As a special treat for opening night, Tony St. Clair, Motel 666’s story-collecting Clerk, shares some of his unique experiences with motels and horror, with a bit of humor thrown in to keep you on your toes.
How have motels played a role in your life?
I have a lot of familiarity with motels, good and bad. I’ve driven across the country a few times, and also had jobs where I would be on the road for weeks. The best motel experiences always involve being with someone and sharing some crazy experience. The worst? Easy. It was the time I was booked into the room above the strip bar where I was doing a stand-up comedy show. The room itself looked like it was designed by a San Quentin ex-convict whose idea of “fancy” was wood paneling and magic fingers bed massagers, with a padlocked phone, and a toilet with loose change in the bowl. Fifteen cents, I think. And “Little Red Corvette” on repeat for four hours, playing at wall-shaking volume in the bar, which was located beneath the floor right below my bed. Strippers love Prince. So do I. But not that song. Not anymore.
Do you consider yourself a horror fan? What is your favorite genre of horror?
I consider myself a fan of great writing and movies, and definitely lots of examples of horror fall into that. Edgar Allan Poe is one of my favorite writers, and he pretty much forged the genre of horror (and mystery). I love Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist, The Thing, and many more classic films in the oeuvre. And I love OTR radio shows like Lights Out and Inner Sanctum.
What was the first time you encountered horror in entertainment? Was it a book, a movie, a play or something else?
My first exposure to horror came when I was young, and my Mother would watch “Night Gallery with Rod Serling”, or at least the first five minutes, then she would get me out of bed to keep her company during the show. I think that explains the insomnia I suffered most of my life. I can still see the twisted, silently screaming faces, the dark art gallery with spot-lit paintings, and Serling intoning about the terror that awaited you in that Chesterfield cigarette-stripped baritone of his.
Does acting in a horror piece present any unique challenges or opportunities? Have you done any horror theatre before, or is this your first time? What is your favorite part about being in a horror piece?
For me, the great thing is that horror works best when it’s presented as any other scene, except sometimes with more blood and occasional screaming. The closer to reality in the acting, the closer to vicarious horror for the audience, in my book. Of course, some scenes require heightened emotions and styling, but so do many great examples of “straight” theatre. That’s the great challenge for my role in this show; playing a believable character that is still off-center enough to be disturbing, without being an archetype. This is my first foray into “horror” theatre, and I love it. It’s a great opportunity to play that spectrum of experience you seldom get to access or exhibit.
If you could take on any role in any horror tale what would it be and why?
If I could play any horror role, it would have to be Frankenstein’s Monster. The layers of pain, and anger, and bewilderment, and when those emotions occur, and how intense, and the physicality of awakening with a different body, all of those sensations would be the most challenging and terrifying notes to play in front of an audience. Every performance would be slightly different, since you would be responding to whatever stimuli gives you the richest emotional vein at the moment.
What is the one thing that scares you the most?
Madness terrifies me. Things that jump out at you in the dark are momentarily shocking, but it’s psychological damage that is the biggest fright. Carnival of Souls, Jacobs Ladder, The Tell-Tale Heart, The Yellow Wallpaper, Gaslight and other creations still bother me.
And Little Red Corvette.