These movies are associated with popcorn fun. They're low brow entertainment to take a hot date too.
But for Cassie Hack, this ain't no popcorn movie.
Cassie, the daughter of the notorious Slasher, the Lunch Lady, travels the world with her monstrous partner, Vlad, hunting and destroying Slashers where ever they may be, whatever form they may take.
Slashers. You know the genre....some masked nut case chases down and creatively murders a group of attractive teenagers with poor decision making skills, who have somehow unleashed the killer's repressed psychosexual anger. Pretty standard fare, right? But what if the last survivor of the massacre, the girl that makes it out alive, decides to take matters in her own hands and hunt down the Slashers herself?
That’s the premise of the hit horror comic book ‘Hack/Slash’ from Chicago’s Devil’s Due Publishing that New Millennium Theatre Company has brought screaming to life on stage. Fresh from its world premiere at the Flashback Weekend Horror Convention where it received rave reviews from the likes of Ted Raimi (Evil Dead, Xena: Warrior Princess) “Really Great! Really Funny!”, HACK/SLASH: STAGEFRIGHT is a multimedia fright fest featuring digitally projected backdrops from the actual comic books (think: the Sin City movie on stage), blockbuster fight scenes, scantily clad coeds and plenty of splattering blood (there are special ‘blood seats’ in the theater where you WILL get sprayed!). HACK/SLASH: STAGEFRIGHT is truly a one-of-a-kind stage experience, perfect for horror movie fans or anyone who likes a good scare!
The cast of HACK/SLASH: STAGEFRIGHT includes Stefani Bishop, Adam Mack, Jason Bone, Gina Ferenzi, Paul Czarnowski, Guy Schingoethe, Jenna Schmidt, Don Alsafi, Jenny Myers, Ellen Domonokos & Matt Russell. Directed by Chad Wise. Assistant Director: Laura Coleman. Hack/Slash created by Tim Seeley.
All performances are at the National Pastime Theater, 4139 N. Broadway, between Irving Park & Montrose. The show will run September 23rd - October 29th, Fridays and Saturdays at 10:30 pm. Tickets are $15 general admission and are available at the door or call 773-989-4515, http://www.nmtchicago.org/.
WHO: New Millennium Theatre Company
WHEN: September 23rd - October 29th, Friday & Saturday at 10:30pm
WHERE: National Pastime Theater, 4139 N. Broadway, Chicago, Illinois, 773-989-4515
TICKETS: $15.00 General Admission
2005 is going to be a good year for fans of "Hack/Slash," Tim Seeley's horror/humor comic from Devil's Due Publishing. In March, Cassie Hack and her partner Vlad battle a slasher preying on comic fans and professionals in "Hack/Slash: Comic Book Carnage." In July, Cassie and Vlad tangle with former Chaos! Comics superstar Evil Ernie in "Hack/Slash: The Final Revenge of Evil Ernie" and beginning in September fans will get to see the live action adventures of Cassie and Vlad when the Chicago based New Millenium Theater Company begins running their stage production of "Hack/Slash." For the scoop on the play, CBR News spoke to "Hack/Slash" creator Tim Seeley; New Millenium founder and artistic director Chad Wise, who adapted the script and is directing the play version of "Hack/Slash," and the play's two leads Stefani Bishop, who portrays Cassie Hack, and Adam Mack, who plays her partner Vlad.
"Hack/Slash" the play came about because both New Millenium and Devil's Due were working on projects based on Sam Raimi's cult horror comedy "Army of Darkness." "We've been producing theater in Chicago for about seven years now. Funky stuff out of the norm, a little different, very pop culture influenced," Chad Wise told CBR News. "So, we were doing a musical parody of 'Army of Darkness' this past summer and Devils Due is local here in Chicago and they were publishing the 'Army of Darkness' comic at the time. So, we sent them some of our information out to them."
Tim Seeley came to see the production and loved it. "I saw it, and I was blown away...I'm not much for theatre, but this had everything I could want in a play," Seeley said. "It was irreverent, had elaborately staged fight sequences, and it was full of laughs. I met Chad, and handed him a copy of 'Hack/Slash'. I was like 'Hey, wanna make this into a musical?'"
