Saturday, October 31, 2015

My idea for a can't-miss Halloween theatrical event

Neither Sissy Spacek nor William Katt are involved, unless they want to be.

Be part of the magic!
So I had this idea a few years ago for what I still think would be a really cool theatrical experience. I'd stop short of calling it a "play" because it's not quite that, though it would involve actors, props, costumes, a massive "set" (more on that later), and some ingenious practical effects. It's an immersive adaptation of Carrie, specifically based on the 1976 film version by Brian De Palma, and it's called Bates High Prom '76. De Palma renamed the high school in the story "Bates High" as one of the many, many, many Psycho homages he's made in his career. Anyway, Bates High '76 would not be staged in a traditional theater, but rather a gymnasium, VFW hall, or other large public space, possibly even a warehouse if need be.

The idea would be to recreate the prom from the movie as closely as possible. The venue would be decorated to look just like the gymnasium in the movie, complete with silvery stars hanging from the ceiling. We'd get real musicians to portray Vance or Towers, the band seen in the movie. They're the ones performing "Education Blues" in the background. I guess I'd also have them perform "I Never Dreamed Someone Like You Could Love Someone Like Me" and other tunes from the Carrie soundtrack. Mostly, they'd be playing mid-1970s Top 40 stuff all night. Ticket-buying attendees would be encouraged (not required) to wear either prom-appropriate clothing or 1970s-appropriate clothing. Both, if possible.

My actors would portray all the characters from the movie: Carrie White, Tommy Ross, Sue Snell, Billy Nolan, Miss Collins, and the ginger-haired super-villainess herself, Chris Hargensen. The prom would play out more or less in real time, and the actors would just be intermingled with all the other attendees -- not bothering people, you understand, just doing what they'd normally be doing under the circumstances. A lot of what they said and did would be scripted, but they'd have to improvise a lot, too. What would set the actors apart from the spectators is that the former would be miked and made up to look like the actors from the movie. How much of what a spectator hears during Bates High Prom '76 depends on his or her relative location and ability to notice details. If you attend the show, the story would be happening all around you: Carrie coming out of her shell, Miss Collins beaming from the sidelines, Chris and Billy rigging the election, etc.

And then... well, you know. You've all seen the movie by now, I hope, and you remember what goes down at the prom. Imagine living through it... or a safe simulation of it, at least. That's where practical effects, lighting, and sound come in. We'd have smoke machines, sprinklers going off, strobe lights, gallons of fake blood everywhere. It would be the most fun ever. Bates High Prom '76 is one of my many totally impractical ideas, and it probably wouldn't work in real life, but I'd like to give it a try sometime.  

UPDATE: My ever-reliable West Coast connection, Bob Blackburn, informs me that Carrie:The Musical is actually being staged in a manner similar to this in Los Angeles... to great reviews, no less! In a way, I feel justified. Maybe my ideas aren't as impractical as I'd thought. I'd love to see it. I think the only way to really do Carrie as a live show is to completely engulf the audience in the story and make them feel is if they are living it.