Kingston Whig-Standard
Saturday, October 21, 2011
by Greg Burliuk

Halloween is a time for ghosts, goblins and let's not forget the undead. The King's Town Players haven't, which is why they're remounting Night of the Living Dead with an army of zombies and buckets of blood.

It's being performed from Tuesday, Oct. 25 to Saturday, Oct. 29 at Convocation Hall.

Based on the 1968 movie of the same name, this year's production promises to be an upgrade of last year's, according to director Clayton Garrett.

"Last year we only had our rough draft with six weeks to go and we hadn't built our set," says Garrett. "It was a crazy six weeks but we got it up to about 90% of what we wanted. We only had a two-day run, though, and in Kingston audiences need time to find out about a play."

"At first we thought we'd just remount it but in the end it's pretty well a brand-new show."

Garrett and Kevin Fox wrote the script, which updates the original movie. A young couple visiting a cemetery is attacked by a zombie. When they retreat to their farmhouse, they discover through television reports that the undead have risen and are everywhere. The play starts on film with the couple in the graveyard and then switches  to the farmhouse on stage.

"We're both huge horror film geeks," explains Garrett. "Because there was a mess-up with the copyright in 1968, we were free to adapt. We read a couple of other adaptations but we thought we might as well do something that works for us."

Because it is a multimedia production and there was a need for a large number of zombies, a lot of people took part.

"We have 50 people involved," says Garrett. "There are nine cast members, about 15 involved in the TV reports and 20 zombies. A lot of people were interested in those parts."

"The show can be a bit creepy at times but it's not camp. It's funny at times but I told the cast they can't play it for laughs. They have take it as seriously as if they were doing Beckett."

Garrett had fun with the TV sequences.

"It's been my experience that whenever the media tells you to do something it's wrong," he says. "So in this case, when they tell people to stay put, it's wrong, or to move, it goes badly."

Of course, there's got to be blood here and lots of it.

"Yes, we have buckets of blood," admits Garrett. "But we found a good recipe on the Internet that's got detergent in it so it washes out of clothes easily. We mix it up in large quantities."

The play stars Natasha Grodzinski as Barbara and Adam Contant as Ben, the leader of the survivors. The other main actors are Grant Nalepa, Amie Bello, Matthew Davis and Jen Atkinson-Spencer. When the company was having auditions in a mall, Contant was literally rounded up as one of the passersby.

"He gave a great reading," says Garrett. "And the thing is he is a professional wrestler so he's used to taking slaps. There is a nice gentleness to him, though, which plays really well."

The King's Town Players have only been in existence just over a year but have been busy. They put on five shows last season and this  is their second one this season.

"I didn't realize it would be so much work," says artistic director Krista Garrett, Clayton's wife. "Part of the difficulty has been that we don't have a home but we've been really lucky because Adair Redish at Queen's has made space available to us."

"We've had several shows with short runs but after this one, we'll run at least two weeks so we'll have enough time to get momentum going."

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Essentials

What: The King's Town Players present Night of the Living Dead, based on the 1960s movie about the invasion of an army of zombies.

Where: Convocation Hall, inside Theological Hall at Queen's University, 85 Stuart St.

When: Tuesday, Oct. 25 to Saturday, Oct. 29 at 8 p.m.

Tickets: $20 for adults and $17 for students and seniors. Available at the Grand Theatre box office.

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