Wise read the comic and thought about the best way to bring it to life. "It didn't quite seem like it was musical material," Wise said. "I wanted to take a stab at doing it straight first off and that is pretty much where it began. It kind of went from there."
The script for the stage version of "Hack/Slash" is an adaptation of the first two comics. Seeley said it's actually the same script, almost word for word, and is a combination of the "Euthanized" and "Girls Gone Dead" stories.
Staying faithful to the tone and story of the comics was important to Wise. "I'm going to be as reverent as I can be and I think Tim Seeley has found a really nice tone there with just the right amount of humor and horror mixed together," Wise explained. "I think that's what appeals to the fans first and foremost. So I'm glad to do my best to recapture that. We may put in a little more humor here and there. We'll do our best to recreate the splattering blood on stage. My big thing is being reverent to the comic because I do love the medium."
Wise is using a technique that will have the comic characters literally jumping off the page. "What we're doing is we have a digital projector," Wise said. "What I'm in the process of doing now is going through all the original artwork, the comic panels from the actual books, and removing all the characters from the front, and some of the foreground material and leaving just the background. We're going to project those wall-size behind the actors. So it will give a nice pop for the actual actors in front of the actual panels -- real life versus the original art."
The production will also include some film segments with all the flashback sequences film and mixed in with the projections.
Seeley will receive a producing credit on the play and will serve as a creative consultant throughout the entire production. "Chad lets me hang around and keep a hand in the creative stuff," Seeley said. "I hang out with actors and we discuss the characters over many beers. It's a good job."
One of tasks that Seeley took part in was casting. "The casting thing was really interesting," he explained "I'd never done it before. I didn't realize how tough it is to be an actor. Take the stress of a job interview and add reading-your-book-report-in-front-of-class to it. Jesus!"
Seeley and Wise chose Stefani Bishop to play the part of Cassie Hack and Adam Mack to play the role of Vlad. Hack/Slash's creator had high praise for the two actors selected to bring his characters to life. "Adam was a shoe-in for Vlad. He's a big guy, with a deep voice, his monologue was great, and he's a comic fan. Perfect," Seeley explained. "Stefani, one, she's gorgeous, two, she read a monologue from Jon Stewart's book, and three, she nailed the sort of tough-but-vulnerable thing we needed for our Cassie. Jesus! I'm starting to sound like one of those Hollywood douche bags."
Wise also praised his leading lady. "Stefani, she is this character," Wise said. "I was having a discussion with her the other night over a cup of coffee and she says, 'I'm fighting my urges to play this as myself.' I said, 'Well I've been doing this for long enough that I'm good at casting actors and actresses that will save me work in the long run. Don't fight it. There are so many aspects of Cassie that come out of you. Embrace them and we'll go from there.' She's quick as a whip, funny, sexy, sultry and just a bad ass all rolled into one. That's a good start."
Wise believes they lucked out with their pick of Adam Mack for Vlad. "He's a big comic fan and a big guy," Wise said. "We're going to have to bulk him up a bit size wise because unfortunately I didn't have any body builders coming out for the show, but he's really down with it. He's grasping the character. He's been talking to Tim a lot as well because not a whole lot about Vlad has been given up in the first two issues."
Stefani Bishop found out about the play adaptation of "Hack/Slash" from her friend Jason Bone, who also landed a role in the show, as the slasher Father Wrath. "He and I got together for coffee one afternoon, when he started talking about Chad's idea for the show," Bishop told CBR News. "At this time, Jason slid the comic books toward me, looked at me very seriously and said, "When I read this I thought, 'this has Bishop written all over it'!' I started reading both issues right there in the restaurant, and Jason was right - I loved it. I knew I had to audition."
