SIDESHOW OF THE DAMNED
Featuring Ron Kennell,
Hume Baugh, Melody A. Johnson, Darren Keay, Kimwun Perehinec. Written by Eric
Woolfe. Directed by Michael Waller. Opens Aug. 4 at 9:30pm; runs to Aug. 12.
Factory Studio Theatre ,125 Bathurst. $8 ($40 pass). 410-1048.
couple of years ago, actor/ playwright Eric Woolfe wrote and starred in The
Strange and Eerie Memoir of Billy Wuthergloom, a one-person-plus-puppets
SummerWorks show that looked into the psyche of a suburban boy and his
relationship with an unusual friend.
This year, Woolfe presents
the macabre comedy Sideshow of the Damned. This one does not include
puppets -- though Ron Kennell appears as a creepy, skeletal sideshow barker --
but it has enough severed limbs, insect excretions and blood-lusting monsters to
satisfy any horror fan.
However, Woolfe makes
specific instructions in the Sideshow script that "real" blood
and hi-tech effects should not be used in this spooky trilogy of terror
featuring such characters as a wolfman, a vampire, a demented scientist and a
thirsty, limb-tearing shark. In the script, he requests that "the horrors
and bloodshed to follow should always be played stylistically, using half masks,
red ribbons and imaginative solutions instead of the more costly latex,
prosthetic and liquidy tricks utilized by the film trade."
"Part of that
concerns budget and the concern of making a mess," Woolfe laughs during a
pre-SummerWorks conversation. "Film has hijacked the horror genre away from
the theatre world. When we think of horror, we think of photographic realism and
effects. When we think of things that are scary, we think of them jumping in at
you from out-of-frame.
"We've forgotten the
vocabulary to do that in a proscenium setting. One of the advantages of having
neo-Brechtian blood and gore is that we're approaching ways to stage violent and
supernatural acts with the mechanisms showing and using more of the imagination.
I think the result is still scary."
a series of scary stories connected by Kennell's Barker character. In true
circus-sideshow style, it offers thrills and chills for even the most jaded
audience. As the Barker, the excellent character actor Kennell (most recently
seen in Ines de Castro) lures viewers into a world where a beautiful
woman (Kimwun Perehinec) drinks a disgusting potion -- you'll have to see the
play to find out just what is in the glass -- and finds herself transformed into
a cockroach. Although comedic, this isn't a story for the faint of heart.
Woolfe's love of the
spooky can be traced back to his childhood, when he grew to appreciate the
various sub-genres of scary movies during late-night viewings. Much later, the
enjoyment of spooky entertainment diversified into comics, particularly EC
Comics. These were the American genre titles of the late '40s to mid-'50s that
eventually transformed into the classic satirical monthly MAD Magazine.
"When I was a kid,
horror was the thing my dad and I really bonded over," he explains.
"We both really liked horror films. So, when I was a teenager and I'd get
home at 2 in the morning from wherever I'd been, he'd have a stack of things
that he'd rented. He'd say, 'Hey! Let's sit down and watch Demons' or
some Italian horror film. We'd stay up till 4am watching everything from old
Boris Karloff to Dario Argento."
"I got into EC Comics
about two years ago," Woolfe continues. "It surprised me how
shockingly modern in their sensibilities they seemed. And that leads to the
whole censorship fight too, because they were successfully banned by the
American Senate. It got to the point that it was illegal to have comic books
with the words strange, weird and terror in them. All of
these adjectives were struck out, so eventually EC had to fold. I guess this
show is my off-handed tribute to them -- those poor bastards!"
tribute" doesn't conclude Woolfe's association with the bizarre subjects
more often associated with high-budget effects and computer animation. His next
show, in which he will co-star with Mary Francis Moore, is a love triangle
between "an over-educated office worker, a trapeze artist and an ancient,
director] Michael Waller is directing another show I've written, called Grendelmouse,
which is for two actors and puppets," Woolfe explains before launching into
the stranger-than-fiction account of his inspiration for the play.
"I was living in an
apartment that was rundown but pleasant. Then the superintendent died and
suddenly there were cockroaches everywhere and a mouse -- a mouse I couldn't
kill! I set every sort of trap, but I couldn't defeat it. I even bought a glue
trap. The mouse stepped in it, and I swear to God it looked down at the glue and
looked up at me and smiled.
"Then, rather than
chewing its foot, it crawled across the floor -- snickering to itself -- and it
squeezed under the fridge and the trap got stuck. It removed the trap from its
foot using the fridge as a lever. I decided it must have been alive for a
hundred years and it was definitely smarter than me." - JH