Back from the Dead: Remakes of the Romero Zombie Films as Markers of Their Times 

By Kevin J. Wetmore, Jr.

(2011) pgs 110-112

Another version, interestingly termed "Translated by" Leon Shanglebee, was directed by Christian Levatino at the Stella Adler Theatre in Los Angeles in 2006 and produced by the Gangbusters Theatre Company.  Shanglebee wrote in the program, "You're about to see suspense, tension, drama, blood, terror, violence and death....I kept all the juice from the movie and added a couple of things only a true fan would ever notice....This is a horror play based on a movie."  By identifying the production as a "horror play," Shanglebee indicates the production's intention to remain horror and not turn camp, while still acknowledging the transition from one medium to another (which is, perhaps, what Shanglebee means by "translated by").

The play was performed on one of the stages at the Stella Adler Theatre, with two television monitors showing "live video feed" from outside the house.  As the audience watched the play from inside the house, they could also watch the dead slowly surrounding the outside of the house on the television monitors.  The noises of the living dead knocking on walls and windows was matched by the video feed of the dead (backstage presumably) pounding their fists on the walls.  The images suggested nothing so much as video feed from security cameras.  The monitors also played the televison news reports as the characters within the farmhouse watched them.  The overall effect was to further mediate the experience very different from Squonk Opera or Bug Theatre.  Whereas Squonk performed other things in front of the original film, and Bug employed previously filmed footage in order to provide the backstory for the live action the audience was about to see, Gangbusters presented live action mediated through video.  What was appearing on the televisons was also happening live in the theatre at the same time.  The audience received a mediated version of live performance, not a recording of a performance given previously in a cemetary or a studio.  Gangbusters preserved the liveness of the event, in Philip Auslander's sense, but mediated it, simulating how we now experience catastrophe: as it happens, but through a televison.

Leon Shanglebee also wrote, "So sit back and watch seven people fuck up any chance of survival."  The emphasis in this case, without the zombies in the audience as Ohm had, was on the humans falling apart within the farmhouse.  We see live on television what happens outside the house as we also witness the destruction of everyone within the house.  In a sense, this is a stage Night for post-9/11 theatre.  Just as America watched things happen on television and worried it might also be happening right outside the window, this Night played with the mediation of crisis and the direct experience of crisis, and how it lead to catastrophe within the home.  Again, though, the overall sociophobics of Night were lost in the translation to the stage.  The experience echoed the experience of 9/11 and perhaps was informed by the experience of 9/11, but was not a comment on or an exploration of 9/11 as horrific experience.  This Night was not about what frightened us, it simply tried to startle or shock the audience into fear using techniques that made the events on stage seem as real and horrific as possible to a 2006 audience.

Squonk Opera created a self-aware, meta-cinematic live Night by interacting with the film itself.  Ohm and her company attempted to recreate a black and white film on stage.  Gangbusters attempted to create a straight horror play through the use of video and live action to recreate a catastrophe that was both mediated and experienced.  Other groups, however, reject an attempt to create explicit horror in favor of camp or humor, and still others attempt to blend horror and camp, recognizing the challenge in making a live Night effective as straight horror.

© 2021 by THE GANGBUSTERS THEATRE COMPANY. 
 

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