Justin Webster loves a good horror story. He and his wife Stefanie like to stage something in keeping with the season at their Theatre Three-Eleven in Listowel.
Having presented a few plays in the spirit of Halloween, the couple found the selection of new pieces to be quite slim, taking into account the intimate confines of the venue. The solution? Justin penned a tale of his own, which is now being performed following Thursday’s opening.
“We like to put on thrillers – we try to find one every fall – but the choices were pretty limited,” said Stefanie.
“Justin had this story in the back of his mind for a while. … He’s always been a fan of spooky stories.”
The story turned out to be My Soul To Take, which introduces us to a 13-year-old girl, her father and stepmother. After the family moves into an older home, the girl (Melissa Dunphy) begins to have nightmares. Nothing her parents do seems to help. Clearly, this is something more than a girl coping with the fact her mother has died and she’s not terribly keen about the new woman in her dad’s life. It’s beyond the typical adolescent attitudes on display.
As the lines between sleep and wakefulness begin to blur, some potential reasons for the nightmares begin to emerge.
Eventually, attention turns to the house itself. Is it haunted? Possessed?
Suspicions turn to the stepmother, as you might expect.
Is the young girl herself being forthright?
So many questions. And that’s just the point, as the audience is meant to guess what comes next, and how it will all end, said Webster, who’s directing the play.
“There’s an element of interaction. They’re in the dream. The audience gets scared along with her,” she explained.
In order to create that experience, they’ve had to get creative on the technical side. The goal is to take the audience
along for the ride as the nightmares play out.
“It’s been a lot of work, but we’re having fun doing it,” said Webster, noting there’s a little extra stress in staging a homegrown project. “We feel very sensitive about it because it’s our own work.”
Given that even those who’ve been working on the play for some time still find the scary parts scary, the effort has been paying off, she added.
“It’s spooky – a good pre-Halloween production.”
One caveat, however. While it’s being staged on the run-up to Halloween, My Soul To Take isn’t for young children, say under the age of eight, because of some frightening imagery.
“It’s not a young child’s Halloween play.”
My Soul To Take runs Oct. 14-30, Thursday through Saturday evenings at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15, available by phoning 519-291-2033 or 1-877-455-0552 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. The theatre is located at 311 Main St. E., Listowel.