Theater brings different slant to zombie story


Sounds of voices harmonizing and heels clicking filled the hallways of City High as young starlets prepared to take the stage for one of their final dress rehearsals.

“Little gals, let’s get some blush on your cheeks and red on your lips — we’re on in 5,” shouted Janet Schlapkohl, the producer and director of the play Zombie Hotel.

Zombie Hotel, which will première Friday, is a production of Combined Efforts Community Drama at the City High’s Little Theatre. The group includes performers both with and without special needs.

Though the group sprung from a program at City High when Schlapkohl was a special-education teacher, the current organization isn’t limited to City High students. Young performers include high-school students and graduates from throughout the area. That’s where the “community” part plays a role.

Over the past couple of years, Schlapkohl realized that some of her former students were no longer involved in a community-theater group. After contacting a few parents, she was able to put together the nonprofit theater program.

Zombie Hotel — written by Schlapkohl — is the first play Combined Efforts Community Drama will showcase.

“It’s a good process for me as a writer … And I don’t charge royalties,” she joked.

Don’t be spooked, though, Zombie Hotel isn’t about the “killing type of zombies,” she said. “It is the psychological zombie — life has been sucked out of you because you’ve been feeling defeated — that is the prevailing theme of the play.”

Usually when Schlapkohl is writing a play, she already has an idea of which actors and actresses will fill each role. With this technique, she knows the performers can really succeed, she said.

“It’s amazingly fun to do,” she said.

Ryan Sirois, a 2006 alumnus of City High, plays the part of Irene, a British housekeeper at the Zombie Hotel. Her character couldn’t follow her dream of becoming an actress because she was afraid of heights. Coincidentally Sirois, too, is afraid of heights.

As the days tip-toe toward curtain call, the performers are naturally becoming anxious and nervous.

“You get to a show and go ‘ahh,’ ” said Alannah Walterhouse, an actor and sophomore at City High. Walterhouse said that nerves are calmed once everyone gets into her or his character.

“It becomes a Zombie Hotel and not an audience,” she said.

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