"The first trait I recognized in Cassie after having read the comics was her vulnerability," continued Bishop. "She wears confidence like armor, and not necessarily to defend herself from others, but to defend her from herself. There is a constant battle between present day Cassie and her ego that was shattered by her childhood experiences. In childhood she was not accepted and continues to carry that stigma with her, applying it to present day situations. I'm really looking forward to tapping in to that aspect of defense without exposing her Achilles' Heel all together."
Bishop is a huge fan of the slasher films that inspired "Hack/Slash." "As a kid I loved comic books, but I am definitely more of a fan of slasher films," she said. "The more badly written or badly acted the better. Show me wounds that spurt more blood than is possible! Show me a stock footage car chase with two cars that were never in the film in the first place! Let me hear a character utter 'What better place than a cabin in the woods for a group of us frat boys to come and party!' and I am a happy, happy woman."
Adam Mack discovered "Hack/Slash" while thumbing through "Performing," a trade magazine for theater in Chicago. "I saw an ad that said 'Hack/Slash' based on a comic book and it said looking for extremely tall guys," Mack told CBR News, "and I'm like, 'Hmm this sounds like something up my alley.'"
Mack read both issues of "Hack Slash" between his first and second auditions. They provided some insight into the character of Vlad, but he's still figuring out what makes Cassie's partner tick. "I've got a lot of stuff that I have to figure out between then and now. So I'm really kind of glad we have as much time as we do and the room to develop," Mack explained. "Because he is a pretty complex character and in the comic book Tim really goes into Cassie's background, but there is next to nothing about Vlad. I just found out he's Czech. So that's new. There's a lot to him that I'm going to have to pick Tim's brain to kind of get in there and see who this guy is."
Mack understands Cassie and Vlad's partnership. He compared it to one of the most famous pop-culture partnerships. "His relationship with Cassie reminds me of Han Solo and Chewbacca in that life debt sense," Mack said. "It's still not clear, but just from the panel that I saw where they first meet it seems like because she is not afraid of him and respects him like a human being and doesn't see him as a monster, he feels like she saved him somehow. So it's now like that he owes her."
Wise is also enthusiastic about the rest of his cast. "I've got some really good actors coming into play my slashers," Wise said. " My Father Wrath was actually evil Ash in the 'Boom Stick' show we did. He's a good regular of mine. The Bobby Brunswick from the first comic, he's a little green but he's got a fresh excitement that I'm looking forward to. The Laura Locke, she's perfect. She just walked in and I cast her on the spot, she was so perfect. I really got lucky with this one."
When "Hack/Slash" begins it's production run this fall it will likely be as a one-act play. "We usually do a lot of late night shows," Wise explained. "This will probably be another one of them and I don't believe in keeping people till twelve, one o'clock in the morning unless necessary. So, yeah it will be about an hour and fifteen minutes. Probably, no intermission. Just Rock N Roll and hit 'em hard at the beginning and zip right through."
While the stage version of "Hack/Slash" might not begin until later this year, Wise is hoping to bring the production to a number of comic book and horror conventions this summer. "We've been producing at the Flashback Weekend Horror/Sci-Fi Convention that's produced here every summer in the suburbs. We got invited the year we did 'Evil Dead-The Musical' which was two years ago. We took that. We also took 'Boomstick' last summer. I let Mike Kurz, at the festival, know what we were doing this year and he said, 'By all means. Which night do you want to perform?' Ideally, of course I'd love for Wizard to come out and take a look at what we got and say, 'We'd love to include you on the bill as some of the alternative entertainment for LA, Philly, Chicago, Dallas, whatever.' In a perfect world, that would happen. At the very least, we're going to see what comes of it." Wise is hopeful that WizardWorld Chicago will be interested, but should that not happen he's not discounted the possibility of renting a conference room at one of the outlying hotels and put the show up on their own.
The New Millenium Theater Company would love to take "Hack/Slash" to the San Diego Comic Con. "I'd love to. Really, we've been around for seven years, but we're still not your Steppenwolf or Goodman or big theater houses like that," Wise said. "So if we could find the right kind of match for sponsorship, that's what would get us to San Diego."
