For some unfathomable reason unbeknownst to me, hordes of people every year willingly dish out hard-earned money for others to scare the living daylights out of them. Sure, a rush of adrenaline is often sought after by skydivers, ghost-pepper eaters and people playing the beloved childhood game red hands, but every year non-adrenaline junkies join the pack of Halloween horror. Don’t get me wrong, Halloween is my favorite holiday, but I have no desire to walk through cramped, elusively-lit hallways with spookily-clad actors screaming in my face.
Call me a downer, a total party pooper. I scare easily and hold my fear far too long. This is most notably exhibited in my “Ghost Hunters” days, when I would crouch on the floor in my living room watching the men of the T.A.P.S. organization try to antagonize spirits and supernatural phenomenon, my only company being the apathetic cat at my feet and my completely zonked-out dog in the other room.
I would assure myself, Animals are supposed to be more sensitive to supernatural phenomenon, so surely I will have some warning. Then, as I sit through about the third hour of creeping myself out, I remember the “666” spray-painted on the wall in my basement. My eyes bulge, I hear the foundation settling, I convince myself the show has summoned the spirits of the plethora of animals that have died at the house and I quickly turn the television off.
With perfect timing, my mother will call me and ask that I get some food item from the freezer in the basement. What do I do? Do I brave the cement pit under my house, where some sadistic past tenant spray-painted “666” on the wall and the words “Hail Satan”? Of course I do, because if I don’t, I will face the wrath of my mother, a far more fearsome outcome. People ask me why I run up staircases all the time, and I don’t have the will to tell them it’s an old habit from feeling like something was about to grab me and drag me into the pits of the underworld.
And as much as I regret the experience during each waking moment of it, I find myself still watching “Ghost Hunters” on occasion. In fact, I look forward to it. So what makes us seek out fear? What makes us keep doing things we know will scare us? I’m sure there is some psychological explanation, but for now, let’s just accept the norm.
So what will Gannon students do at Halloween this year? In past years, the honors theatre fraternity Alpha Psi Omega has put on a haunted house in the theatre. Breaking that tradition, this year they will feature a Play Fest of Fear. Incorporating various psychological thrillers and plenty of gore, the show will indulge numerous facets of horror, bringing the eerie to Erie.
“After some discussion with the faculty and staff of the theatre program, we noticed that the members of Alpha Psi Omega may be running dry with fresh ideas for the Stage Fright/Haunted Theatre. We were aware that there would need to be some adjustment in the event if it were to continue,” stated Fr. Shawn Clerkin, theatre professor and advisor of Alpha Psi Omega.
A unique aspect of the production is that it is completely student-driven. From student playwrights, actors and directors to student designers and technicians, it will be a showcase of the applicable knowledge coming from the School of Communication and the Arts.
I have been fortunate enough to have one of my scripts chosen to be a part of the show. At first, I was excited, then I started racking my brain for ideas. Then, of course, I did what anyone who has ever created something has done – I couldn’t fathom why anyone would like what I wrote. Following the notorious Jack the Ripper, the dark tale unleashes the brain of a sociopath onto the stage, unlocking insanity and twisted moralities for the audience to see. But even the darkest shadows of my literary brain create but a mere fraction of the written work involved.
The disturbing yet fascinating themes behind “They Want Blood” parallel the psychotic nature of “Jack the Ripper”, but does better to ravage the modern era’s brainwashed horror frenzy. Aaron Mook, junior Journalism and Communications major and playwright of “They Want Blood”, perfectly encapsulated the shock of having his work chosen with, “It’s crazy. I actually spit out coffee when I got the email. My first thought was, ‘This is incredible!’ And my second thought was, ‘I should have written something better!’” Well said, Mook. Well said.
But more than just us playwrights have realized the challenges of horror. “I have always wanted to participate in a horror production. I mean who doesn’t love a little gore and a lot of crazy? Gannon’s [Play Fest of Fear] is extra awesome because the students are so involved,” said Kendra Walker, freshman business major and portrayer of a gender-bent Jack the Ripper.
“The student playwrights have contemporary voices – those who blush, fright, or take offense easily should keep away. But for those who are intrigued by stories from the dark side, who are suspect of the evil that lies in the heart of humanity, who jump at creaks and thumps in the night…Stage Fright: Play Fest of Fear is for you!,” Clerkin adds.