Monday, August 29, 2011

Interview with Anna Grace Carter of "Prom Night of the Living Dead"

By Byrne Harrison
Photos courtesy of BITE

Anna Grace Carter ( is the Producer/Co-Creator of Prom Night of the Living Dead and the Executive Producer/Director of Brooklyn Innovative Theatre Experience (BITE) with Co-Founder and Artistic Director, Kris Chung ( Anna came to New York in December 2009 via Beijing, China where she has spent nearly half a decade producing, directing, writing, and acting in plays and musicals at the Peng Hao Theatre--one of China's only independently owned and operated theatres. Through workshops, festivals, and stagings of classic and modern productions from Shakespeare to Wit, her work in Beijing has helped create and maintain a vibrant independent international theatre community in China. Now, Anna Grace brings her unique views and experience to the independent theatre community of New York with the original interactive theatrical event, Prom Night of the Living Dead, based on a show first conceived and produced in Beijing. Anna Grace has also produced award winning shows in the Midtown International Theatre Festival and the Shortened Attention Span Horror Festival. Her regional directing/producing credits include Godspell, Annie, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Orphans, and the Diaries of Adam and Eve. She has also produced and starred in the Beijing premiere of Wit, a role for which she, naturally, shaved her head.

I've heard Prom Night of the Living Dead described as George Romero meets John Hughes.  So working that theme, in The Breakfast Club, which character did you most identify with?

Though I would like to say the Molly Ringwald princess, I think I most identify with Ally Sheedy's freak in that group. Our director/writer, Kris would probably say I am the mean old principal.

If zombies had attacked during that Saturday detention, who would have survived?

Definitely NOT the meanie principal! I guess that the freaks and geeks would last the longest. I suppose that Bender would find the most weapons.

Tell me a little bit about Prom Night of the Living Dead.

Prom Night of the Living Dead transports its audience into a Twilight Zone-like world, where they'll attend the Glendale High School 1962 prom with the graduating class -- best described in John Hughes archetypes -- jocks, princesses, geeks, and rebels. The night begins with plenty of dancing, drinking, and playing games. The story of the play involves a sensitive geek in love with the prom queen-to-be whose potential romance is cut short by an attack by the living dead, which the audience experiences firsthand with the survivors in a bloody battle finale.

Zombies are everywhere these days.  Well, not real zombies - that would be horrible.  But zombies are on TV, movies, and stage.  What do you think makes them so popular now?

Photo by Elia A. Roldan
In Romero's early films, zombies represent simple-minded conservative society that infects and poisons the younger generation and only gets worse with time and cannot be defeated because it is so pervasive. (Many of Romero's zombies were symbols of society and authority like cops, teachers, parents, etc. -- our show features these old school zombies as well.)

I think with all the unrest and evil in the world, the things that zombies represented back in the 1960s from Romero's first film are as true today as they were back then. The '60s were a time of unrest and uncertainty -- a loss of innocence after the more prosperous times of the '50s. History is a cycle and perhaps we are feeling that same kind of restlessness that was so pervasive during '60s with the booming Reagan and Clinton years leading to the Great Recession, 9/11, and unending wars in the Middle East. These and many other things are the zombies of today.

This is an interactive play, where the audience mixes and mingles with the cast as prom attendees themselves.  What made you decide to present it in this format?

We wanted the audience to feel like they are part of the action in a three-dimensional way. By having them start the evening by attending a "regular" prom they get lost in the event of partying and playing games and then all of a sudden the zombies attack -- the doors are locked and the groaning and moaning starts to come from all sides. The audience starts to feel like they are in a horror movie, not just watching a play.

Any challenges so far in this type of staging?

Photo by Mia Moy
It is very difficult to do interactive theatre because we need to create a balance between party and play. It's hard to make it clear when the audience should focus in on an important scene between the two main characters and when they should party and dance with the rest of the cast. We also have to make sure they don't try to fight the actors playing zombies in the final battle.

What has been the best thing for you about this show?

Seeing the reactions from the audience as the zombies start to flood the stage. People are scared and/or shouting along with the main characters to "hit them in the head!" It's fun to watch everyone get scared and have a great time as well. I also enjoy watching the whole room do the hokey pokey!

Tell me a little about your cast and crew.

Many of our cast are from the original staging of the one-act version from last year's festival. It's great to have the old gang back because it made the rehearsal process go much more smoothly with all the stage combat we had to learn. As for the crew I truly believe we have a fantastically talented team! Our director/writer, Kris Chung, is the ultimate zombie expert and fan. He always has an answer for the cast on what to do in any given zombie situation and he always manages to find a balance between the intimacy and urgency of the play without compromising the fun party atmosphere of the interactive event. Our fight choreographer, Stanley Brode, has put together a beautiful and more importantly, believable zombie battle. And our dance choreographer, Dustin Cross has efficiently taught our cast nearly every '60s dance from the Stroll to the Mashed Potato. We've got some amazing talent in this young, non-union cast of 18 and I am so proud of each and every one of them!

What is next for you?

We are working on finding a permanent home for the Prom on Off-Broadway. After this successful run, we plan to re-open around Halloween to initiate a long-running show. If any dance hall/school gyms are interested in hosting us, please contact me asap! I'm also writing a couple new musicals based on my life in China. I hope to get those started in readings and workshops by the end of the year.

And finally, if you found yourself stuck in The Walking Dead or Night of the Living Dead, what would be your survival strategy?

First of all, I would try to get as far away as possible from NYC or any city for that matter. I would prepare as much food and water as I could carry and learn to use a shotgun with or without bullets for maximum head damage. Honestly, I don't think I would last too long in a real zombie apocalypse, I can barely make it through a scary zombie movie without my hands over my eyes! 

Prom Night of the Living Dead

August 18- September 4
Thursday - Saturday 8PM
Sunday 2PM


Anonymous said...

The photo, makeup, and costume is by Elia A. Roldan.

Thank you.

PNOLD said...

For tickets please visit

Chance said...

I saw the opening performance and had a blast! I didn't know it was interactive when I went in but found myself thoroughly entertained for the whole show.