It was 4 years ago that I saw my first full Roulette at MadLab. There was something about Roulette 2012 that stuck with me. Peach with Chris Lane and David Thonnings, blew me away so I came back again for another night, and was transfixed by Slipping into Anarchy with Jim Azelvandre and Jennifer Feather Youngblood, so I came back for the final night and fell in love with MadLab due to But, Was it an Approved Death? With Vicki Andronis, and Jim Azelvandre again.
In all fairness, I had been turning into a bit of a Lab-Rat already, having started hanging around several months prior and getting involved, but coming to Roulette inspired me to write my own short play. I mentioned my idea at the after Roulette cookout to a few people and got the standard. “Hey, sure. Let me know, I’ll look it over.” (I’ve since learned that a lot of people SAY they’re going to write a play, but never actually write one.) But, I did. And it was… Well, it was finished. I sent it off to a few people, got some notes, and some confusion, and set it aside.
In 2013, I acted in Roulette, which was a thrill. I was excited to be part of Roulette, but I still had the desire to write for the show. I’d gotten a play selected for 3 in 30 and felt like I was getting better as a writer, so I went back to my first idea and re-wrote it 3 more times. The idea was great, the title was dynamite and at this point I’d seen enough great short plays to fix what didn’t work, and I took a writing class. I crossed my fingers, and submitted the play.
Now, the trick was to do it again. I’d been writing a lot of sketch comedy and was studying at Second City Chicago. I started looking through all my pieces and had a crazy idea: I’d submit a whole collection for the Playwright Spotlight Night! Ambitious? Yes. But, why wouldn’t I reach for the stars? What’s the worst that can happen, that I don’t get it?
Well, I didn’t. And, since I put all my eggs in one basket, I was locked out of Roulette. I was going to be out of town, so I didn’t get to act in this one, either. This gave me the opportunity to enjoy watching and enjoying Roulette 2015, and it was great. But, still, that thing was licking at my brain saying “Write for next year.” But, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to say.
I went back to Second City and studied Show Structure for creating a revue and talked to a couple friends that direct shows at Second City after watching their shows. I asked questions: “Why did you do this here?” and “Why did you put that in this slot.”. I went back to my collection, spent a couple weeks doing full re-writes and re-submitted it. It was leaner, more focused and I found a way to get my voice consistent and uniquely me over 60+ pages.
images from ".., but it's not about that" by Erik Sternberger
And It was selected! I jumped in the air. A lot. This time, I came to watch Stephen Woosley direct the amazing cast every night, and I loved it every time. Okay, I’ll be honest, the first time I was nervous for the first two of the six plays. Not because I didn’t trust MadLab, but because every person in the packed house was there because of “me”. I had visions of them thinking me too weird and waiting outside the door to hound me as I ran to my Ford Escape.
But, by the third play I was able to relax. The plays were landing how I hoped. Everyone was laughing and I felt like my kids were flying high and free and I didn’t need to hold the string anymore.
You have until the October 1st deadline to submit and start (or continue) your own Roulette story. Check out the Theatre Roulette page under the Theatre tab for more information and submission guidelines.
“One, two, Freddy’s coming for you….”
That hauntingly creepy nursery rhyme, which begins A Nightmare on Elm Street, has plagued my childhood memories since the early ’80s with its eerie chords. If you’re like me, A Nightmare on Elm Street holds a special place in your heart as the first film to truly scare you.
You watched the characters battling Freddy Krueger, traveling with them on their sleepless journeys, only to fall victim to your own nightmares long after the movie had ended. Not being able to fall asleep after watching the film was part of the experience.
All but one character from A Nightmare on Elm Street suffered a gruesome (and, let’s be honest, awesome) death by Freddy’s claws. The lone survivor, Nancy Thompson, became the heroine, and she was one of the first characters to spark the phenomenon known as “The Final Girl.”
As the series progressed, however, the Nightmare films began to focus attention on Freddy instead of where creator Wes Craven originally intended it to be: on Nancy Thompson. And fans who embraced Nancy’s strength were left wanting more.
Nancy did return to Elm Street in the third installment of the series,but her time between the end of Nightmare 1 and the beginning of Nightmare 3 remained a mystery.
Don’t Fall Asleep is a fan film that tells the untold story of Nancy Thompson. Inspired by the Nightmares on Elm Street comics from Innovation Publishing, we created a film that is for fans, by fans—specifically those of us who know and love Nancy. It isn’t a Freddy film (although he does make several appearances). Instead, Don’t Fall Asleep is about the fact that Nancy’s nightmare is far from over.
What started as friends talking about making a short movie on our iPhones turned into an indie fan film with all the bells and whistles we could afford.
Ten actors from MadLab make up the majority of the cast and crew. When I initially approached the actors and said, “I’m making a horror film, and I want you to be in it... oh, and you’re probably going to die in it,” all of the actors said “yes” without hesitation. I don’t know whether it was my pitch or the actors’ secret desire to be drenched in blood, but their characters were soon born.
We needed to create four new characters in order to carry Nancy’s story from Nightmare 1 to Nightmare 3, so we wrote each character to represent the attributes that Nancy needed to survive Freddy’s continued tormenting:
- Joel (Chad Hewitt) is the morally flexible punk kid with a good heart. When faced with life-or-death decisions, morals are often challenged—especially when it comes to leaving someone behind. Hewitt takes his raw talent to the next level when bringing Joel to life on screen. His delivery of the character’s arc brought many pre-screeners to tears.
- Therese (Colleen Dunne) is the guarded young woman who comes across as being ruthless. Or, in the famous words of Delores Claiborne, “Sometimes being a bitch is the only thing a woman has to hold on to.” And women often need to possess such qualities to barrel through the obstacles in front of her. Dunne's performance of Therese was perfection. She cleverly crafts a character who avoids being a stereotype, and she plays the role with intelligence and fortitude.
- Dr. Travis (Travis Horseman) is the educated authority figure. He possesses the necessary wisdom to make the best decision. Horseman’s stellar portrayal of the doctor adds depth to a side character worthy of his own spin-off.
- Marshall (Casey May) is the scaredy-cat of the group. He symbolizes the little voice in your head that tells you to run when danger is lurking around the corner. Although Marshall’s part has less screen time than the other characters, May’s magnificent performance leaves a lasting impression with audiences.
These four attributes combined to bring the character of Nancy Thompson (Diandra Lazor) to life; Don’t Fall Asleep explores the question of what happens to Nancy when each of these is taken away.
Lazor was the most obvious choice to play Nancy—and not just because of her years of notable cosplay within the horror community. She knows this character, inside and out, and she plays Nancy from the heart, in a way that isn’t a mere imitation of the original. Lazor’s remarkable portrayal in Don’t Fall Asleep is a testament to what happens when a fan’s love for a character is captured on film.
Vicki Andronis and Erik Sternberger play two surprise characters from the original Nightmare films. Their performances of each character seamlessly fall in line with the original actors.
MadLab Ensemble members Stephen Woosley and Kyle Jepson, along with MadLab affiliates Andy Batt and Michelle Batt, also lend their talents on and off screen.
Written by Michelle DiCeglio, Paige Troxell and Diandra Lazor, Don’t Fall Asleep is available on YouTube and will screen at MadLab on Saturday, October 29, 2016.