There’s a chill in the air and All Hallows’ Eve is upon us. Whether you’re a fan of gory horror or you’re just looking for a spooky story, these playwrights know the way to send shivers down your spine. Faculty member Kirk Lynn (Fixing King John, Effective Magic) gives us his five favorite hair-raising, skin-crawling, bone-chilling plays to help you celebrate the season.
1. Dracula by Steven Dietz from the novel by Bram Stoker
Mysterious, gloomy castles and open graves at midnight are just two of the Gothic devices used to chilling effect in this 19th-century horror classic that turned an obscure figure from Eastern European folklore into a towering icon of film and literature.
Lynn: “My friend Steven Dietz’s killer adaptation of the classic. It gets done here, there and everywhere so it feels like wherever I go around Halloween, my friend is nearby. It’s a wild and wonderful text. And no bad guy is sexier than the Count.”
2. Seventy Scenes of Halloween by Jeffrey M. Jones
A quirky, inventive, and fun play in which time is out of joint as married couple Jeff and Joan contend with ghosts, beasts, and witches banging on their windows, wafting through their rooms, and wielding butcher knives.
Lynn: “This is a master work. More people should memorize it and learn. Composed of 70 scenes that can be rocked in any order…it really unfolds how the scariest thing in human life lies within us.”
3. Grand-Guignol: The French Theatre of Horror (Exeter Performance Studies) by Richard J. Hand
The Théâtre du Grand-Guignol in Paris (1897-1962) achieved a legendary reputation as the ‘Theatre of Horror,’ a venue displaying such explicit violence and blood-curdling terror that a resident doctor was employed to treat the numerous spectators who fainted each night. Indeed, the phrase ‘grand guignol’ has entered the language to describe any display of sensational horror.
Lynn: “Did you know this was once the most popular art form in the world? The shock-laden grand guignol. We should all study the dramatic form through acid attacks and marauding savages.”
4. Far Away by Caryl Churchill
Far Away opens on a girl questioning her aunt about having seen her uncle hitting people with an iron bar. Several years later, the whole world is at war – including birds and animals. The girl has returned to her aunt to take refuge and begins to describe her journey: “There were piles of bodies and if you stopped to find out there was one killed by coffee or one killed by pins, they were killed by heroin, petrol, chainsaws, hairspray, bleach, foxgloves, the smell of smoke was where we were burning the grass that wouldn’t serve…”
Lynn: “No play starts more simply…a young girl can’t sleep because she hears a noise…and then the destruction of the world unfolds from there.”
5. Effective Magic by Kirk Lynn
A group of teens grow up suffering under the dark magic of being born poor in a small town in Texas. One girl must battle an evil stepfather who’s enchanted mom, driven off her true dad, and won’t stop harping on how his step-daughter should make more of an effort with her looks. A young man must fight his monstrous dope-smoking older brother who punches anyone who won’t sits in his spot on the couch. And the twins have to find a way to break the spell of depression and anxiety that’s ruining their mother. Together these teens form a coven, there only spell book, the self-help masterpiece: Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Can they learn enough magic to survive a showdown with the local bully, Marco, and reach the required escape velocity to get out of town and meet the actual world? No one they know has ever done it before.
Lynn: “I took a stab at writing an ode to the costumes we ear and what transformation looks like. A group of four teens decide to escape their town through magic. Unfortunately, their only spell book is Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People…”