Just in time for Halloween, Brainerd Community Theatre is presenting the chilling ghost play ‘The Woman in Black.’ Performances in the Chalberg Theatre will be at 7:30 p.m. on October 26-28, with an additional 2 p.m. matinee on the 28th.
Adapted for the stage by Stephen Mallatrat from the Gothic horror novel by Susan Hill, the play has become a favorite of London’s West End for nearly three decades. Its run in London makes it the second-longest running production in that city’s history, behind Agatha Christie’s ‘The Mousetrap.’
The play is written for two actors and a nearly-bare stage. Taking on the acting duties for this production will be Brainerd Community Theatre Director Patrick Spradlin and well-known area actor Kevin Yeager. In an interview with the two actor the play, the process of production, and their experience with the material came to light.
Q: Why ‘The Woman in Black’?
Spradlin: We’ve had Halloween-time productions before: ‘Macbeth’, ‘Dracula,’ ‘The Rocky Horror Show,’ and ‘Jack the Ripper.’ We know our audience appreciates a good scare at that time of year, so we chose this play. We’ll do more in the years ahead.
Yeager: This ghost story, being told on dreary late October nights will surely bring many of us back to our childhood. We can all recall a moment, alone, in a dark house on a cold night being scared to death by what might be lurking just out of sight. It is always what you can’t see that is truly horrifying.
Q: What’s the story of the play?
Spradlin: An older man hires a stage actor to coach him in how best to tell a story. The story deals with true events in the older man’s life, where he encountered a really horrifying spectre. This is a sort of play-within-a-play. It takes place on the stage of a theatre, with minimal props and costuming.
Yeager: Most plays rely heavily upon writing and acting to bring the story to life. This one is a little different, sensory effects carry the weight of this dramatic experience. ‘The Woman in Black’ clearly has great writing, and I humbly suggest great story telling by actors, but I really feel it will be the sound, lighting and stage effects that will have people talking.
Q: Since this is a two-actor play, have there been special challenges in working on it?
Yeager: This is the smallest cast I have ever been a part of and I must say, I am thoroughly enjoying the experience. The smaller cast seems to be making the rehearsal process more streamlined. I am also used to a director sitting in the house and offering input, this show is a departure from that format. I am now on the stage with the director who is also engaged with his own character and acting responsibilities, so there has been less directorial input. The dynamic isn’t necessarily better or worse, just different.
Spradlin: I have the advantage of having already done this show some years ago. It was with Eric Steen, another really fine actor. Working with Kevin, who is a great talent in his own right, has been a really fun experience. I find as actor/director I don’t need to guide him as much; he comes with great acting instincts, and he does his preparation so thoroughly. We’re sort of like two jazz musicians playing riffs and improvising off one another. It’s a terrific chemistry. My biggest challenge is trying to match his level of performance. Now that’s a huge task!
Q: Who else is involved in the production?
Spradlin: Our design team for ‘The Woman in Black’ consists of George Marsolek, who designed the scenery; Dawn Marks as costume designer; and Ben Kent designed lighting. There is a special guest as part of the cast. And, I’ve been very fortunate in having local photographer John Erickson record in images the rehearsal process and the final production.
Q: What would you say to anyone who may come to see ‘The Woman in Black’?
Yeager: I anticipate (with some trepidation) the upcoming addition of hundreds of technical aspects that are all relied upon heavily for the story to be told. That may prove to be the biggest challenge. The team at BCT is top shelf. I have no doubt this will be an amazing production. ‘The Woman in Black’ is a good old fashioned ghost story. Please consider coming, and be prepared to leave in an altered state!
Spradlin: One interesting feature of this production is that we’re using the sound effects that are used in the London production. That adds so much more to the play. This play is a lot of fun to produce, but it is a lot more fun to witness from the audience. It’s scary without being graphic, spooky and atmospheric enough to keep your attention riveted to what may happen next. It’s a play that anyone may enjoy, regardless of age or experience attending live theatre. Come have some Halloween fun!
Tickets for ‘The Woman in Black’ are available from CLC Theatre Box Office at (218) 855-8199, or online at www.clcmn.edu/arts
This production is sponsored by Jennifer and Isaak Anderson. The entire CLC Performing Arts Center season is made possible in part by an operating grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.