Tuesday, December 31, 2013

COLLINSPORT SHIPPING: The Chronic Chronicles

author of the Willie Loomis World Series and other DS fanfiction

The Collinsport Chronicles is a 51-part series with more meticulous, concurrent storylines than a soap opera, brought to screen and paper by the highly imaginative Adriana Pena under the pen name Maryland Rose. When I refer to it in my title as chronic, I don’t mean to imply it is disease ridden, but refer to the definition “pertaining to a long-lasting condition.” Then again, Urban Dictionary also defines the word as “very high-quality weed, generally with red hairs on it,” but, to the best of my knowledge, this does not apply.

She has published short stories in fanzines under her real name, using Maryland Rose only for the humor pieces. In one, Barnabas transforms Rosanne Rosannadanna into Josette. In another offering, Carl Collins haunts Barnabas and Quentin every April Fools’ Day, subjecting them to all sorts of practical jokes. She gives credit for the original idea to Geoffrey Hamell, a prominent DS fan and fiction writer in the 1980s.

Adriana Pena was born in Argentina. She lived and studied there until age 20, when her family fled after the overthrow of President Illia in 1966. Rebels took over the University of Buenos Aires, where her parents worked, as an excuse to cleanse it of “Communism.” They beat students and professors in what was called the “Night of the Long Sticks.” Although the Penas were not present at the atrocity, they made an understandably hasty exit at the first opportunity.

The experience left an indelible impression on the young woman and gave her an interesting slant on life.

“Even if you have nothing to do with politics, politics would have its way with you anyway. A lot of what I learned [during that time] ended up in my fiction, in one way or another. While, for many, DARK SHADOWS is an escape from reality, in fact, it is a way of talking about reality in metaphoric ways, so that it will be easier to handle.”

Adriana watched the series in its original run, though not from the very beginning, because she arrived in the US in 1968 and, for a while, her ABC affiliate would not transmit it. I wonder if the station manager was named Trask.

I asked Ms. Pena, as I do every author, how did she get hooked on DS and what inspired her to start writing about it?

“I was fascinated by it; it resonated in more ways than one. During its final year, though, I became an irregular viewer. I had strong views about what [the show] meant and how it should go, and it made me mad when the writers did not follow my wishes.”

This is a common theme among fan fiction writers — I call them the revisionists; they include the writers of alternate universe and single POV stories. Others are supplementalists (a word I just invented), who indulge in prequels and sequels. Third (and last) are the recyclers, who simply retell the original story, presumably for some cathartic purpose and to relive it vicariously through their keyboards. Some authors (such as I) fall into all three categories, so I shall reserve judgment.

“The 1840 sequence was a retread; they lost out on a lot of wonderful opportunities. Also, there were awful continuity problems with so much time travel. For instance, Quentin's staircase went through dimensions as well as time (there were a few bugs in the system), so that both the 1840 and the 1897 events do not clash — Grandma Edith is alive and Quentin I dies without issue, so that Gabriel's children inherit, and thus we have Gabriel's descendants instead of Quentin's in 1897.”

When the television series ended, Adriana resigned herself to move on and turned her attentions to reading fantasy and science fiction. After living in Pennsylvania, she moved to Texas for a spell. During that time she had the privilege of seeing Jonathan Frid perform as Lionel Barrymore in THE ROYAL FAMILY, and again visions of DARK SHADOWS danced in her head.

“I started obsessing over it, and began to wonder: It has been over ten years; what are they doing now in Collinsport? So the Chronicles began. I wrote a short story where I set out what I thought might happen.

“Barnabas was an irritating, undead Felix Unger. Angelique and Barnabas lived together, but she realized that Barnabas had collected so many scars and neuroses along the way, that he was no longer the man she fell in love with — that, in fact, he had become insufferable.

“Barnabas’ and Julia's relationship reached a rupture point when he took to reading her textbooks. During those long, boring nights alone, he read anything he can get his hands on — and started telling her how to run her practice. Later I explore what happens when Barnabas runs out of money and needs a job.

“Carolyn became a real bitch after Elizabeth went cougar and stole her fiancé.

“Maggie became a U.S. Representative. Later I realized that this allowed me to defuse the problem of Maggie remembering what Barnabas did to her. She remembers alright, but what concerns her most is that no one learns of her time in an insane asylum. That means no mention at all of what happened in 1967, or she will deep-six you.”

And that’s just the first story. It was basically a one-shot, she told herself, just for a bit of fun. Meanwhile, Adriana discovered fanzines and subscribed to The World of Dark Shadows (TWODS), and started on her first sequel.

