Original Horror Play by Local Playwright Premieres at Playhouse in the Park This Weekend
The Yellow Sign appeared to Murray native, doctor, and playwright Chris Poor in a dream. He wrote his first draft in only 48 hours six years ago, and this weekend, the original work premieres at Playhouse in the Park. Poor speaks to Austin Carter ahead of this weekend's performances.
"The concept behind the play is drawn from what's commonly known as weird fiction or cosmic horror," Poor begins. "H.P. Lovecraft is probably the most famous, but his predecessors included an American author named R.W. Chambers. R.W. Chambers wrote a book in 1895 called The King in Yellow. It was a collection of short stories that were all connected by this concept of a play that drove people crazy."
"There's this idea of something rather banal that has a terrible effect or something very, very sinister behind it. I think that calls to one of our deeper fears, and that's why it's been persistent," Poor continues. "And if you want to start with the deepest fears, start with death. Most horror plays on suffering and death. It's something that we can't avoid. Everyone has suffered in life, and everyone's going to die. What do we do with that information?"
"Do we live a life of hopelessness, a life of nihilism? A life devoid of meaning? Or do we look for something valuable? In this play, I'm going to give you something to remember, but I'm also going to give you something to think about. I'm going to try and scare you, but I'm trying to scare you with a view towards making you more prepared for life, for the horror that you're going to face in the future. Because it comes to all of us at some point."
"Human beings are storytellers. And there are true stories, and there is fiction. Why do we waste time with fiction? With stories that aren't true? What makes a story worth listening to? Interesting? Worth repeating? There's something in there that's valuable for us. I hope this is a story worth repeating, worth telling again and again."
Poor says that the allure of a seemingly innocent object driving someone to madness can be explained by a loss of control. "We would like to believe we're in control of ourselves. The thought that you could be exposed to something that makes you unable to control yourself or unacceptable to others in society. I think [R.W. Chambers' story] was really dealing with the idea that, in the 1890s, there were a lot of social behaviors that were viewed as mental illness, as insanity."
"This was the time period in which Oscar Wilde was imprisoned for being a homosexual. I think Chambers was addressing this. There was a genre of fiction known as yellow fiction that was essentially erotic fiction, and the books were banned. [Chambers] has this fictional play that's banned because it drives people crazy. t makes them behave in ways that are unacceptable in society. I think there's a lot to mine in that, especially with where we are today in society, the struggles we're having," Poor concludes.
Murray's Playhouse in the Park and the Tattered Troupe present The Yellow Sign on Friday, November 11, Saturday, November 12, and Sunday, November 13, at 7 pm. The play is recommended for ages 16 and older. Admission is $10.