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Zombies to congregate in the great outdoors

Bill DeYoung



"10 Ways to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse" starts Friday at Boyd Hill Nature Preserve. Photo: City of St. Petersburg.

Is it a nature walk? Or a scavenger hunt? Is it just some silly play? Or is it Halloween Horror Nights?

The new show from American Stage is a little bit of all of the above, and then some. It’s called 10 Ways to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse, and it opens Friday, but this particular band of walking dead won’t be traipsing across the mainstage downtown, with attendees comfy in their theater seats.

The actors, and the audience, will come together on the woodland trail at Boyd Hill Nature Preserve. At night.

“It’s essentially comedic, a slapsticky farce almost that’s structured as a guidebook as how to survive in a zombie apocalypse,” explains director Anthony Gervais.

“It’s the perfect piece for being out on the trail, because it’s a series of vignettes, 10-plus different scenes, providing silly-slash scary ways you might survive out in the wilderness. So it’s really the perfect setting, to be out there at night with flashlights. Walking along the trail.”

Director Anthony Gervais (front) and his “Zombie Apocalypse” cast scout locations at Boyd Hill. Photo: American Stage.

The entire nine-member cast will be equipped with flashlights, as will every ticket-holder. “In that way,” says Gervais, “there’s almost a ‘choose your adventure’ element to it – where will you choose to look with your flashlight? That will provide what kinds of sightlines you’re getting, and what people around you are actually seeing.”

From the playwright’s website: “It’s the end of the world and hordes of rampaging zombies are about to kill you. What do you do? Try your hand at kung fu against the undead? Attempt to reason with creatures that would rather eat brains than use them? Turn to this handy and hilarious guide to survive the apocalypse! (Hint: sacrifice the weak is step number one.)”

Because American Stage produces a show outdoors at Demens Landing Park every spring, members of the company aren’t afraid of the weather (Gervais himself was in Ragtime, last year’s “park show”).

This one, however, provides additional challenges. “How I’m thinking about the whole thing is different, because I’m not just thinking about the pace of the play, but I’m thinking about the pace of the walk along the trail,” explains the director. “And where I’m placing the scenes.

“So it’s been an interesting process, but it also opens up a lot of opportunities to play with unique staging, and interacting with the environment around us rather than having to be fixed to one viewpoint.”

This production ticks an important box for contemporary professional theater companies – how to keep an audience interested, particularly younger people who might not be thrilled about sitting through a two-dimensional stage play.

And it literally brings theater “to the people,” another important concept.

Zombie Apocalypse is the first of two 70-minute productions that American Stage is cooking up with Boyd Hill – the Diaries of Adam and Eve, based on a Mark Twain story, will run Feb. 1-18.

The series is called Tales By Twilight.

Gervais and his cast began rehearsals in the theater building downtown, but moved to the Boyd Hill site this week.

“We’ve been going out there in the evening,” he says, “right as the park is getting ready to close. I’m not gonna lie, it’s a little bit spooky.”

Performances at Boyd Hill Nature Preserve are at 6 or 8 p.m., depending on the day, through Jan. 28. For tickets, directions and instructions on what to bring and what not to bring, visit the American Stage website.





















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