DEATHSCRIBE X – A Few Words with Dan Finnen and Sarah Gise

For the first time in DEATHSCRIBE history, a writing team is up to claim the coveted Bloody Axe.

Originally hailing from Cincinnati, Ohio, Dan Finnen has been telling stories since the days when his only actors were Legos. Dan is passionate about writing, and he has authored countless stage scripts, screenplays, and short stories over the years. Dan is also hard of hearing, and in a strange twist of fate has initials that spell out “DEF.”

Sarah Gise is a company member at Interrobang Theatre Project, New American Folk Theatre, and Ensemble Studio Theatre in Los Angeles, where she won the LAWeekly Best Actress award for The Belle of Belfast in 2013. She can be seen at many film festivals around the country in the new film Halfway starring Quinton Aaron from The Blindside, which was awarded Best Feature at the Julian Dubuque International Film Festival. In February 2016, she performed the one-woman show The Amish Project with AtticRep in San Antonio, TX, and shortly after was invited to take the show to the Teatro Potlach FLIPT festival in Rome, Italy. She graduated from the University of Southern California (USC) with a BFA in Acting.

What additional projects do you have, previous or pending, that we can brag about for you?

Sarah and I are both working on a documentary together right now with my video company Polymyth Productions, but we’re not currently allowed to say much about it. Hopefully we’ll have some good news on that front in November! Otherwise, I’m currently editing my first novel Pharaoh of Chicago, which is a fantastical comedy about a young bookseller accidentally unleashing a disaffected teenage pharaoh from ancient Egypt upon the Windy City.

My next acting gig is a play with my company Interrobang Theatre Project, called For The Loyal by Lee Blessing. And Wildclaw’s own Josh Zagoren is in cast as well! That runs January 7th-February 4th. Also, as Dan mentioned, he and I are working on a documentary together for Polymyth Productions, and we will definitely release more details when we can!

How did you get into horror? What excites you most about writing horror, compared to other genres?

Growing up, I was so afraid of everything around me that I couldn’t even bring myself to watch Power Rangers because it was too violent. My imagination was always stuck in the world of the morbid and fantastical, and as I grew up I used that as a source of inspiration rather than fear. I love horror because it gives us a chance to face unimaginable terror and absurdity, then come out the other side.

What was the hook for you in this story? What came first, the story or the sound?

I’ve grown up with hearing aids my entire life, and I’ve always wanted to tell a story about the experience of having them. The squeal of feedback that a hearing aid can produce has always been evocative to me, so Sarah and I used that as a jumping off point. The radio play format is a unique opportunity of experiencing the loss/gain of sound through putting on and taking off a hearing aid, and we wanted to use that as the basis for much of the horror.

The sound! The squealing of hearing aids is so jarring. As Dan talked more and more about what it was like to have hearing aids growing up, I became fascinated by this world I really didn’t know much about. So I asked a million questions, and the story came to us pretty naturally throughout the discussions.

What do you consider the biggest challenge in writing for “radio,” compared to traditional theatre?

Clearly identifying when there is a jump in location or time is something that has to be clearly highlighted in radio plays to keep things from getting confusing. We’re spoiled with movies and plays, where the visuals can easily let people know when and where.

What sound would you most like to see/hear performed in a Deathscribe piece?

Ha! I’ve never thought about individual sounds like this. I really like cat meows. I don’t think there could ever be enough cat meows in a piece.

Do you have any advice for aspiring Deathscribes?

Find a writing buddy! Working with Sarah was great because we could sit and bounce ideas off each other, working our way towards the meat of a story. Writing is often a rather lonely experience, but something like Deathscribe is the perfect opportunity to team up with another creative and have fun.

Yep, what Dan said, get a writing partner! (also so you can steal their answers to interview questions….)

What scares you?

This is going to sound rather pretentious, but I genuinely fear mass societal change due to the onslaught of advanced technology like AI and even simple automation. What kind of world will we live in when machines can do everything better than people? This keeps me up at night. A simpler, more fun answer would be tornadoes, which I’m fascinated with, terrified of, have nightmares about, and really want to see in person.

Komodo Dragons. Those motherfuckers bite you and poison you and leave you to ROT, and then they come back and EAT YOU. NOOOOPE!

DEATHSCRIBE X will take place Monday, December 4th, at Lincoln Hall in Chicago. Click the link below for more information.
Dan Finnen
Sarah Gise