GTPulse: Halloween Theatre With Old Town Playhouse

Arguably the best Halloween stories are ones from times past. In school, we always had to read Poe, Irving, and Lovecraft around this time and I never grew too old for their twisty tales and creepiness. Halloween may look and feel a bit different this year, but that doesn’t change any of the stories that make the ghoulish holiday fun. Get your creepy storytime fill and bones chilled with Old Town Playhouse’s Phantasms of a Fevered Imagination.

Volunteers Terri Heffron and Cherie Van Maanen have designed the show that consists of performed macabre genre poems and short stories. Macabre genre refers to any kind of ghastly or grim focused artwork. One being performed that you may be familiar with is The Masque of The Red Death by Edgar Allen Poe, where the Red Death is an illness plaguing a fictional country with a devil-worshipping prince at the helm. Executive Director Deb Jackson has her own creepy favorite.

“There’s one where this woman goes to the gravesite of her mother. She’s older and alone, and she’s trying to talk to her mother, asking ‘When can I join you?’ A Chilly Night, it gave me shivers when they were filming.”

The idea for the performance was originally to do a reader style theatre performance but Terri began to play with the idea of incorporating music into it.

“She reached out to another one of our volunteers Cherie, who is a professional musician at Interlochen and asked, ‘Would you compose some original music for this?’ and Cherie said certainly and took it to the next level herself and not only composed the music but performs it with what they call prepared piano.”

Prepared piano is when the sound is transformed by objects being placed within the strings. Everyday items can be used to alter a prepared piano’s sound, from forks to paperclips, each different item adds its own kind of twist on the sound. The piano’s keys and strings are both utilized in the performance, and not only are items being added into the piano for effect, but Cherie is also using a variety of different tools and mallets to extract delightfully creepy and unique sounds from the strings.”

“I think those things are called artificial harmonics within a prepared piano. You can do some cool things with it, like recreate the sound of rain. There are so many different elements of sound going on. So, you get this combination of wonderful, theatrical voices reading short stories and poems, and then you have this original music and extra sounds enhancing it. It really sets the mood, it’s wonderful.”

Because live theatre still isn’t an option, the show will be broadcast for free through the Old Town Theatre’s website and Facebook page. 

“Originally this was going to be a podcast, but then when it became this beautiful combination of the arts we paid to have it filmed. So we did that on Sunday and it will go live Friday night at 7. It will stay on our website and Facebook page for some period of time. So people can watch it twice, three times, as many times as they want. It was worth it to have it filmed, it really is so dramatic.”

The show is free to watch, but donations are accepted through the Facebook page and the website. 

“It’s just captivating. This may not be my favorite genre of literature but these really trained voices paired with this music in the background is just captivating. There’s no better word for it.”

Tune into the Old Town Playhouse’s Facebook page this Friday at 7 p.m. to experience some good old fashioned, Halloween storytelling with a dramatic twist.


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Categories: GTPulse