Originally published on The Western Carolinian, written by yours truly!

Western Carolina University’s School of Stage and Screen is bringing a D.V. Caitlyn original play, “Zombies on Campus: A Slaughterpocalypse!” to life for the first time on Nov. 13.

While planning out the Stage and Screen 2013 – 2014 play schedule, and hoping to do something zombie-related, Caitlyn realized that there was very little that would work for the parameters of the second play of the year. They needed a large cast, and something that would fill John W. Bardo Fine and Performing Arts Center, which was difficult to find.

Caitlyn went to Thomas Salzman, director of the school of stage and screen and said, “I can spend hours and hours and hours looking for something that will fit our parameters and our needs, and we can maybe squeeze it here and pinch it there and maybe shove it in, or I can write something that is exactly what we need.”

Salzman agreed, and Caitlyn began working on the script.

“Zombies on Campus: A Slaughterpocalypse!” is not the first play that Caitlyn has written. He also wrote 16 full-length screenplays that have been optioned out for use in films in Los Angeles, some of which have won awards. He has also written a number of other plays, both one acts and full-length plays. His most recent play before “Zombies on Campus: A Slaughterpocalypse!” was titled “Capture” and received an excerpt publication in an Atlanta-based “Arts and Leisure” magazine last fall, but it was very different from “Zombies on Campus: A Slaughterpocalypse!,” according to Caitlyn. “Capture” is a psychological police procedural with a 9/11 tie-in that is very dark and very disturbing.

Caitlyn finished the first draft on the last day of this past Spring Break, and over the summer, he wrote and edited, but the play is very close to his original draft.

When asked why he chose zombies, Caitlyn responded, “If you want to try to interest people who wouldn’t normally want to go to a theater, you have to go to the most popular subject matters, in my opinion.”

Instead of doing a traditional, scary zombie play, Caitlyn decided to write “Zombies on Campus: A Slaughterpocalypse” as a farce, which is defined as a comedic work using buffoonery and horseplay to show ludicrously improbable situations. He chose to write it as a comedy because he loves comedy.

“It’s a challenge, it’s a skill set which actors have to have the ability in order to maximize the opportunity to work, you need to be able to do all kinds of things, whether it’s on stage, on camera, whatever,” said Caitlyn.

This improbable situation, in this case, takes place during a school’s rehearsal of “Macbeth.” Students are hard at work during a rehearsal when a zombie apocalypse breaks out. These zombies are not your traditional slow, stupid zombies – they’re described as having superhuman size and strength, similar to the zombies from the movies “I Am Legend” or “World War Z.”

In preparation for this play, the School of Stage and Screen brought in special effects makeup artist André Freitas of AFX Studios in Marietta, Ga. to do a workshop on Oct. 12. Freitas worked on movies, such as “Zombieland,” “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” and “X-Men: First Class,” so he was the perfect person to bring in to teach students how to do makeup for the play.

During his workshop, Freitas taught students some different techniques to doing zombie makeup using latex, prosthetics, makeup and a mix of all three. As a result, the School of Stage and Screen has now increased the makeup techniques that they are able to teach in the future, so it was a win for everyone.

One student makeup designer came up to Caitlyn after the workshop and said, “If you’d shown me the makeup before and said, ‘Do that.’ I’d have been freaking out, cause how do you do it?”

Caitlyn said that the workshop helped show the students that zombie makeup was nothing to be afraid of, that they could do it.

As Cullen Ries, one of the main actors, put it, “Audiences should expect to experience theater in a new way.”

Instead of having audience members sit in the theatre, Caitlyn designed the play so that the seating area is where the play takes place, with the audience seated in risers on stage. Caitlyn said he did this so that this performance is a completely different experience for everyone who has been to the theatre before.  He wants the audience “to have the experience, to know this is what it’s like to be onstage in a rehearsal for a play, and then suddenly another play breaks out.”

Audience members should be prepared to have cast members hand them things, interact with them and possibly grab them. There is no fourth wall for this performance, and the cast will interact with you. The stage will also not be dressed, in an attempt to make it similar to an actual play rehearsal.

Even though this is a zombie play, Caitlyn said that it is not a gory play, and that it only has one blood sequence in its entirety.

“It will have scary moments, but it’s not a gory play, and I know it’s gonna be a lot of fun,” said Caitlyn.

“Zombies on Campus: A Slaughterpocalypse!” will be performed nightly from Wednesday, Nov. 13, through Tuesday, Nov. 19, and are $7 if you pre-order them, which is highly recommended, as each showing can only seat 154 people. After that, student, faculty, staff and senior tickets are $10, and general adult tickets are $15.

Caitlyn reported if there are enough tickets pre-ordered to show enough interest, they will add more shows to the program in the style of a “Rocky Horror Picture Show” late night showing. For now, tickets can be purchased the Bardo Arts Center box office, online at FAPAC.wcu.edu or over the phone at 828-227-2479 for all shows.

As for what else audiences should expect, Ries said, “Come prepared to laugh hysterically, and you’ll leave the theater satisfied.”

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