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A scary play for the Halloween season

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Theatre Company of Saugus kicks off two weekend performance of Night of the Living Dead tonight

(Editor’s Note: The following story is based in part upon a press release issued this week by the Theatre Company of Saugus (TCS) and interviews conducted by The Saugus Advocate.)

  Saugus residents who enjoy watching horror films will be able to celebrate Halloween this year with a production of “Night of the Living Dead,” which will be performed by the Theatre Company of Saugus (TCS). The Oct. 31 matinee on Halloween is set for 2 p.m. and will also include a costume contest. Don’t worry, no one is competing against the play’s Zombies! The performances will be October 29-31 and November 5-7, 2021 – Friday and Saturday performances at 8 p.m. with matinees on Sundays at 2 p.m.

  The play by Lori Allen Ohm is based on the classic 1968 groundbreaking film of the same name by George Romero and John Russo. This is the theatre’s first mainstage production that is being performed live and in person at the American Legion Post 210 in Saugus since February 2020.

  Similar to the film, it’s 1968 and a mysterious radiation has turned the dead into flesh-eating zombies. The play focuses on seven people trapped in a farmhouse who are trying to deal with the impending doom from the attacking zombies and trying not to get on each other’s nerves too much and survive the night.

  The show is directed by Sean Perry and Matthew Garlin – who have both participated behind the scenes and on the stage as well as being current Board Members of TCS – and stage managed by Joanne Fafard, who has been an active supporter and volunteer for TCS over the years.

  “There’s a little bit for everybody in this production,” Perry said in an interview this week before a stage rehearsal.

  “It has the gore that the zombie enthusiasts would enjoy. But it’s more than about zombies. It’s more about what different groups of people coming from different backgrounds and walks of life do when faced with a common threat,” Perry said.

  “It’s not a show that I would bring the kids to. But it’s a show that adults who like horror would find entertaining and enjoyable. And this is our first live show since COVID-19 (outbreak in March of 2020),” he said.

  Perry, who has been with TCS for six years, teaches in Stoneham Public Schools. He is the director and advisor of the Drama Club at Stoneham High School.

  He noted that the show is intended to scare and thrill the audience. But he said he also hopes that the audience will learn something about human relations. “Hopefully, it gets them to think about how they would act when a threat comes about,” he said.

  The cast includes several TCS veterans: Rhianon Brown as Karen Cooper (last seen in “The Little Mermaid, Jr.”); Rachel Curran as a Zombie (last seen in “A Christmas Carol”); Ethan Hildonen as a Zombie (last seen in “The Little Mermaid, Jr.”); Julie Liuzza as Bella Bardough and News Anchor (last seen in “The Little Mermaid, Jr.”); Spencer O’Dowd as a Zombie (last seen in “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play”); Sabrina Ornae as a Zombie (last seen in “Nevermore: The Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe”); Sean Perry as Johnny (last seen in “A Christmas Carol”); Andrew R. Quinney as Radio Announcer and Zombie (last seen in “A Christmas Carol”); and Kathy Rapino as Dr. Grimes, Deputy and a Zombie (last seen in “James and the Giant Peach”).

  TCS welcomes all the new faces to the TCS stage: Eric Brown as Chief McClellan, Meg Brown as Judy, Hannah Clifford as Barbara, Amy Cole as a Zombie, Tony DeMauro as Harry Cooper, Christina Hildonen as a Zombie, Reggie Joseph as Ben, Vanessa Phelon as Helen Cooper, Scott Spangler as Tom, and Nicole Tabbi as a Zombie.

  Tickets purchased at the door are $25 for adults or $23 for seniors, students or children. Advanced online orders are slightly less expensive and guarantee you a seat: $22 for adults or $20 for seniors, students or children. Seating is General Admission.

  Hannah Clifford of Needham welcomes her debut with TCS. “I pretty much have been acting since I could walk,” said Clifford, a 2011 Needham High School graduate.

  “Sure, it’s a horror show. But it has a lot to do with people in times of crisis. The play gives you a glimpse into one story of a group of strangers figuring out how to survive. I’m hoping that people who see this are going to go away and enjoy theatre again after what’s happened with COVID,” she said.

  Rhianon Brown, a 14-year-old freshman at Saugus High School, has been performing for TCS about half of her life. She notes that this is her 10th show in seven years.

  And for a young performer, she has an opinion on the significance of “Night of the Living Dead.” “It broke a lot of stereotypes of horror films at the time it was published,” Rhianon said.

  “The main character was played by a black man. At the time of its release, that was something that you may not have expected,” she said.

  Joining Rhianon in the play is her father, Eric Brown. “She asked me if I wanted to try out, and I did,” Eric said, referring to his daughter’s invitation.

  Eric calls the original movie “a very influential piece of fiction.” “It’s 50 some odd years old, and it really has changed how we view horror films now,” Eric said. “On the surface, it’s a horror flick. But there’s all kinds of stuff going on beneath the surface. And a lot of the problems in ’68 are facing the world right now,” he said, referring to racial and other social issues.

  TCS newcomer Meg Brown is thrilled about her acting role in the play that begins its run in Saugus tonight. “I love Halloween and I love horror movies,” said Brown, a 2019 Salem State University graduate who earned her bachelor of arts degree in theatre.

  “So, the chance I get to be in this play during the Halloween season is a real plus. It’s my holiday,” she said. “For the people who watch the play, there’s definitely going to be some good suspense. It will keep you on your toes or on the edge of your seat.”

  The location for all performances is the 2nd Floor at the American Legion Post 210, 44 Taylor St., Saugus. Please note the 2nd Floor is not accessible other than by stairs.

  COVID safety protocols are being followed by the TCS cast and crew. All will have had a COVID test in advance of the performances and have been masked during all rehearsals. TCS is requiring audience members to be masked for the health of the rest of the audience, the cast and crew and the members of the American Legion who have served our country and graciously allow us to make their space home for TCS.

  For complete information about the production and to purchase tickets in advance, visit the TCS website at TCSaugus.org.

FATHER AND DAUGHTER CAST MEMBERS: Eric Brown and his 14-year-old daughter, Rhianon Brown, both have acting roles in the Theatre Company of Saugus’s upcoming production of “Night of the Living Dead,” which begins a two-weekend performance tonight (Friday, Oct. 29) on the 2nd Floor at the American Legion Post 210 at 44 Taylor St. in Saugus. (Saugus Advocate photo by Mark E. Vogler)
THE ZOMBIE LOOK: Rhianon Brown in a recent dress rehearsal of the play “Night of the Living Dead,” a Theatre Company of Saugus performance that will run for two consecutive weekends, beginning tonight (Friday, Oct. 29) at the American Legion Post 210. (Courtesy photo to The Saugus Advocate by Sabrina Ornae Photography)
LIVE THEATRE IS BACK IN SAUGUS Sean Perry co director of Theatre Company of Saugus-2
LIVE THEATRE IS BACK IN SAUGUS: Sean Perry, who is codirecting the play “Night of the Living Dead” for the Theatre Company of Saugus, notes that tonight’s (Friday, Oct. 29) performance will be the first live TCS show since the outbreak of COVID-19 in March of 2020. (Saugus Advocate photo by Mark E. Vogler)

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