Spotlight on Horror, WildClaw Theatre
Some plays make you laugh, some plays make you cry, but WildCaw Theatre is a young company dedicated to scaring the hell out of you. Founded in 2007, WildClaw Theatre has produced three full-scale plays and two festivals of new ten-minute radio plays all united around the single, but deceptively multi-faceted, world of horror.
"Horror can mean all kinds of things," waxes Artistic Director Charley Sherman, "The Jacobeans, Seneca, Macbeth, the Greeks...One of the things about horror theater is that it can scare people with ideas too. You can have a subversive text that can provoke people...in a scary way."
Sherman has been drawn to the horrifying from an early age, and you can hear the smile in his voice when he admits, "monsters have always fascinated me. When I was a kid I wrote a lot of horror stories. I'd read them aloud to try to scare the class." In a modern context however, where the horror movie is such a concretized concept, the idea of "horror theater" may strike some as a little out of place. Sherman acknowledges many people's first reaction to the idea of horror theater is, "‘Really? Can you do that? Onstage?'" But for WildClaw, the excitement is the "heightened potential for creating fear in the theatre, when it's live."
Audiences are responding, and they're not just the typical theater-goers. The Horror Community, says Sherman , "is not really served very well—looked down on, even," and WildClaw is changing that. In two years their annual DEATHSCRIBE festival has performed ten original ten-minute radio horror plays for over 600 people, and has hosted readings and local musicians as well.
Interestingly, while performing horror plays may bring with it a kind of built-in audience of horror fans, it also brings with it the weight of specific expectations for the genre. "People are going to be expecting to see violence, and some kind of gore...," Sherman trails off. "We have a difficult job: to entertain all these people who expect to be entertained in a horror way." The most important task, then? "Get the story right."
These stories, like the genre of Horror itself, have varied widely. From classic literary horror stories like Sherman's own adaptations of Arthur Machen's The Great God Pan and H. P. Lovecraft's The Dreams in the Witch House, to the Midwest premiere of company member Scott T. Barsotti's modern relationship Zombie Drama The Revenants , WildClaw continues to find exciting and underappreciated works of horror. "We prefer to do plays that haven't been seen that much," Sherman says, "and we're always looking for source material."
This year they're gearing up for a world-premiere stage adaptation of Legion , William Peter Blatty's sequel to his rather more famous novel The Exorcist . Does the company every feel restricted by the Horror label? Sherman insists not, "We limit ourselves, sure, but that's the idea...we know who we are and what we want to achieve."
To learn more about WildClaw Theatre, visit their website, read their blog, follow them on Twitter or become a fan on Facebook.
You can read more of Theatre In Chicago contributor Benno Nelson's writing at The@er (http://the-at-er.blogspot.com)
Read the other articles in Benno Nelson's "Full Storefrontal" series that focuses on small theatre companies around Chicago on the Full Storefrontal page.
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