Old Time Horror

Geneviève Doyon and Jessica Hickman have, once again, combed through silent films, searching for excerpts to play on a screen to an audience.

This is the third year they’ve done it.

Doyon and Hickman are the co-artistic directors of Open Pit Theatre. Doyon is based in Whitehorse, Hickman in Victoria. The film nights have become the company’s yearly fundraiser. It’s the main way Open Pit raises money.

This year they’re looking for silent horror films. The theme of the night is 1920s Horror. Several film clips will be played, around 10 minutes each – not so long that the performers could be “lost within the film,” as Doyon says, but long enough to develop an engaging story.

Actors Brian Fidler, George Maratos and Mary Sloan will improvise dialogue into microphones while the films play. Simultaneously, musicians will improvise a musical score and sound effects. Musicians are Daniel Janke on piano, Paul Bergman on bass, and Olivier De Colombel on saxophone.

“It will be very collaborative,” Doyon says. She says the actors and musicians can “really experiment.”

Though they all have a chance to view the films beforehand to get a sense of the characters and pacing of the pieces, nothing will be rehearsed.

“It’s a really different approach to dramaturgy,” Doyon says.

Special effects and lighting are noticeably different in silent-era films than today. Doyon says she notices and reflects on what used to be considered scary, and what is considered scary today. The films have a “very different pace,” she says, “they have a lot of space.”

The improvisation allows the actors to bring a contemporary twist to the film, which is often humourous.

Another element of the production that Doyon is excited about is how playing with these films shows how these old films influenced modern cinematography.

She sees throwbacks in the films featured at the fundraiser.

“I’m sure it’s the inspiration for the Joker,” Doyon says of The Man Who Laughs, by Paul Leni. Similarly, the dramatic portrayal of a vampire in Le Spectre Rouge by Segundo do Chomòn brings out the wide differences between vampires in cinema then and now.

“It’s neat to see how these traditions evolved,” Doyon says.

The Open Pit fundraiser will take place on October 22 from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. at The Old Fire Hall. Participants are encouraged to channel the evening’s spooky theme with their own costumes.

The fundraiser will have a photo booth where folks can get a little silly – a favourite from past fundraisers – and special themed drinks.

Attendees can buy into a paper airplane throwing contest, in which participants make a paper airplane, then have a contest to see whose plane flies the furthest. Winners receive prizes from sponsors. Sponsors include Air North, Yukon Brewing, Mac’s Fireweed Books and many other local businesses.

Any money raised at the film night goes towards projects that Open Pit Theatre is working on; namely Words of the Yukon. It’s a production the company is putting together from transcribed interviews with Yukoners on their relationship to the land. Money also goes to putting on theatre workshops hosted by the company.

“I’m really excited to see what these guys come up with,” Doyon says of the evening’s performers, but also of the people who attend. “Everyone contributes to the atmosphere.”

Tickets for the film night can be purchased online through EventBrite. A link can be found here at http://openp.it/upcoming/2016/10/3/a-silent-horror-film-night

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