NIGHT IN ALACHUA COUNTY – Q&A with Playwright Jennifer Rumberger
NIGHT IN ALACHUA COUNTY playwright and Florida native Jennifer Rumberger got cozy with us for a moment about her own history with horror and why she loves to share a scare.
What got you into this horror thing?
I grew up as the oldest of six siblings, so my favorite thing was wielding my powers for evil. One Halloween all my sisters went as Disney princesses and I went as Death and the neighborhood kids would cry. It’s really kind of delightful how fun it is to scare people. I grew up in Florida where scary stuff was just part of a normal day. When I was in fourth grade, I remember there was a serial killer at the University of Florida, and people would talk about it every day. We would be doing our multiplication tables and sitting there thinking about it. There was just an undertone of scary stuff happening all the time that’s become part of my writing today.
Things are really horrifying in the world right now, why tell a horror story?
It’s so weird where we are right now. There’s an undercurrent of anxiety that I find goes into everything – watching and reading dystopian stories hits so close to the bone now that the fear becomes less fun and more real. I think horror stories in some way separate us from that – scary stories involve people who fight monsters and ghosts and concrete manifestations of our fears. If Sigourney Weaver can fight an giant alien and a bunch of kids can fight a evil clown in IT, it both helps us channel our anxieties in a really fun and satisfying way, and on another level, it’s a reminder that we can be really brave too.
What’s the scariest thing you’ve created so far?
I did a play a few years ago with the Living Room Playmakers where we each wrote a play for a different floor in this huge mansion in Rogers Park. My play was set in the basement which was dark, cold, and full of spiderwebs, and I played a bride who was the last survivor of the apocalypse. We built huge piles of crosses from splintered wood, and I wore a burned up wedding dress. Our audience had to go down to this creepy basement and they get there and see this deranged bride sitting in a mammoth pile of wooden crosses, talking to herself. I was pretty proud when that freaked people out as much as it did.
So what really scares you?
I went camping in Canada last year in the middle of this huge national park, and around 8:30 or so everything would get pitch black, there were no other people around, no other sounds or campfires or light, just really overwhelming darkness and quiet. It’s so scary not to be able to see beyond a flashlight, knowing there was all kinds of things out there. I’m scared of the dark, okay? I said it. There it is. I’m also scared of bears, and don’t understand why that’s not more of a thing; they live in the woods, they can eat you at any time, and everyone is super casual about it. I watch videos of bears chasing people on the internet just to remember to be aware at all times.