Today we’re channeling the spirit of Kevin Theis, director of Steve Baldwin’s “Please Stand By.” In addition to returning for the THIRD TIME as a Deathscribe Director, directing Lifeline’s runaway hit production of “Monstrous Regiment” and Festival Theatre’s “The Importance of Being Earnest,” Kevin just won an Jeff Award for Outstanding Ensemble with Irish Theatre of Chicago’s production of “The Seafarer.” We’ll be talking about how horror mirrors current events, demystifying sound design, and What Scares Him.
How has your relationship to horror changed since you became involved with Deathscribe?
This is my third year at the helm of one of these shows and what I love the most is how eagerly and vociferously the audience responds to something truly terrifying during the Deathscribe performances. Gasps of astonishment, cries of terror…that’s what theatre is all about, isn’t it? It forces you to look even harder for those moments in your show when you can make the audience jump out of their seats.
What excites you most about directing horror, compared to other genres?
Horror is much more visceral, and less apologetic about it, than straight theatre can be. You can pretend to cleave someone’s head from their body, eviscerate characters right in front of the audience, force people to face their greatest fears….and they thank you for it an clamor for more. It is an extremely rewarding genre to work in.
What in this script resonated most with you?
“Please Stand By,” is a very timely and resonant piece. Without giving much away, it involves the spread of a virus, played out in real time in the media. Nothing could possibly be more relevant than a story like that in our new age of Ebola panic. It plays directly into a fear that a lot of people are experiencing right now, taken to its logical, absurd conclusion. I can’t wait to show it to people.
How has Deathscribe changed your relationship to sound design as an artist and an audience member?
Sound is an under-appreciated discipline, without question. People notice the sets because…there they are. They notice the lighting because it guides the audience’s focus from scene to scene. But sound design is enigmatic. It calls attention to itself only when it really wants and needs you to pay attention to it. And really clever sound design can make or break a show, especially when you’re trying to build tension and suspense. And, of course, the WildClaw Foley artists are beyond compare. Endlessly creative, fantastically collaborative and fearless. I can’t wait to get started.
What have you learned from previous Deathscribes that you’re excited to use this time around?
When I first began working on these shows, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Was it radio theatre? Was it theatre disguised as radio? Is it a kind of aural/horror/reader’s theatre hybrid? The answer seems to be: All of the above. Deathscribe is what you make of it. There are no rules. Which is what makes it so fun.
What sound would you most like to see/hear performed in a Deathscribe piece?
I dunno. I’ve heard a lot. I’ve heard human heads split open and shoot deadly spores. I’ve heard grown men eaten by giant, flesh–eating fish. This year, I just want to sit back and see what’s in store.
Do you listen to any podcasts? What advice would you give a director about radio performance?
I listen to a LOT of podcasts, but they’re mostly political. The only “spooky” podcast I listen to with any regularity is “Welcome to Nightvale,” which is a wonderfully creepy, hilarious show. And I don’t know if I’m qualified to give any specific advice, other than to be very, very specific about what you want to hear from both your actors and your Foley artists. Being vague won’t provide you with the exact vomit sound you may be looking for.
What scares you?
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: There is nothing not scary about frogs. Horrible creatures.
Did I leave anything out?
I’ve got nothing to hide, so you can pretty much ask me anything. Well….except for what that smell is coming from my trunk. That’s none of your damn business.
We’ll make Kevin’s business OUR business when we see his take on Steve Baldwin’s “Please Stand By” on Monday, December 1st at the Mayne Stage Theatre!^_ _^ .~T~