A Very Special Friday the 13th at Night of the Living Dead!

I get an email yesterday around 5:30 from Rachel Lisi in the TBPAC Ticket Office. Apparently someone has anonymously called in and told them that Marilyn Eastman, the actress who originated the role of Helen Cooper in Romero’s film of Night of the Living Dead will be coming to the show.

We were all a bit dubious. What are the odds? We’d already had Romero’s ex-wife at our preview.

Rachel, the wily detective she is, finds out there is in fact a John Eastman who has purchased five tickets to the performance. A bit later, a woman calls claiming to be Mrs. Eastman’s daughter and says that Marilyn would be open to signing autographs afterwards.

The plot thickens.

We eventually get in touch with the Eastmans and this thing is legit. By now it’s 6:30 and we don’t have a whole lot of time to get the word out, including letting the cast know before director Chris Holcom announces it from the stage in his curtain speech. You know, that might freak ’em out a little … A few tweets, Facebook posts and texts later and we rolling. Add to it, the show sold out and Mrs. Eastman thoroughly enjoyed herself.

I got a little feed from two of the actors in the show, and some photos from the autograph session I’d like to share below.

The cast, crew and Mrs. Eastman after the show

From Kari Goetz, who plays Barbra:

I got the email from the ticket office that Ms. Eastman might be attending the show and my mouth literally dropped open. It was an overwhelming feeling. To be able to meet someone who was part of the original project and particularly a role as iconoclastic as Helen Cooper is one of those rare once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.
Walking out on stage for the first scene, I was acutely aware of her being in the audience. I think I changed my performance in that first scene just a little bit. I think my voice inflection was closer to the movie, almost like I wanted Ms. Eastman to know, “You’re going to have fun, we respect, love and understand the original intent of the movie.” A lot of companies do the show really campy an we’ve tried to stay as close to the original as possible.
The show itself was great. I always know we have a good audience when we get a reaction on Johnny’s line, “They’re coming to get you Barbra,” and we had that. Lots of applause after scenes, even a few screams, the energy from the crowd was fantastic.

Meeting Ms. Eastman after the show was tremendous. She is still absolutely gorgeous. And she was so generous with her praise and I have to say, flirty with the young men in our cast. All in all she’s my role model for rocking my 80’s.

Marilyn Eastman (Helen Cooper, 1968) face to face with Caroline Jett (Helen Cooper, 2009)

From Mike McGreevy (the Uncle Reg zombie, who had a special cameo at the end of the show in the encore as one Mr. Jason Voorhees):

Although my particular part in this show is relatively small in terms of actual stage time this has been one of the most demanding roles I’ve ever had with Jobsite. The makeup that Danny and Suzan McCarthy came up with for our production is phenomenal, but the process of applying and removing it has certainly started to take a toll on my skin. As a result of all that, I have to be honest and admit that I was not looking forward to this extension weekend at all. Extending shows is always a bit of a stretch when you’re holding down a full-time job outside of the theater, and doing so in this production meant four more times under the foam and grease paint.

I have to admit though, that these last two performances have managed to turn my frown upside down. Let’s start with Thursday night. We managed to more than double the number of tickets we had sold ahead of time in just over an hour to curtain and we went from having “ok” numbers to an almost sold-out house. Not only did we have patrons taking advantage of our discount ticket prices by bringing food in for Metropolitan Ministries, we had people dropping off food for the charity who didn’t want to buy a ticket at all. That’s pure awesome in and of itself.

Then there was last night, Friday the 13th. Without going into too much biographical detail I will simply say that I have always been a huge fan of the Friday the 13th series of films. The last time I can recall trick or treating on Halloween before I outgrew the practice I was wearing a Jason Voorhees costume. Last weekend during backstage talks about the extension weekend and the fact that our Friday show fell on the 13th I joked around that I should come out at the end wearing a hockey mask for the encore. If you think about it (and have seen the show or pictures of me in it) my costume and makeup isn’t that far removed from the way Jason looked in Friday the 13th parts 2, 3 and 4.

Danny, unsurprisingly, had a Jason mask in his arsenal of horror movie memorabilia and when I proposed the idea to Chris he gave it an enthusiastic thumbs up. David (who did our sound design for the show) found out about it yesterday and managed to find the iconic “ch ch ch, ah ah ah” audio track and threw together a special CD of sound effects for the event. Being able to come onstage as Jason last night and hearing the gasps and laughs of appreciation for the audience was pretty darned spiffy if I do say so myself, and with all due respect to my Mother the costume this time around kinda kicked the hell out of the one I wore as a teenager. Too bad I didn’t have a machete.

That, alone, would have made this weekend tolerable. The fact that Marilyn Eastman came to see us perform last night, though, pushed it over the edge from tolerable to awesome. That an actress who was in the original film that our show was an adaption of not only came out to support us but raved about how wonderful it was after made all the (quite literal) pain I’m dealing with this weekend seem kind of insignificant. The best part was that she wasn’t just being nice. I overheard her talking to her family as they walked her out of the theater, and she was going on about how lovely the evening had been and how much fun she had. That was some truly sweet validation. The only thing that could possibly make the weekend even better at this point (barring any other unforeseen special guests showing up in the crowd) would be selling out our final two performances.

That’s a subtle hint, folks. Well, as subtle as I can get in this role. I’m a zombie, yanno. We don’t do subtlety.

Mike’s right. Selling out these last two shows would really put the icing on the gravy that has been this show. We’ve had a blast, and great fortune with it. We still have the availability to take advantage of our food drive offer for $10 tickets, or for student/senior/military rush at the same rate. Hope you can make it out!

Special Effects Designer Danny McCarthy and Director Chris Holcom excited to meet Mrs. Eastman

All smiles: Director Chris Holcom, Stage Manager Jaime Giangrande-Holcom and Mrs. Eastman

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