Smile Politely

There’s a blood moon on the rise…

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the theater…Lunarcy returns! For one night only — in this case, Tuesday, November 4th — local arts aficionados can see something completely new and original at the Station Theatre in Urbana. Once again, the Station is going to spend one of its off-nights (during the run of the David Ives play Venus in Fur) bringing some fresh scripts to the stage. This program of alternate-night programming began in earnest a couple of seasons ago, and the tradition continues this season as well.

For some details on the event, I spoke with the authors involved — first with Smile Politely contributor Thom Schnarre, then with Kay Bohannon Holley.


Smile Politely: Nice to see that this has become a tradition at the Station—not just Dark Nights, but Lunarcy as well. For anyone who doesn’t already know about this, please remind everybody what a “dark night” performance is. What sorts of things have been done before? What sorts of things might the Station be open to trying?

Thom Schnarre (pictured, right): The Station’s Dark Nights are designed as an opportunity for the company and our audience to have a great time celebrating the writings of both local talents and admired writers in a stripped-down and relaxed environment. In the past we have done poetry and fiction nights and also original works written by local talents. Those interested in coordinating or proposing a Dark Night program need to contact a Station Theatre board member with their idea. The board will then look at the time slots available and the ideas we have received and typically set up two to four Dark Nights a season.

The Dark Nights run for one night only on selected Tuesdays throughout the season when no show or rehearsal is scheduled (in drama-speak, a night when the theater is “dark”). Because these are no-frills presentations, they are free to the public on a first-come, first-seated basis. In the past, we have hosted events like Words in the Wind and read original plays that are still-works-in progress and need audience feedback to help them develop. As with last year’s Lunarcy, this year’s Lunarcy: Blood Moon Rising is a chance for local talents to have their works performed by a talented crop of Station actors for a supportive audience. It’s a great way for new playwrights to get feedback and watch their work brought to life.

SP: How does this year’s presentation differ from last year’s Lunarcy event?

Scharre: Lunarcy: Blood Moon Rising continues the use of local actors and authors that last year’s Lunarcy established; and both are Halloween-themed events with works by various artists. Last year’s work focused on theatrical pieces by myself and Joel Higgins and also a fiction piece by Lindsey Gates-Markel. Shawna Smith and I coordinated an evening of original works written in about a six-week planning period, so the audience saw a lot of hot-off-the-press, first-draft efforts. Last year brought a story of children exploring the dark with Lindsey’s piece, a sort of Asian-inspired nightmarescape of choreographed images from Joel, and some twisted erotic and family dysfunction from myself — all patched together for about an hour’s worth of thrills and chills!

This year, Lunarcy: Blood Moon Rising takes us from a story of an odd occurrence (courtesy of Station vet Kay Holley, pictured left) through several scenes and monologues of building intensity, written by myself, exploring how today’s world is just a nudge away from the horrific. I began a whole collection of horror-inspired vignettes during the winter months and have been revamping and revising it through the summer, largely because horror is so hard to do in live theatre and I liked that challenge. The pieces I’ve chosen from the collection for this event are less erotically charged than last year’s and more straight-from-the-headlines. The themes are very in-your-face, but there’s less nudity and explicitness to the pieces. We explore a variety of obsessions with youth and the consequences of such obsessions, and the power that misguided parenting and rigid institutional/social instruction can have in creating our modern monsters. It will have more of a traditional theatricality about it than last year’s presentation, and there’s also a lot more pathos in the vignettes. The audience will take an emotional as well as adrenaline-fueled journey this time out.

SP: Who is involved, and how much can you tell us about what they’ll be doing?

Schnarre: As I’ve stated, the works are by Kay and myself, with performances by Kay Holley, Katie Prosise, William Anthony-Sebastian Rose II, Christopher Brown, Stefanie Senior, Laura Anne Welle, Aaron Clark, Timothy O’Neal, Mindy Manolakes, and Chris Taber. We will literally travel to Hell and back with a dream-like observation of a rural tragedy by Kay, and my pieces focus on several random encounters with unhinged strangers, a visit into an adolescent Purgatory, and a modern American family that will make your flesh crawl. While writing these pieces, I had two rules: first, they all had to touch on modern themes of horror and fear; and secondly, I didn’t allow myself to censor anything — so the journey will get a bit bumpy for some! It’s been a quite trip for me as well!

SP: Any special enticements to bring in the unaffiliated Tuesday night person-about-town?

Schnarre: If you’re a fan of shows like the American Horror Story franchise and Gotham, or are pumped by the Showtime series Penny Dreadful and their reported reboot of Twin Peaks, this is the night of theatre at The Station for you! I am very impressed with the talent we’ve gathered, and this promises to be a 90-minute trip into uncharted territory not to be missed!


The story by Kay Holley, “Night House Burning,” is an evocative slice of life with sublimely creepy details. There is a late-night, dream-like quality to it. In it, friends on an after-hours drive happen upon something that is both unsettling and strangely common. I was lucky enough to see an advance copy of the text, and Ms. Holley consented to let me share an excerpt:

We poured out of the car and across the lanes of night highway. Down the steep ravine at the far side of the road and then up the hill to climb a fence that marked the line between home and government right-of-way. Knowing that explosion was a danger, we were afraid to go too close. But we were close enough. Close enough to look into the giant eye and see the fiery world within. There, right where you’d expect it to be, was the couch. At the side, a wing chair and ottoman. A coffee table and side tables with lamps. It was every living room we’d ever seen in our own homes and in the homes of our friends, except that it was bathed in flames. Within, the furniture looked whole. It was as if the air in the house was on fire, but not the objects within it — or better yet, as if eachpiece of furniture were itself made of fire.  The fire raged and yet nothing appeared to be consumed. The house contained the fire but was not destroyed by it.

As has been stated before on Smile Politely, Ms. Holley has been with the Celebration Company for a little over 20 years. With this in mind, I prevailed upon her for a little more information about this upcoming event and how it fits into the Station Theatre’s history.

SP: Is there precedent for events like this prior to the Dark Nights of the last couple of seasons?

Kay Holley: I remember about twenty years ago, at the urging of board member Ed Pierce,  we did a couple of play-readings on dark nights. We didn’t call it “Dark Night at the Theatre,” but we should have, because that’s a cool name. I remember we read Vaclav Havel’s play The Memorandum,  among others. Only lasted for a little bit, though. There may have been other experiments, but I don’t remember them.

SP: In your opinion, why is an event like this good for the Celebration Company and, by extension, its audience?

Holley: I think it is great for the Company, because we always have among us writers who would love to get an audience response for their work. It is also an opportunity for the Company as a whole to come together in less pressured circumstances and to share and discuss our artistic endeavors. As for our audiences: they are, of course, welcome to attend Dark Nights (though we don’t really advertise them) and get a look at what we like to do when we aren’t putting on our regular season. And, I think that anything that strengthens the cohesion of the Company is good for our audiences as well.


As mentioned above, this is a free event. No reservations are required (or taken), and the audience should be aware that they will likely experience work of a “mature” nature. Want to get involved? The show starts at 7:30 p.m.

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