Scare Tactics by John Longenbaugh
Seattle Weekly published on October 28, 2008
“Like a lot of 11-year-olds, I was obsessed with ghosts, vampires, zombies, and so forth. Fortunately for me, a couple of friends shared this geeky obsession, and we’d gather in my basement to construct spookhouses, where unwitting victims (aka my family) would be lured into a terrifying gauntlet of imitation cobwebs and spooky sound effects. . .
. . .The comedy/horror model is popular, and is the guiding principle of perhaps the most unlikely script ever presented at Seattle Children’s Theater, a stage adaptation of George Romero’s classic 1968 horror film Night of the Living Dead. Directed by SCT’s Linda Hartzell, the play (for kids 13 and up) steers a middle course between humor and fright. For some audience members, even this PG-13 production is a little too terrifying. Actor Mickey Rowe, who plays a zombie, was pulled aside after one show and told that there had been a complaint from an audience member that his shtick of sneaking up for a quick “Boo!” was too much and might lead to a heart attack or fit. “Considering I’m dressed as a Boy Scout, I didn’t think I was really all that scary,” he says, but he agreed to change his approach. “The next show, I leaned over and tapped this guy on the shoulder, so that there was no possibility of scaring him, and then I shouted something like ‘Bugabugaboo!’ It was a total flop. Since then, we’ve changed it back.
. . . Since I’ve got a gig tonight, Wednesday, Oct. 29, as one of about a dozen “guest zombies” in a 21-and-older version of Living Dead, I asked for some advice from Rowe to help make my portrayal convincing. What is a zombie’s motivation—aside from eating brains? “I guess on a deeper level, it’s to get the brains before the other zombies, which is hard because we all walk so slow. A lot of zombie acting comes down, like comedy, to timing. That’s really all you’ve got to work with.” I’ve been practicing my shamble all week, and with all due respect to a professional actor, he doesn’t know just how chilling I can be.”