Zombies invade local theatre festival

(Edmonton) Zombies they seem to be everywhere these days. And, thanks to a recent zombie boom exemplified by pop-culture novels, movies and video games, the walking dead have come to challenge the once-ubiquitous vampire for the role of default personification of the “undead.”

Because of the rise in popularity of these shambling shockers, seeing Notes from a Zombie Apocalypse on the roster for the 2011 Edmonton Fringe Festival is no surprise. But behind this ostentatious title lies an imaginative, thought-provoking show very different from the brains-and-entrails clichés of the modern zombie genre.

The script for the show came to bachelor of fine arts acting students Perry Gratton and Evan Hall through a former U of A colleague acquainted with the show’s two American writers, Megan Moriarty and Brian Trimboli.

While their original work, a poetic work, was not written for the stage, Gratton and Hall immediately recognized the poems’ theatrical potential.

For Gratton, zombies make for a compelling subject because, unlike vampires and werewolves, they seem disconcertingly close to home.

“Zombies are scary because they could be your mother, your brother or the guy at the bank, who all of a sudden starts trying to eat you.”

Gratton and Hall turned to pals Jamie Cavanagh, a recent alum and a seasoned improv actor from the Rapid Fire Theatre scene, and U of A stage management grad Lisa Dalmazzi to make it happen, with Cavanagh serving as director and Dalmazzi as lighting and sound designer, as well as stage manager. “It’s been wonderful having a four-person team, in addition to the writers,” says Dalmazzi. “It’s been great doing it all ourselves.”

While Notes from a Zombie Apocalypse is firmly rooted in zombie lore, the producers are quick to assert that their show is no Hollywood-style gore fest. “It’s a storytelling show rather than a spectacle,” explains Gratton. “There’s no blood and gore. It’s still scary, but the terror comes from the text.” Hall adds that the choice of poetry as a vehicle for the show adds to the intensity of the proceedings.

“Poetry is the truest form of language because you’re speaking about what’s important to you in the moment,” he explains. “We wanted to remain true to that and really let the words do the work on the imagination.”

Notes from a Zombie Apocalypse plays at Stage 5 throughout the Fringe Festival, premiering Friday, Aug. 12 at 2:15 p.m.