Thursday, August 31, 2006

Ghost Story Chills

The air in the evenings and the mornings is getting that crisp feel, and for me that means my ghost story is due.

One wing of my personal theatrical profession is perennially linked to the North Shore and, more specifically, the town of Salem, MA.

Yes, that Salem, MA. I perform annually during October, telling ghost stories on the Friendship, a replica East Indiamen that is docked in Salem Harbor just off Pickering Wharf. The Custom House of Hawthorne's prologue to The Scarlet Letter sits just across the street.

For the past two years I have contributed a ghost story of my own creation, which we put into the mix with other stories of ghosts on the high seas. Stories like, The Upper Berth by Marion Crawford and Message in a Bottle by Edgar Allen Poe have been adapted in the past.

Writing the ghost story for the purpose of it being told to people is a great excercise for the playwright. You must combine vivid imagination and an adherence to the principles of suspense and surprise, but you also must always be aware of the fact that the teller will be before a live audience ranging from young children to adults.

Commercial restrictions provide another unique factor. The stories cannot exceed a certain length. We tell three storie, each in differnt location on the ship, at three varying lenghts: 1st story is 8-10 Minutes, 2nd story is 5-6 minutes, 3rd story is 3-4 minutes.

These lengths keep the flow of audience groups moving quickly. If anybody wants to know what Salem is like the closer you get to Halloween, just think Woodstock and you start to get an idea. So on Halloween night, when you have 200-300 people in line to get on the ship, well...timing is everything.

In addition, the stories are told by actors dressed in early 19th century period costumes, so your language and setting must match at least the idea of that period. I usually get myself in the mindset by reading Poe and Hawthorne to get the rythym of their syntax and vocabulary.

I have completed two drafts of my story, and I need to trim some more.

Happy Halloween! (Early)

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