not impossible, just really hard.
Has Dangerous Productions ever created a “ghost story” play? No, not yet. This would also come back to the issue of audiences knowing that live theatre is fake, and the characters are only actors. “The possibility of ghosts would have to be just as terrifying as if the drama was being caused by people.
Does the typical/modern audience limit the possibilities of scare and fear to only common/relatable themes of horror? Does it bother you to play with “pop/modern” fear?
[It’s not a bother to work with the public’s collective fears; and it’s important to remember that DP and all of its members are an active part of that collective. In horror theatre (and horror in general) anything can be done. The medium grants very few limitations in terms of how weird and outlandish a story gets.]
Are you ever afraid of people seeing the repeated tricks in Dangerous Production horror plays (using flashlights to set up jumpscares, blood, strange physicalities, etc.) as gimmicks or crutches? Does it matter?
Short answer: No. Long answer: As long as the tricks of live horror continue to elicit a scare from audiences, they’re worth including. “If it serves, it serves.”***
***Side note; incredible motto for a drag queen.
~“No tea, no shade: If it serves, it serves, mama.”
• Queen Simmons~