When Randall David Cook ’91 was invited to write a new horror thriller to be performed by Furman students, he was admittedly terrified.
“I decided that I wanted to push myself and attempt something I’ve never done before: scare an audience,” said Cook, who is serving as Furman’s 2017 Duke Endowment Fine Arts Initiative Artist-in-Residence. “It’s rarely done in theater, so the challenges were and are daunting.”
To prepare, Cook took to the road, studying Goya’s black paintings in Spain and watching as many horror plays as he could at the Edinburgh International Fringe Festival in Scotland.
“My approach to writing the play was to surprise myself at least once in every scene,” he said.
Cook completed his first draft of the script on Halloween. The result?
Theatre Arts Professor and Department Chair Jay Oney, also the show’s director, described it as “90 minutes of chills, thrills and laughs.”
Kappa Kappa Scream will premiere at the Furman Playhouse this week, with performances Feb. 8-11 and Feb. 16-18 at 8 p.m., with special Friday midnight performances Feb. 10 and Feb. 17, and a Sunday matinee showing Feb. 12 at 3 p.m.
The play tells the story of the Kappa Kappa Delta sorority, headed to the mountains for its fall new-pledge retreat. The sorority has been on probation for two years, so it is crucial that everything goes smoothly. Alas, that is not to be, and something is in the woods outside their cabin…
“Kappa Kappa Scream allows our college actors to play characters their own age with intensity and humor. It’s a big cast and a fast play, so the next thrill or revelation is never very far off,” said Oney. “Usually, horror thrillers are left to the movies so it’s been exciting and challenging for our young artists to devise ways to support a scary story, in a completely different medium, the theatre.”
Drake Shadwell ’18 was up for the challenge. His previous summer internship, supported by Furman Advantage, had brought him to California to work on makeup special effects for the horror flick, Gemini.
“The technical aspects of Kappa Kappa Scream are astounding,” said Shadwell, a Theatre Arts major from Sumter, S.C. “This play demonstrates students’ prowess. These are student designers working on sets, lights, costumes, sound, props and makeup, creating professional level work on a very tight budget and an even tighter time frame.”
Clare Ruble ’17, a Theatre Arts major from Greenville, said her role as sorority girl Nikki has been both exciting and intimidating.
“It’s exciting having the playwright in the room with you because he shapes the character around you and changes lines to be the way you say them. There are some jokes and hints at my life in the character of Nikki and some stories I have told him that show up in the play. It is very cool,” said Ruble. “But it is also intimidating because if you mess up a line, he knows because he wrote it.”
Beth Fraser ’20, one of three Heathers featured in the play, is also taking a playwriting class with Cook this semester.
“Getting to originate a role is a dream! It feels great to hear the playwright say that something you are doing is exactly how he pictured it,” said Fraser. “It has been incredibly interesting to observe the process of a script’s creation becoming a final draft and turning into an acted play for the first time… I hope people will laugh, and I really hope to make people scream.”
For Cook, the chance to return to Furman as a playwright-in-residence for a second time has been especially rewarding.
“Many of the seniors in the cast and crew were first-semester freshmen in Pomp and Circumstance, the play I wrote for Furman in 2013, so to be back again and bookending their collegiate theater careers is a real privilege, and a gift,” said Cook, “I’ve seen how they’ve matured as artists and as people, and it’s been a joy to witness that progression.”
Cook, a native South Carolinian, worked in Japan and France before settling down on the Upper West Side in Manhattan. His off-Broadway premieres include Sake with the Haiku Geisha and Fate’s Imagination. His one-act play, Sushi and Scones, won the award for Best Play at the Southeastern Playwrights Conference and was broadcast as a radio play by the BBC, and his adaptation of Ibsen’s John Gabriel Borkman was presented at New York Theatre Workshop. His parody, American Idle: Murdering the Music, has had more than 100 productions at schools and community theaters in the United States and Canada, as well as in Europe, Australia and South America.
Cook’s new play, Sharks and Other Lovers, will open in Columbia in April, while his new musical, Listening, is expected to open in England this summer. He is also working on two projects with two-time Tony nominee, Joey McKneely.
Cast members of Kappa Kappa Scream are: Dakota Adams ’17, Elizabeth Budinoff ’18, Elli Caterisano ’18, Theatre Arts Professor Margaret Caterisano, Alyssa Ciurlik ’18, Connor Courtney ’18, Sarah Cushman ’17, Beth Fraser ’20, Karsen Green ’19, Alexandra Harris ’17, Tess Kamody ’19, Derek Leonard ’19, Emily Matthews ’19, Matt Middleton ’19, Anne Morgan ’19, Sam Nelson ’17, Ellie Peoples ’19, Clare Ruble ’17, Chris Sessoms ’18, Claire Shea ’20, Clark Spillane ’18, Cammi Stillwell ’20, Carol Sutton and Kenzie Wynne ’17.
Members of the crew include: Courtney Dorn ‘18, stage manager; Hunter Ditsch ’19 and Alan Smith ’20, assistant stage managers; Taylor Jensen ’18, scenic design; Haley Brown ’17, lighting design; Dakota Adams ’17, sound design; Drake Shadwell ’18, specialty makeup; Dayanari Umana ’18, prop design and crew head; Lauren Heimberg ’20, Chelsea Helton ’19 and Jillian Padgett ’20, prop crew; Vania Brockway ’18, box office; Cody Evins ’17, wardrobe and crew head; Elizabeth Cortes ’19, wardrobe; Rachel Gifford ’18, costume design; Sal Donzella ’17, light board operator; Katie Fleet ’18, house manager; Patrick Fretwell ’19, publicity; Sarah Grace Payne ’20, lighting; Lee McCaskill ’20, sound board operator; and T. Fulton Burns, fight choreographer.
For ticket information and reservations, call the Theatre Box Office at (864) 294-2125. The play is intended for mature audiences. Learn more about Randall David Cook at http://randalldavidcook.com/
Last updated .