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Spooky Classic Tales: The Banality of Horror

Why do we love to scare ourselves?

We've Always Craved Anxiety

It's at the core of drama, both in literature and theater. Greek audiences put themselves, again and again, through the horrific inevitability of "Oedipus". The Elizabethans reveled in the gore of "Titus Andronicus" and the Jacobeans in "The Duchess of Malfi". I remember watching a production of the latter by the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in the early '70s at the Guthrie Theater and found myself giggling at the absurdity of it all. Bleeding characters were dropping like bowling pins.

The Psychology of Horror

There are countless psychological analyses with which to entertain ourselves, but in general we seen to have an innate obsession with "the unknown" both in the universe and in ourselves. What might we be we capable of, in our deepest heart of hearts?

The Bear of Poitiers

The great revolutionary and theater practitioner Augusto Boal, in his exercises for "actors and non-actors", gives us "The Bear of Poitiers", a game in which the participants lie on the floor "playing dead". One player is then designated "the bear". Bears don't attack dead bodies, and the bear is allowed to approach each body, sniffing, prodding, tickling, to test its condition. The "dead" player must remain motionless. If she responds in the slightest, she is devoured, and then she, too, becomes "a bear" and the game continues.

It's a marvelous, fun exercise. And among the interesting results in any "post mortem" discussion is how the players are surprised at their immense sense of relief in becoming exposed and thereafter "a bear", a predator. The fear in the victim, by contrast, of being detected, creates an excruciating hypersensitivity in that is overwhelming.

Spooky Classic Tales

In our "Spooky Classic Tales" at Parson's Nose we see this mix of emotions, fear and anticipation, in play. Poe, of course, is the father of the short-form horror story. One would think his revenge tale,"Cask of Amontillado", would be rather obvious to today's sophisticated audience, but, to the contrary, they hang on every drip of water from the cavernous tomb. Shirley Jackson's extraordinary tale, "The Lottery", is prescient in its depiction of the banality of evil. And Andre Delorde's grim contrast between the wonder and horror of a mysterious new, 1897 technology of "The Telephone" brings an audience to the edge of its seats in 2022.

Join us!

The whole purpose of Parson's Nose is to shine a new light on such overlooked works. We performed them this week for a packed house in the semi-annual Pasadena Arts Night celebration, and we continue our performances for the next two weekends. We hope you'll join us for our live "radio style" presentations. You can go to Parson's Nose for tickets. And, of course, for a taste of our show please listen to our podcast of "Cask of Amontillado." Everything old is new again. Including...horror!

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