A Letter To Burien Little Theatre About Their Upcoming “Zombie” Show
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.”
“EYE CONTACT HAS BEEN MY DOWNFALL.”
“I’ve already eaten.”
“He never regained what they call consciousness.”
“My whole body is a numb tongue.”
“I am CARETAKER.”
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:
- Zombie by Joyce Carol Oates.
- The man who could not kill enough: the secret murders of Milwaukee’s Jeffrey Dahmer by Anne E. Schwartz. (The serial killer on whom Joyce Carol Oates based her novel.)
- My lobotomy: a memoir by Howard Dully. (Written by a man whose stepmother arranged to have him lobotomized when he was twelve, and how it affected his life, as well as his search for the reason behind it.)
- The lobotomist: a maverick medical genius and his tragic quest to rid the world of mental illness by Jack El-Hai. (A “humanizing” biography of Dr. Walter Freeman, with many facts and examining Freeman’s intentions.)
- Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. (The classic novel of pedophilic obsession.)
- Deviant: The Shocking True Story Of The Original “Psycho” by Harold Schechter. (The history of Ed Gein, the inspiration for Psycho, Silence of the Lambs, and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.)
- Predators: pedophiles, rapists, and other sex offenders: who they are, how they operate, and how we can protect ourselves and our children by Anna C. Salter. (Covers psychopaths and sadists, as well.)