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'Night of the Living Dead' in Charleston

WANT TO GO?

Kanawha Players presents "Night of the Living Dead."

WHERE: Kanawha Players Theater, 309 Beauregard Street.

WHEN: 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday; 8 p.m. Oct. 25 and 26.

TICKETS: Adults $12. Seniors and children $10. INFO: Call 304-343-PLAY or visit www.kanawhaplayers.org

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CHARLESTON, W.Va.-- Film director George A. Romero will always be remembered for his zombie movies. He did one romantic comedy, "There's Always Vanilla," and he did a couple of other kinds of horror films, including the cult classic, "The Crazies," and the adaptation of Stephen King's, "The Dark Half," but most people remember "Dawn of the Dead" or his first film, "Night of the Living Dead."

Released in 1968, "Night of the Living Dead," was an indie black and white horror film about a group of people trapped inside a rural farmhouse and surrounded by dozens of restless undead.

The film inspired countless writers and directors, spawned several sequels, many knock-off versions and was remade twice. It's also become a stage play, which the Kanawha Players intend to open Friday at their theater on Beauregard Street.

Ginger Workman, who co-directed the play with Devon Nuckles, said the Kanawha Players have big hopes that the play may be their biggest hit in years.

"We're selling tickets like crazy," she said. "Right now, we're thinking we might sell out the whole thing. People love this stuff."

Workman said after last fall's success with their stage production of "Evil Dead: The Musical," the theater group went looking for another horror-based play.

"Charleston just has a really good market for it," she said. "They want to see it and it's kind of cool that we can kind of band together to make it happen."

Just doing the zombie play has attracted new people to their theater troupe, people with little or no acting experience who simply want to be one of the living dead.

"It's an interesting way for them to get a taste of theater without having to learn lines or be scared they're going to mess up," Workman added. "There's not a lot of pressure."

At least, there's not a lot of pressure for the actors. For the technical staff, that's entirely a different question.

While "Night of the Living Dead" as a stage play has been done all over the country, not every theater group has approached it the way the Kanawha Players have.

"What we're doing is pretty true to the movie," Workman said. "It fits in all the good scenes."

The play is also in black and white -just like the film -which sounds less complicated than it actually is. The sets and costumes of the show aren't the only things colored black and white.

"The play has been done before a few places," the director said. "But the best I can tell is nobody has gone as far with the black and white as we have. I can't find anybody who painted their actors like we did."

All of the actors have been airbrushed and the only color beyond the monochrome shades of gray is blood red.

In fact, Workman said the biggest challenge in putting together this production hasn't been the people. It's the artistic direction, which she said made "Night of the Living Dead" a lot like directing a painting.

"Usually, we've got one person handling makeup for a show -- at most," she said. "For this one, we have at least four every night and we're doing makeup while the show is in motion."

There are a lot of zombies on that stage, Workman added.

Kanawha Players thinks they'll have another hit with zombies this year, but audiences shouldn't expect every October to be devoted strictly to flesh-eating corpses -at least Workman said maybe next year, they'll go in a different direction.

"Maybe sci-fi next year," she said. "Just something a little different than zombies." Reach Bill Lynch at lynch@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.


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