A Letter To Burien Little Theatre About Their Upcoming “Zombie” Show

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Burien Little Theatre‘s “Zombie” opens this Friday night, Oct. 15th at 10:30pm, with a total of five late-night performances until Halloween weekend.

“Zombie” is a horror/terror tale that runs approximately one hour. It was written by Bill Connington, and adapted from the novella by Joyce Carol Oates.

According to their website:

If this dramatic award winning West Coast Premiere does not scare you, you are already dead!

A psychopath kidnaps children and tries unsuccessfully to turn them into zombies with an icepick.

All tickets are $10, and NO ONE under 16 admitted without parent!  – click here to purchase tickets online.

BLT recently let one of its patrons read the script for the “Zombie,” and what follows is his response. With his permission, BLT is making this an open letter:

Dear Maggie and Eric,

You wanted feedback on the script for Zombie? Welllllll, where to begin?

I read it first thing Sunday morning after getting it in the email.

And I read it again, immediately. I recently got new lenses, and I wanted to be sure that what I was seeing was actually on the screen.

Frankly, I was stunned. It was easily one of the most visceral pieces of drama I have ever encountered in my life.

The poster says, “Terrifying”. Really? I’m terrified at the thought of experiencing something like this live. The expression of sheer, amoral evil radiating from the text is powerful enough, and that’s just a font.

I went back and forth, trying to decide if you two were insanely brilliant to try staging this at Burien Little Theatre, or simply out of your __ing minds. [Although, despite working with computers for a living, I should know the world’s not binary! ]

Sex, race, class, society, insanity…and that’s just for starters. This thing gets more button-pushing than an elevator in the Columbia Center. And as someone who was especially sensitive to aspects of the Dahmer case anyway, I’m getting shoved so far outside my comfort zone I practically need change-of-address forms.

I know I’m going on about my reaction to the script. But, unless art—especially lively art — is floating alone in interstellar space, I don’t think it truly exists separate from some human response to it. And of course, since art is one of the ways in which we can most clearly see ourselves, I recognize that my response probably says a lot more about me, my sensibilities and insecurities that it does the script.

This isn’t science fiction, or even horror as it’s commonly known. Dahmer was a real person: we can look him up and read about him. But going over the details of his life and the facts of his crimes is a long way from being shoved inside his head and seeing through his eyes. Stripped of the security of distance and abstraction, we’re forced to confront the uncomfortable idea that real people commit real atrocities. Unless we label them as inhuman, we can’t safely separate ‘them’ from ‘us’: and that way lies madness.

I downloaded the script to my iPad, and continued to go over it off-and-on, through the next day. One of the things that affected me greatly, from the very first reading, was the extraordinary language. The most cringe-worthy vulgarities are balanced with haunting, evocative turns of phrase, highlighting the ruins of the character’s shattered soul. Even now, I can’t shake all the implications and dread lurking behind lines such as:

“What identity is there? I never think of it.”
“I’ve already eaten.”
“He never regained what they call consciousness.”
“My whole body is a numb tongue.”

I’ve read some Joyce Carol Oates years back, including a collection called Faithless. I knew what an intense writer she is, but I hadn’t read anything so far to prepare me for this. It makes me want to read her Zombie, to see how it expands on this adaptation. (My take is that the ‘zombie’ of the title is actually the protagonist himself.)

Finally, I came to understand why you’d want to put on this show; and I can certainly see why any actor worth his salt would kill to perform it: it’s a tour de force. My initial reaction had been mostly caught up in a knee-jerk reflex: My God, Burien can’t do a show like this! Which of course is precisely why Burien should do a show like this.

I grope for synonyms, but keep returning to my original thought: ‘audacity’, in the best sense of the word. I greatly admire the audacity of staging a work of this nature, especially in the same space where some theatergoers were offended by a relatively mild, 2500-year-old Greek sex-comedy.

I can’t imagine what the reaction some unsuspecting audience members are likely to have to Zombie. But at the same time, I’m very proud to have some association with a theatre company that would be daring enough to mount such an unsettling production.

This is a sensational way to commemorate BLT’s thirtieth season; staging the West Coast premier of this piece is a real coup for any theatre, much less non-equity. It’s entirely possible that the biggest successes of the show may be not financial but artistic, as people in the region take greater notice of the kind of fearless, unconventional theatre that’s done in Burien.

So in conclusion, I say to you and to Burien Little Theatre: Bravo! Bravo in identifying this powerful work, and in having the bravery and fortitude to fight for its production. Both wary and eager, I await the performance of Zombie. Thanks much,


PS I also think it’s a really smart idea to launch a concurrent ‘second-stage’, as a post- show forum for smaller, more-experimental works. Maybe next year, you could name it something like: “Off-Burien”, “Late Night with BLT” or “The After Show”!

Here is a reading list to help you get ready for “Zombie.”  All of the books listed are available at the King County Library:

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5 Responses to “A Letter To Burien Little Theatre About Their Upcoming “Zombie” Show”
  1. feral dog says:

    I`m going to have to take that weekend off, I love zombie movies so this play should be great… As long as they don`t bite. *woof*
    What did the b-townblog readers that seen zombieland think of it as entertaining?
    I think Rainy is playing a zombie movie for the 2nd feature this weekend if it s doesn`t rain.
    Eaton, you and the gang should think about heading over there and watching one before the season ends,, It`s a good time,, little bud, a good fire, popcorn and hot dogs.
    Don`t get much better.

  2. The Willawaw says:

    I can’t wait for this whole zombie fad to pass. It’s all really quite inane, although it does serve to demonstrate the absolutely dysfunctional state this country is in — parents dress up their kids like violently-dismembered, rotting human corpses in the name of family fun, and then proceed to get all freaked out when someone says the word “vagina” in public.

    Your breathless letter-writer should really get out more, too. If he’s that interested in being exposed to “the kind of fearless, unconventional theater that’s done in Burien,” just tell him to go sit on a bench near the transit center.

    • Eric says:

      This play is not about zombies per say. It is about a serial killer, in the ilk of Jeffrey Lionel Dahmer. He tries to turn young people into his zombie, but without much luck. Go to Amazon or the library and check out Joyce Carol Oat’s novella “Zombie,” and you’ll get a taste of the play.

      If you think it is about the living dead, you are doing yourself no good, and you will miss some amazing theater, done right here in Burien. It was hands down the very best script I have read in over 5 years.


      • Nicky says:

        So it’s “not about zombies per say”? Oh it’s just about a serial killer like Jeffrey Dahmer. I don’t care what kind of spin people took to make this play or anything like it. It’s truly a sickening display of humanity, or lack of humanity I should say, to give any publicity to a serial killer this way. I wonder how the families and friends of Jeffrey Dahmer’s victims feel or any other serial killer. The fact that so many people use these tragedies in the media for profit and notoriety and then turn it into entertainment is disgusting.

  3. Eric says:

    What a great opening weekend! Thanks to all who took a risk and joined BLT for this experiment.

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