'Slasher' looks at horror films and feminism, with laughs too

​Most playwrights are happy when any of their work is being presented onstage. So Allison Moore is over the moon right now with four different productions about to open. This includes two productions of Collapse, a work about the 35-W bridge incident, which opens in Dallas and Cincinnati. Her adaptation of My Antonia will start a Minnesota tour this weekend, before landing at the Cowles Center later in February. And this Friday, Urban Samurai will open Slasher, her exploration of women and horror movies, at the Sabes Jewish Community Center.

While Moore may have issues she wants to explore in Slasher about feminism and exploitation, she mostly hopes the audience will have a good time.

"It's supposed to be entertaining, not a polemic. It's a good story that's about real human emotions," she says.

The show premiered in 2009 at the Humana Festival of New American Plays in Louisville, but the idea stretches further back than that. A transplanted Texan, Moore still has a subscription to Texas Magazine. There, she found an article about the making of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Tobe Hooper's landmark horror film that ushered in a new era for the genre.

"He made the film on no money, and the conditions for the actors were terrible. They used real, rotting animal carcasses. They were shooting out in the bush in Texas in August. Hooper shot everything in order, and he didn't want the actors to clean their costumes," Moore says. "The actors were working for points on the profits of the films. So while it became a hit, it never made money and paper, so no one was compensated."

The situation got Moore thinking about their roles. "If you volunteer, can you still be exploited? These two characters came to me: an ambitious daughter who talks her way into a low-budget horror flick, and a mother who is a passionate, some may even say deranged, feminist," she says.

Director Brian Balcom first encountered the show when it was part of the Playwrights' Center's Playlabs series. "I was immediately drawn to its humor, energy, and conflict. More than anyone, Allison has the ability to write about real and serious issues while at the same time creating a wonderful piece of entertainment."

Of course, bringing it to the stage doesn't come without some work, especially for a fast-paced piece with "power tools, fighting, a cast of seven actors, and gallons of blood," Balcom says.

Moore did examine several films in the genre, from the original Massacre to Carrie ("the mother character there is so amazing," she says) to Psycho, along with more recent films. She did stay away from the gory end of modern horror movies, but still was able to absorb the conventions and "rules" that dictate the genre. Some of that has found its way into the show, such as the interchangeability of most of the victims.

"One of the conventions of the play is that one actress plays all the women who get killed in the movie," Moore says. 

No matter the deeper points, the key is to make sure the show is entertaining and funny, Moore says. Beyond that, "I hope they leave the theater talking about some of the issues. Was the lead girl exploited, or did she get exactly what she sought?"


Sabes Jewish Community Center
4330 S. Cedar Lake Rd., Minneapolis
Friday through February 18
For more information, visit online.

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