The Horror Crave

My chap and I spent the weekend at a friend’s place in L.A., doing a little partying and hanging out– a perfect opportunity to get away from THE PILLOWMAN and be forced to not think about it for a while.  Come at it fresh for the last two weeks of rehearsal.

But, of course, it isn’t that simple to get away from something like this show.  It stays with you.  But luckily, a new strain of thought rose to the surface this time.  Something fun, thoughtful, and perhaps a recurring theme in my life.

We popped into a bookstore in Burbank called “Dark Delicacies“) which is dedicated to fantasmical, mystical themes of the dark variety:  vampires, zombies, horror, witchcraft, etc. and offers a nice variety of fiction, non-fiction, graphic novels, and novelties for those of the skull and crossbones aesthetic.

While perusing the shelves I was mildly intrigued by a few titles here and there, (“The Secret History of Elizabeth Tudor, Vampire Slayer” jumped out at me and I noted the historical witchcraft/horror/mystery titles here and there, which I love), but for the most part, I wear bright colors and lighten my hair to blonde for a reason.  I am, after all, the girl who didn’t feel emotionally up for seeing “The Godling” at the Broken Leg Stage last fall.

Or that’s what I thought.  But then I had to challenge myself.  I was tempted by an H.P. Lovecraft edition until I realized that I already have a fair sized Lovecraft anthology on my shelves.  Knowing my love of snappy short stories, steered clear of the specialty collections that the store publishes itself.  And then I saw it:

Grimm's Grimmest
A paperback version of “Grimm’s Grimmest“, which I have in specialty hardback edition will full color illustrations by Tracy Dockray.  It was a gift from the cast of “All’s Red that’s Riding Hood: How Grimm Can You Get?”, the fractured fairy tale I directed for The Rogue Festival in 2008 (featuring James Sherrill, who is the lead in The Pillowman).  “All’s Red” was the dark, blank verse telling of Little Red Riding Hood by local author Terrence McArthur, which featured the exile of DeWolf and his tragic revenge tale ending in the stabbing of Little Red Riding Hood and the hacking to death of her father, Woodman Hood, with his own axe, leaving  no one but the cynical, drunken Grandma Hood to tell the tale.  I don’t remember how DeWolf died, but he did.

Combining that show, my dance with Lovecraft, my current swim through the dark world of THE PILLOWMAN and the fact that I’ve twice directed “The Turn of the Screw“– a groundbreaking psychological horror story– I’m detecting a pattern here.  Detecting is probably an understatement.

So, I’ve come home and begun re-reading “Grimm’s Grimmest”.  I remember that several synopses of The Pillowman– including a few of my own– refer to Katurian’s stories as having “echoes of Kafka, Stoppard, and The Brothers Grimm”.

So now I wonder about the place of the gruesome in our story-telling lives; our strange fascination with horror films; the ever-expanding horror-fantasy, mystery, and true crime sections at the bookstores.  And yet, American versions of cultural folklore tend to get sanitized, homogenized, and dressed up.  The Brothers Grimm did so themselves in later editions of their tales, once they left behind their scholarly recording of an aural tradition for a lucrative business in selling books to affluent parents.

But the folktales and legends the Grimm brothers first recorded were told to all ages in the post-light hours– as a means of entertaining, fantasizing, and conveying life-truths to each other in a coded fanciful way.

And if that is the case, what is it that McDonagh has contributed in his own little way with Katurian’s dark stories?  Why are we both attracted and repulsed by the contents of such stories?  And why do we keep going back for more?

Stephen King has a theory (“Why We Crave Horror Movies”, Playboy, 1982).

While we think about it,  perhaps I’ll share a few of Grimm’s Grimmest here for you, Dear Reader, to enjoy  yourself– whet your appetite a bit for THE PILLOWMAN, opening in less than two weeks.

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