The Slippery Rock Theatre Department debuted two connecting director-written horror plays, “Dark North” and “Hungry Jane” this past week to SRU students, faculty and staff before the play goes to Scotland for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
The two plays, which were performed back to back, encompassed aspects of ghost hunting and ritual to portray themes of guilt, greed, and deceit.
“Hungry Jane” was the opening performance and focused on the bizarre occurrences encountered by a recent homebuyer. While settling in to her new home, owner Shirley is disturbed by a slew of paranormal incidents and calls in the help of a familiar ghost hunter, her ex-boyfriend Kyle. Upon his arrival, the two attempt to summon the ghost while battling out the kinks of their previous relationship. Lasting roughly 15 minutes, “Hungry Jane” ends leaving the audience questioning the psychological aspects of the metaphysical world.
A dimming of the lights and a quick set change lead into the showing of “Dark North,” a play that follows the fraudulent works of celebrity medium Daniel Dark North. Driven by an offer of $20,000, Dark North, who internally doubts his own ability, accepts to reach out to a deceased family member of the Zelthasuen family. Nervously arriving at the Connecticut home, Dark North and his assistant attempt to trick the family into believing contact has been made. The Zelthausen’s are not easily fooled and Dark North soon suspects the family may have ulterior motives.
Both plays were written and directed by Dr. David Skeele, who says the inspiration came from the controversy surrounding television medium John Edward.
“It was discovered that he was scamming the people on the show,” Steele said. “I started thinking about what would happen if a television medium got himself into hot water for that.”
Skeele says the plays were specifically written to be performed in Scotland at the theatre Fringe Festival, where Slippery Rock’s Theatre Department is known for putting on horror plays. The department has traveled to the festival a total of six times and has developed an audience who expects and loves the horror genre for which the university is popular for.
Production and planning for the two shows began as early as last semester as the students began to develop their characters while set and costume teams started working on scenery and outfits.
Joe Karl, who portrayed Daniel Dark North in the play, said a lot went into finding Daniel as a character. Karl says he spent a considerable amount of time watching television psychic mediums in order to realistically depict his role. Karl also said that while on stage it helps to imagine scenes of blood and gore to further sell the part.
“Imagining these gory murder scenes is kind of weird, but it’s somewhere you have to go,” Karl said.
Head costume designer, Alyssa Valentino, said that while planning, her staff utilized the kamikaze costume design method where articles are selected from previous productions by various staff members.
“We wanted the costumes to be modern, but we also wanted you to look at the family and know something was off,” Valentino said while she spoke of dressing the Zelthausen family for “Dark North.”
The team only made minor changes to the costumes they had on hand, such as throwing shirts in the dirt or rubbing articles on concrete to create a realistic distressed look.