Friday, October 17, 2014

Life among the living dead

Chris Oneisom and Jennifer Creamer pose in zombie makeup before taking the stage for “Night of the Living Dead.”




LYNN HAVEN — They may have been coming to get Barbara, if you recall the old movie line, but the living dead I hung out with last Friday were mostly just ... walking.

Oh, they hissed and moaned. They growled from time to time, and pounded on the walls. And if a couple fought off smiles as they shuffled and limped behind the windows of the set, that might be expected.

I was invited to perform among the legion of the living dead as a “celebrity guest zombie” at the opening night of Kaleidoscope Theatre’s presentation of “Night of the Living Dead.” Before the double feature started, I signed some of my books for unsuspecting readers in the lobby, but as soon as “Hecate Hill” began — the first play of  the night’s show — I headed for the makeup room.

(The plays continue each weekend through Oct. 26, and I will be signing books before each Friday show.)



I was excited to participate. I’ve done one other community play in my adult life — Shakespeare By The Bay’s “Othello” in 2006 — and for the first time had a role that might not exceed my acting ability, which is best described as lifeless and monotone.

Daniel and his clown.
Daniel Gehrken, who also designed the promotional posters for the plays, spent about an hour finger-painting my face in shades of gray, blue and purple, before dripping blood from my eyes and smearing bloody handprints on my T-shirt. He said there was no extra charge for the face massage.

Some of the other zombies in the mob had neat prosthetic appliances that gave them the look of terrible injuries. Others had specific costumes — a cheerleader, a Girl Scout, a prom queen — and some, like Jennifer Creamer’s “bride” character, had both.

Daniel pronounced me an evil clown zombie, which made fellow zombie Madison Leighann Googe order me not to look at her. She had no difficulty stalking about with a zombie baby tearing its way through her abdomen, but she drew the line at evil clowns.

Zombie Master Chris Oneisom (or as I like to think of him, “He Who Walks Behind The Sets”) paired me with a zombie buddy, Juliet, who showed me how to shamble and indicated that there would be various times during the play when we would be expected to be louder, or quieter, depending on what else was happening on stage.

Juliet, at right.
When she sat and hid, I sat and hid. When she pounded on the walls, I pounded on the walls. When she got out of the way of starring performers running through, I got confused and almost run over.

Twice, while lurking in the background, zombies whispered to me that I could take a break by dragging myself off-stage for some water and air if I needed it. I took that to mean my makeup was impressive enough to fool the other zombies into thinking I was in a state of advanced decomposition — or at least, I looked like death warmed over.

None of this could help me in the closing dance routine, however. The best I could manage was to look befuddled, which is how I tend to look whenever anyone suggests dancing.


(Rest in) Peace

Ramona Hagan, left, won the grab-bag giveaway at Kaleidoscope Theatre in Lynn Haven last Friday. A season-ticket patron, she was sitting in the seat number randomly chosen by the author, shown in his zombie makeup. She received a graphic novel, DVD, comic book, paperback, and a copy of my collection of zombie short stories, “Tales of the Awakening Dead.”
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