Elizabeth Birnkrant is back on the WildClaw stage after joining us in Deathscribe 2012! Elizabeth plays Karen, a survivor of the zombie apocalypse whose marriage is not falling apart…though her husband kinda is. We’ll be talking today about pseudo-horror, the magic of tech, and What Scares Her.
1) Do you consider yourself a horror fan?
At the risk of alienating anyone reading this… not really. I am (uncharacteristically) vanilla about horror. I get scared incredibly easily and tend to like pseudo-horror, like episodics about attractive teenage vampires. However, I am a huge WildClaw fan, and my experience working with the company is that it’s made up of some of the most generous, fun, and hilarious artists in the city.
2) What was your introduction to horror?
I remember being totally freaked out as a kid watching A Nightmare on Elm Street at a birthday party. I am still not good with any movie where things jump out unexpectedly. This past year I got (embarrassingly) hooked on some pseudo-horror netflix series about werewolves and vampires and teenagers making out in the woods (can you blame me?) and confessed the obsession to my friend Jake Carr, who is a legit horror fan (and, recently, filmmaker). He was so appalled by my choice of entry into the horror genre that he insisted I “man up,” and watch American Horror Story. I watched the first episode having to cover my eyes half the time, but am now completely addicted to the show.
3) Zombies: Fast or Slow?
Even I know enough to say slow.
4)How is creating a character for horror different than for other genres of storytelling? What lessons have you learned from this project that you’re excited to use in the future?
Well, as I write this we haven’t yet gotten to tech, where I think that most of the differences will come. Tech is always this hugely exciting time, in a production, because, as an actor, you’ve done about as much as you can on your own, and with the other actors, director, and playwright. And I know, for me, I usually feel stuck. Like there is more to do but I’m not quite sure where. And then you step into this three dimensional world where you get to interact with design – set, lights, sound, props, costumes, makeup. And each of the designers are telling part of the story for you, and it is hugely inspiring and suddenly you can do more, as part of a larger whole.
With horror the design elements are going to be that much more helpful, because they’ll bring things to life – like the danger from outside, or grotesque illness – that so far we’ve only imagined.
One of the things that I’ve found extremely challenging and also exciting about this production, which I haven’t had to work with as much before, is the imposition of external elements – like sickness, injury, danger from outside. These elements are external the way having to wear a corset is external – they are parts of the story that are not generated by the (obviously internal) psyche of the characters. So, in this production I got to do a lot of working from the “outside in” – seeing how the external elements changed how I felt and thought and what I wanted from my scene partners. This doesn’t only happen in horror, but in horror the external elements are so unusual that they can’t help but change you. I found this incredibly exciting, and it’s something that I’d like to play with more in the future.
5) What Scares You?
Rats. Falling down stairs and knocking out my teeth. Being kidnapped. Intimacy. Those girls from The Shining.
Come check out Elizabeth’s bravely intimate performance in The Revenants at The Athenaeum Theater through February 22nd!