If the stage play version of "Hack/Slash" does well the cast and crew would love to do follow up plays. "I would love to do as many sequels as Tim's got stories to write, by all means the door is still open," Wise said. Seeley added, "Hell yes. Chad has said he'd keep doing 'em and I'm holding him to it."
The feature film version of "Hack/Slash" is still in development and Seeley would love for the cast members of the play to have some involvement in the film. "Heh... well, I'll tell ya what. If the Hollywood guys don't want to make money, and decide not to do 'Hack/Slash,' I'll make the damn thing myself, Troma-style," Seeley said. "And, yes, I'll cast everyone from the play."
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries a new type of theater flourished in France. It was called Grand Guignol. These productions were usually macabre and violent affairs, which featured special effects that simulated graphic gore. This Halloween season, Grand Guignol style theater is alive and well and living in Chicago in the form of the New Millenium Theater Company's production of "Hack/Slash: Stage Fright," which we told you about back in February when we interviewed the director and cast. "Stage Fright," an exciting, funny and faithful stage adaptation of Tim Seeley's "Hack/Slash" comic series that will leave you with a smile on your face and maybe even blood on your clothes.
"Stage Fright" is a two-act play, with no intermission, that adapts the first two "Hack/Slash" comic stories. In "Euthanized," Cassie Hack and her partner Vlad battle a crazed slasher capable of creating an army of zombie animals. In "Girls Gone Dead," Cassie and Vlad must stop a slasher targeting spring break co-eds.
The actual comic books serve as the set for "Stage Fright." The play is staged in front of a wall where background panels from the comics are projected. This gives the production a cool 3-D comic book vibe.
You don't have to be familiar with the "Hack/Slash" comic series to enjoy "Stage Fright," but fans of the comics will be pleased at how faithful the production is to its source material. The dialogue of the play is lifted straight from the comics and so is the plot.
The cast of "Stage Fright" does a terrific job bringing their characters to life. Stefani Bishop expertly wields Cassie Hack's cynicism and sarcasm when delivering her lines. She also really conveys the characters' underlying vulnerabilities.
Adam Mack is excellent as Vlad. His performance captures Vlad's essential qualities his loyalty, his kindness and his quirky sense of humor.
The rest of the play's small cast does a great job bringing to life the supporting characters and villains in the play's two stories. Many of the cast members played two or three different parts. Gina Ferenzi was particularly good in her portrayal of Laura Locke. She nailed the character's smug sense of moral superiority.
The production also features some very cool videotaped segments, which were used primarily for flashbacks. The most entertaining video segment was a hilarious fake advertisement for "Girls Gone Naughty."
The play is being held at the National Pastime Theater, which is a small venue, but the size of the theater gave the production an intimate feel. You feel like you're part of the action with many of the play's expertly choreographed fight scenes taking place so close to the audience. Depending on where you sit, you do become part of the action.
There is a section of seats covered by trash bags. These are the "blood" seats, where audience members will get showered with stage blood from many of the plays action scenes. To truly experience the fun, unpredictable nature of the show, this reviewer chose to sit in one of the prime blood seats. Afterwards, I looked like I had brutally murdered the Kool-Aid Man, but watching the play from the blood seats was especially fun because I never knew which fight scene would result in a rain of gore.
In between some of the plays more bloody scenes a hooded blood-mopper appears to clean up. These moments are particularly funny because of the silly dances he does while he cleans.
"Stage Fright" is a minimalist production and some of the effects, particularly the undead animals might come off as cheesy to some audience members, but that's the point. Just like the comic it's been adapted from, the play is a loving tribute to those great and "so awful they're spectacular" horror films.
Those interested in checking the play out have only one two more dates to catch it. "Hack/Slash Stage Fright" runs on Fridays and Saturdays until October 29th. Tickets are available at the door or through pre-order at the New Millenium Theater Company's website. So if you're in the Chicago area and are looking for some hilarious and exciting Halloween style fun, make sure you catch one of "Stage Fright's" remaining performances. Here's hoping that "Stage Fright" leads to more Grand Guignol revivals of plays that are twisted fun, hilarious, and full of flying viscera.