Feature and Photo Essay by Venus Zarris
For four years now, WildClaw Theatre has created one of the year’s premiere theatrical events. Just in time to offset the sickening holiday hype, WildClaw presents something sickening in a good way. They deliver an evening of fresh horror through an old-school milieu. Early in the year they put out an international call for horror scripts. They sift through the submitted terror to find the best of the scares and then they wrangle some of Chicago’s finest theater talent to direct and act out these tales of the supernatural. The result is DEATHSCRIBE; an evening of staged radio plays complete with foley artists, hilarious radio commercials for their generous sponsors, music provided by the brilliant band Seeking Wonderland and special torturous treats to round off the madness.
One might not think that watching a cast of performers deliver stories into microphones could be all that entertaining, much less scary, but WildClaw proves that digging into this art form of the past unearths unexpected charm and tension from these original scripts. Whenever you require an audience to imagine a part of the story, you draw them in deeper. The fear becomes personal, as it is happening in our heads. The exigent suspension of disbelief required for staged horror is replaced with the dark recesses of our own minds. We are taken to places that are foreign yet familiar and we give in to the gallows humor and grim realities of these fearfully realized fabrications.
DEATHSCRIBE is not just an evening of frightening fun, but it also a competition. The playwrights lucky enough to be produced represent the finalists vying for the coveted BLODDY AXE AWARD. The plays featured this year, on December 5 at the Mayne Stage Theater, created an outstanding variety of creepy goodness.
LEGACY – Written by Christopher Hainsworth & Directed by Carolyn Klein – Featuring: Ann Sonneville, Tom Hickey & Ira Amyx
When a sinister spell is substituted for reconciliation, a father and son reunion proves that family bitterness and dysfunction can run much deeper than anything Dr. Phil could even begin to handle.
ENTITY – Written by Thomas J. Misuraca & Directed by Manny Tamayo – Featuring: Zack Bloomfield & Eric Roach
Playwright Thomas J. Misuraca presents the evening’s most concise example of horror and arguably the most effective when a reporter visits a child killer to get the scoop on a story and finds himself drawn into something evil and frighteningly supernatural. Missed by the judges,ENTITY was by far this year’s most powerful example of the fear that can come from a simple story delivered without frills.
FALLING APART – Written by Matthew George & Directed by Audrey Francis – Featuring: Connor Woods, Elizabeth B. Murphy, Melissa Riemer & Kevin Mullaney
Road trips can make or break relationships. FALLING APART takes that test to the extreme when a couple gets lost on a Texas road… “You don’t know each other enough to be a feared of your togetherness.”
ALABAMA MERMAID – Written by Jessica Wright Buha (inspired by a true story) & Directed by Carolyn Hoerdemann – Featuring: Casey Cunningham, Kennedy Greenrod, Steve Herson, Erin Myers, Mallory Nees, Michaela Petro & Sadie Rogers
When a child is lost to the backwaters of Alabama, his mother will stop at nothing to get him back. Desperate for her child, she is pulled under and into a murky curse of perpetual loss and carnage.
In the evening’s most complex and masterfully imagined production, director Carolyn Hoerdemann and her gifted ensemble took this bewitching script and brilliantly created a beguiling musical account; mixing gospel, bluegrass and blues to hauntingly evoke the sirens, spirits and specters, thereby realizing a heartbreakingly gruesome and musically marvelous lullaby of death.
THE DARK MUSE – Written by Colin Johnson & Directed by Kimberly Senior – Featuring: John Byrnes, Andrew Swanson, Jeremy Glickstein & Tom Hickey
When a writer looses inspiration, he need only look out his window to find a sinister revelation. Terrible things are happening in the apartment across the way and when curiosity gets the better of him, he learns that “pain opens the mind.”
DEATHSCRIBE 2011 was replete with exceptional performances and uniquely macabre morsels. Wonderful musical interludes, a hysterically spooky holiday poem, and some delightfully dark shtick kept the evening moving between plays and as we waited for the judges ballots to be tabulated.
The final verdict came in with THE DARK MUSE taking third place, FALLING APART taking second and ALABAMA MERMAID winning the “Best of Fest.” When playwright by Jessica Wright Buha accepted the BLOODY AXE, she shared the inspiration for the story to be an actual account of mermaids being blamed for the disappearance of a child.
Once again, WildClaw Theatre’s DEATHSCRIBE proved that “theater is more fun with blood and monsters.” They define themselves as “Real People telling Scary Stories because it’s in our Blood” and Chicago is lucky to have their wickedly sensational talent and fiendishly grotesque vision.
For more information about WildClaw Theatre and their upcoming season visit …