Big Dawg Productions will continue their month of shows, all differing in scope and caliber each weekend through November 2. Artistic director Steve Vernon took on the Halloween Horror Festival to give a variety of appeal to audiences during Halloween. From featuring comedy to drama to even a kid-friendly show, the festival covers it all from mass hysteria to eating beds to zombie takeovers.
This weekend folks will get their laugh on as Comically Impaired—a troupe of comedians that held a weekly show at Bessie’s (now Ortons) for nine years before disbanding—will reconvene with short, 6-to-8 minute games that rely on audience suggestions. “Kind of like ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway,'” says Vernon, who also is a founding member of Comically Impaired. “We will be doing what we always do, which is to take suggestions—like a famous monster, a spooky location, etc.—and incorporating them into short improv. We’ll be putting an audience member or two in some games as well.”
After their bit, two locally written one-acts will take over the stag. Penned by Elaine Alexander and directed by Stephen Raeburn, “Die Zombie Die” and “Buyers Can Be Bloodthirsty” will continue with chills, thrills and laughs. A Wilmington native by way of Charlotte and Fayetteville, Alexander has produced one-acts comedies before in the Carolinas, Los Angeles and even Ecuador. Though she’s been an entertainment reporter for Freedom Magazine, her extracurricular creative work has garnered most attention, including first prize in the Two Leeches Theatre Festival in Denver, Colorado, and currently as a semi-finalist in the Festival of One Acts in Canton, Ohio.
We spoke to the UNC grad and member of The Dramatists Guild about her debut work at Cape Fear Playhouse this weekend.
encore (e): So, what are your one-acts about exactly and what was this inspiration to write them?
Elaine Alexander (EA): “Die Zombie Extra Die” is a Southern-fried satire that sends up the desperation of actors to get into the local film business, our current obsession with zombies and our absolute terror of ingesting anything containing gluten. [The show is about] a low-budget movie director casting a zombie film, who visits a small-town Southern thrift store. The owner, an aging, hard-luck actress pulls out all the stops to sell him on her acting flair and revive her dead career.
After reading the script, artistic director Steve Vernon told me, “Die Zombie Extra Die” is like “Dearly Departed” meets “Entourage.” (I really love this quote because it encapsulates it.)
e: Tell me about “Buyers Can Be Bloodthirsty”—your other one-act.
EA: Again this is another satire with a definite Southern accent. The number-one top-producing real estate agent, Jeanette Jenkerson, is eager to sell a home that’s been on the market for so long she think it’s cursed. When a Goth-garbed couple shows up—looking vaguely like vampires—Jeanette must decide whether to surrender to her fear or live up to her billboard reputation as a “Million Dollar Producer” and make that sale, even if it means risking her neck in more ways than one.
e: What spurred you to write them?
EA: The desperation and ego that goes with being an actor [inspired “Die Zombie Extra Die.”] There’s a lot of Lula Maes, whose careers never took off, but they never lose hope and they never turn down an opportunity to audition no matter how lame or how low it pays. You have to admire that kind of fortitude. She’s also Southern and a bit insane like so many of the characters I knew growing up in the wilds of Brunswick County as a teenager. And then there’s the whole zombie phenomenon, and I find zombies in their determination to not be defeated very funny.
Real-estate agents were the focus for “Buyers Can Be Bloodthirsty.” Their enthusiasm can be scary. And Goth people are frankly a little frightening looking if you grew up like I did in the South—surrounded by people who wear pastels.
e: Tell me a little about your love for playwriting.
EA: I have always been a professional writer and performed in local theatre. As an actor, I got tired of having to do the same monologues for auditions that every other woman my age was performing. (I would like to declare a temporary moratorium on the “Erin Brokovich” monologue where she confronts the corrupt lawyers.) And so I started writing my own. The response was so encouraging that I started to write more monologues and perform them, and that success led to writing plays.
There is nothing like seeing a creative director and a talented cast and crew bring your words to life. And unlike other forms of writing, you know when you are reaching them. You can hear the laughter and the applause—and you know your play is hitting its marks. It’s extremely gratifying to witness that.
Halloween Horror Festival
Oct. 9-12: A Frightfully Funny Night of Comedy, 8 p.m. or Sun., 3 p.m.
Featuring live improv from comedian troupe The Comically Impaired, followed by original comedic one-acts, “Die, Zombie, Extra Die!” and “Buyers Can Be Bloodthirsty” by local playwright Elaine Alexander.
Cape Fear Playhouse, 613 Castle St