By Marcy Stamper
Combine vampires, a British lord, and an innocent young maiden, mix in the wisdom of common folk and evocative sound effects, and you begin to get a sense of what Madcap Melodrama creates.
The Merc Playhouse’s new Artistic Director Ki Gottberg is bringing her Seattle-based troupe of accomplished actors – all experienced voice-over artists – to The Merc on Saturday (Oct. 5) to present an audio play entitled The Vampire, or The Bride of the Isles.
The play is Gottberg’s 21st-century adaptation of a popular 19th-century melodrama set in the Scottish Hebrides. “It’s kind of a throwback and very modern at the same time,” said Gottberg.
Seeing The Vampire will be like being inside the radio for a broadcast of a radio drama. “You can close your eyes and just listen, or watch the actors perform it,” said Gottberg.
While the play will not be traditionally staged, there will be movement and theatrics as the performers employ props to produce all the sounds in the drama. Actors wield an array of devices to create the sounds, including pitchers of water, hand bells and cans of whipped cream.
“I find it fascinating to watch voice actors work,” said Gottberg. “You’re not aware of their bodies – they do it all with their voice. It’s a different kind of experience for the audience.” She said many people may be familiar with audio dramas from the long-running National Public Radio show A Prairie Home Companion.
Gottberg said she has always been interested in melodrama for its exaggerated contrasts of themes like good and bad and morality and evil. “It’s like watching reality TV or reading trashy magazines,” she said.
Characters tend to be stereotypical as well, but the actors bring depth to them through their own personalities and their choices about how to portray them, said Gottberg.
The Vampire (which involves some audience participation) will also be recorded, incorporating the audience’s reactions. Gottberg hasn’t decided what she’ll do with the recordings, but is thinking about creating an archive of the Madcap performances.
The Merc’s production will be almost a premiere – the inaugural theater piece by the Madcap Melodrama troupe was performed for Seattle audiences last week and is coming to Twisp for one more performance this weekend.
The Vampire is a benefit for The Merc, part of a campaign to raise money for a new lighting system. The play begins at 7 p.m. at The Merc Playhouse in Twisp. Admission is $15 for adults and $5 for those 18 and under. The play is recommended for ages 12 and above.