The world premiere of “Zombies on Campus! A Slaughterpocalypse!,” a comedic play written and directed by Western Carolina University professor D.V. Caitlyn, definitely met its description as a “comedy to die for.”
The 90-minute performance’s opening night was performed by the WCU School of Stage and Screen at the John W. Bardo Fine and Performing Arts Center at 7:30 p.m. to a full auditorium.
“Zombies on Campus! A Slaughterpocalypse!” is a play within a play, beginning during the theatre students’s rehearsal of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth.”
Suddenly, a French ne’er-do-well biology graduate student named Leon, played by Will Bryant, bursts into the theatre and proclaims that the apocalypse has occurred – the zombie apocalypse, to be precise.
Caitlyn’s zombies aren’t just any zombies. They’re smart, they’re fast, and they’re scary. Because of the outbreak occurring during a home football game, the theatre students and Leon are safe – for now.
However, it is now up to them to find the cause of the apocalypse, and how to reanimate their loved ones as soon as possible. To stay alive, the students must use Leon’s biological knowledge and their musical playlist.
Audience member Ryan Jackson described “Zombies on Campus! A Slaughterpocalypse!” as having “just the right amount of ridiculousness.”
The rest of the audience agreed with him, as they were captivated throughout the performance, and not because they were afraid of being eaten by the zombies!
Caitlyn said, “This show depends on the audience’s interaction to work, and the opening night went very well.”
“Zombies on Campus! A Slaughterpocalypse!” has a different type of seating arrangement than a usual performance. Instead of having the audience in the orchestra or balcony like normal, the audience is seated on the stage, where they can expect to be surprised by interactions from the actors and the zombies.
The show has a cast of 33, including 14 main cast members, 14 ensemble zombies, two violinists and three featured zombies with names like Cheerleader Chick, The Blind One and Festering Bitch Queen.
The main cast actors embody the theatre stereotypes such as the stoner named Nate, played by Grant Hengevald; Elise the overdramatic lead actress, played by Emily Pears; Charlotte the ditz, played by Paige Smith; the cynic named Bob, played by James Martin, and the theatre director named Tim, played by Alex Drost.
Other characters included the Police Chief, named Ernie after WCU’s Chief of Police and played by Cory Phelps; Brett the janitor, played by Andy Thompson; Shi-Shir the jock, played by Cullen Ries; Janice the stage manager, played by Emily Lindeman, and the poetic Katie, played by Ellen Dyar.
The makeup for the show was stunning and put on by the makeup crew very quickly, which was surprising given the extent of the makeup that was done for each of the zombies. The crew especially showed their skill when changing “alive” cast members into the undead during the show.
The Festering Bitch Queen, played by Alex Hairston, looked very reminiscent of “The Walking Dead” character Michonne, while other zombies were more traditional. One remarkable zombie had a rotting patch on her collarbone that looked like a mineral.
There were minimal props used during the show, mainly using prop swords, originally intended to be used in “Macbeth,” and books. However, the most important and most intriguing prop noticed by this reporter was the fake decapitated head inside a WCU football helmet. It was a very tasteful (no pun intended) reminder of where the outbreak had truly begun.
After the show, the cast was elated by the success of the night’s performance as well as expectations for the show’s run.
Actress Paige Smith said, “It was a great opening night – I couldn’t have asked for better.”
Showings for “Zombies on Campus! A Slaughterpocalypse!” will continue every evening at 7:30 p.m. until Tuesday, Nov. 19. All showings from Thursday through Sunday night are sold out. Tickets are still available for Monday and Tuesday night.
Tickets are $7, if they are pre-ordered, and $10 if bought at the door. Given the demand for seats, pre-ordering tickets is recommended to ensure that everyone who wants to attend is able to. Tickets can be pre-ordered through the Bardo Arts Center box office, by phone at 828-227-2479 or online at theatretickets.wcu.edu.