Sunday, October 30, 2011

Question of the Week: What Are Your Spookiest Theater Memories?

When I was a kid, growing up in Pittsburgh, I saw what must've been one of the spookiest, most unsettling productions of Ibsen's Ghosts, ever, at Carnegie Mellon University. The audience sat upstage on bleachers facing the performers, who did the show downstage in front of a huge, empty auditorium. The floor of the stage was covered in dirt, which, by the end of the show, covered the actors, too. A life-sized dummy of each castmember was set at stage left, and at various times, actors would address the dummies instead of one another. As they became more unhinged, they became more expressive with one another's dummies than they were with one another. My stomach, which began to twist midway through the show, was in some of the most painful knots I can remember by the curtain call. Ghosts is a weird, creepy show as it is; this double weird, creepy production scared the bejesus out of me, and continues to haunt me every so often.

I don't think that it was until I saw Conor McPherson's Shining City, which ran on Broadway in 2006, that anything in the theater came close to scaring me as much as that CMU production of Ghosts did. But Shining City is not a scary play, per se. It just packs a terrifying, awesome punch at the end--one that that made me scream and my husband pee a little. I loved Shining City and its surprise ending, but Ghosts still takes the cake for me.

How about you? What is the scariest production, or moment, or scene, or character you've ever seen? What continues to haunt you after all these years of theatergoing? What tapped into your deepest, darkest fears? Happy Halloween, all. BOO!

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