Yes! It’s happening – the last three weekends in October, 2016! Ohio City Theatre Project (OCTP) will run three weekends of a full-cast production of my new play ‘A Thing of Shadows’ adapted for the stage from John W. Campbell’s 1938 sci-fi novella, ‘Who Goes There?’ (which was the inspiration for the 1982 John Carpenter film ‘The Thing’). This is the second time OCTP has been kind enough to showcase my work. A few years ago, stage actor, Amanda Lin Boyd, rendered a sparkling reading of my one-woman show, ‘A Delusion of Sunflowers’ to a storefront theater packed with Clevelanders.
‘A Thing of Shadows’ is my first full length play to be performed by an ensemble cast.
The script for ‘A Thing of Shadows’ got a lot of re-writing. In 2014, OCTP pulled together a group of talent and staged a reading for the actors to give feed back and so I could reflect on how artificial or not my dialogue was sounding. It turns out, many of those actors had been asking about the script since. One of the reasons OCTP wanted to go ahead with it.
As I blog, I am finishing through the seventh version of the script. Honestly, they were getting worse. You get so excited about doing something like this – tackling something that’s been tackled in so many variations before – you kind of explode. You have to read everything , watch the movies, listen to the radio plays – and then research Antarctica and those fish that can come back to life after they’re frozen (look that up).
There’s three different film versions, comic books, short stories inspired-by, radio plays and William F. Nolan’s terrific, but unrealized screen treatment of John W. Campbell’s “Who Goes There”. It’s spawned so many other progeny, makes the story itself a little like that Thing from a system with a blue sun.
Campbell’s story develops a creepy and intense psychological drama – and where big budgets and CGI can grab for gore, my stage adaptation had to try for something a little different. Campbell envisioned an alien creature that could not only consume and mimic human beings, but could also absorb a person’s experiences, memories, and personality – a being that could perfectly replicate another, and yet be its own separate Thing.
The aspect that the stage opens up to is this psychic nature of the voracious, shipwrecked visitor – Campbell posited the Thing’s abilities to pervade even human dreams. It doesn’t just penetrate and skillfully steal the biological system of another creature, it subsumes the mystical parts, the mind, the heart, the soul and brings on a kind of madness. It’s not a far stretch to think that Campbell may have been influenced by Lovecraft’s “At the Mountains of Madness” – though I’ve not found any scholar who says so.
The dialogue in the novel, is thick and stodgy and has the thudding tones that you would expect from Campbell’s 1930’s manly men. Bringing the dialogue and characters into the far-flung future of egalitarianism, swear words, and the playful banter we’re all so enamored of that spilled into the big screen through Ghostbusters, Aliens, and Pulp Fiction was a challenge – and a risk. If we’re going to tell these stories in 2016, it’s a boon for us all that Campbell made the soil rich enough to grow such varieties.
We’re confident that – if you can get a seat – you’re going to experience something fast and suspenseful and that hopefully will make your skin crawl… up the wall and out through the ventilator system.
Keep watching my blog for updates and ticket sales!