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Halloween horror comedy provides different sort of hook on UCalgary stage

Hookman, coming this month to UCalgary’s Reeve Theatre, is a darkly funny horror slasher that producers have promised will be the perfect Halloween entertainment this year.

The play takes audiences back to 2012, where a young woman, Lexi, is forced to confront her first year of University under the shadow of a hook-handed serial killer.

“It’s one part psychological thriller, one part absurdist slasher—blood comes out of pies, pen, then people,” said Jenna Rodgers, Director of Hookman, and Chromatic Theatre’s outgoing artistic director.

“There’s a lot of levity to be found in it, and I think it’s quite perfect for Halloween time.”

Written by playwright Lauren Yee in 2012, it has played on stages in New York City, Boston, Chicago, and has been performed on university and conservatory stages in San Francisco and San Diego. The play won San Francisco’s Theater Bay Area Award for outstanding world premiere play in 2015.

The play was chosen to appeal to both university students and a broader audience looking for Halloween fun. Rodgers said that choosing something fun and accessible for audiences was important for Chromatic Theatre this year.

“Who doesn’t like a laugh, especially as we’re coming back to live performance after Covid,” said Rodgers.

“We want to ease people in make people feel really comfortable, and if they walk away talking about the play even better.”

Tickets are $22 for adults, and $17 for students and seniors, and can be purchased online at arts.ucalgary.ca/creative-performing-arts/news-and-events/school-events/scpa-2022-23-season/hookman.

The play is also being live streamed online on Oct. 28 at 7:30 pm. Tickets for that showing are $10 per household.

University of Calgary students can claim first-come-first-served tickets for free during the run through the University.

Connecting actors in training with professional actors

Rodgers said that the play offers the opportunity for professional stage actors to be connected with students currently learning to perform at the University of Calgary.

“When I set to producing it I wanted to pick a play that had lots of roles for women, and lots of age appropriate roles for young women, because there’s so many young women in Calgary who are hungry to be in plays,” she said.

“The University of Calgary became the perfect partner because I could find a couple of professional actors who were young but had conservatory training… and pair them with students from the University of Calgary, so that they had humans who are on the ground doing the next step of their career.”

The stage crew for the production is also a combination of professional theatre technicians and students.

“We are so excited that our students get to work with a professional company that is playing such an important role in our community,” said Christine Brubaker, artistic director of Drama at the School of Creative and Performing Arts.

Actor, singer, and playwright Sepidar Yeganeh Farid who has previously worked with Downstage Theatre, Chromatic Theatre, and Alberta Theatre Projects, will be playing the lead character Lexi for Hookman.

Samantha Vu, a graduate from the Randolph Academy in Toronto but who is originally from Calgary, is the second professional actor in the production playing Yoonji.

Students Sunny Bao, Stephanie Bessala, Sofia Huarte Aguilar, and Jordan Wilson will be playing Chloe, Jess, Kayleigh, and Hookman.

Rodgers founded Chromatic Theatre as a way to do work by, and for artists of colour in 2014. This will be her last play with the theatre as artistic director, with Kodie Rollan stepping into the role later this year.

She said that working with the University of Calgary made it easy to put together a diverse cast for the production.

“There are so many diverse students at the University of Calgary, it was not difficult at all to put together a super diverse, super talented, super funny cast.”

The play is a collaborative work

Rodgers called Hookman a play that will be interesting for both current students and older people like their parents to discuss, given the 2012 setting.

“There are still things about like how women look at the world, and how that’s evolved over 10 years,” Rodgers said.

“That’s not what the play is about, but that’s just a byproduct of how the writing works.”

She said that the play was developed with students, there was a critical eye on the type of language used, and how that has changed over the past decade.

Rodgers said that she learned a lot from the students as they addressed the slang used then versus now. Plus, some of the horror tropes that were more common.

“The playwright is choosing words carefully, and trying to also say ‘no, this is a moment in time, and how do we respectfully create a moment of time,'” Rodgers said.

“I think that’s been a beautiful thing about how the collaboration has worked. We really get to see these young adults speak their own minds, and we could put a lens at how fast things change.”