“If Barnabas was a Felix Unger type, where was Oscar Madison? So an original character, Elmer Urrey/Derek Pearce, was born. I was inspired by an Odd Couple episode in which Felix gives money to Oscar to buy a burial plot, and Oscar puts the money on a horse that cannot lose, but does anyway.”

If it takes place at a racetrack, sounds to me like a role for John Karlen.

Perhaps the word chronic is appropriate because it is so often associated with long-lasting disease. That’s one way to describe why we addicts feel compelled to churn out sequel after sequel. This is the last one, I swear; I won’t write any more — after the one after this. Seriously, we need some sort of 12-Step Program. My one-shot prequel is now gestating #7, and I can picture myself at age 90-something, writing triple-digit stories about my equally ancient protagonist.

Thus, Adriana’s second story begat a third, which couldn’t be helped because #2 ended on a cliffhanger. A fourth followed, and the rest, as they say, is history. Ms. Pena went on to establish herself as one of the most prolific writers of DS fanfiction.

“I went into a routine, writing 30 lines a day by hand. When the rough draft was finished, I put it aside for a month while I continued with the next installment. Then I would revisit the original and make a coherent story out of it (and, knowing what would happen next, adjust as necessary). This would be followed by another month in storage, revision into a final ‘clean’ copy, and put it out for publishing.

“I attempted to copyright the works, but U.S. Copyright Office rejected them, saying they wanted the best edition. I told them those pages (with holes punched and construction paper covers assembled in my bedroom) were the best edition. I had to state that it was derivative work, and I used someone else's characters and plots, but added new stuff.

“Other stories were published in TWODS, and I know that a lot of people loved them. I became a member of the Kathy Resch stable of fanfic writers. Meanwhile, I was creating the Chronicles in my bedroom, “sold” them through ads in various fanzines, and delivering the goods via U.S. Postal Service. There was no profit; it was a labor of love.

“After a total of 51 Chronicles, I decided I wanted my life back. So I did the only thing that could allow that to happen, and killed off Barnabas. After that, my life got interesting, as I lost my job during the Bush I Recession, went into business for myself and ended up in bankruptcy court.”

I hope this was not Karma biting Ms. Pena in the ass for killing off Barnabas.

“I returned to Pennsylvania, moved back in with my parents and, after a couple of years of working as a programmer, they presented me with a proposition: I could stay with them, take care of them in their old age, and then I would keep the house — and that’s what happened. The master copies of the Chronicles came back with me, and stayed in their box for many years. I kept saying, One day I have to get them out and do something with them.

“In 2012, Jonathan Frid died, and once more, it all came back to me. I began to contact old friends on Facebook and decided it was time to put those Chronicles on the web. It took me a whole year, and I was surprised at some of the things I had written. Tweaks were necessary, some minor (having to do with pacing and redundancies); some major (Vicky had to be cured of the I am secretly a princess fantasy). But after so many years, I had been cured of some delusions too.

“I had quite a bit of feedback back in the eighties. People loved it, since the plots were getting weirder and weirder. Someone commented how great it was to see the Three Stooges in Collinsport. They referred to Quentin, Sebastian and Adam, who had tried to use the hand of Count Petofi to disguise themselves, and ended up looking like Curly Larry and Moe.”

The Chronicles saw the introduction of many original characters into the lives of the ones we all know.

•    Iris, (who dates Barnabas briefly), Violet (her disturbed sister) and Peter (her nephew)
•    Frank Torrance, a DC bureaucrat who gets Barnabas a government job and has a fling with Angelique.  
•    George Brant, the new sheriff in town
•    Elmer Urrey/Derek Pearce, the Oscar to Barney’s Felix — chased by the Mob, tries to fix horse races through vampirism
•    Old Munsungan, Harry Redwolf and the Indian tribe.
•    Kenneth Anderson (Julia's husband) and daughter, Gretchen.
•    Kira Petofi
•    Tammy Innes, who turns out to be Barnabas’ great-great-great-great-granddaughter; she calls him honky
•    Delia Harding, a hospital nurse with a taste for S&M.
•    Frances Jackson, another nurse. Barnabas saves her life after a suicide attempt
•    Louella Loomis (Willie's wife), Pearl (their daughter) and Robert Loomis (Willie's father)
•    Xavier Davenport
•    Alma Quarles (the innkeeper) and daughter Alma (the reincarnation of Sarah)
•    Jake, who works at Wyndecliffe.
•    Captain Todd, Sergeant Haskell, Doctor Blair and Victoria Collins (Chris Collins' wife)
•    Edmund, son of Quentin and Maggie
•    Sandy and Herbert Miller, a local couple, hostile to the supernatural community until…
•    Oriana Falchi, a reporter who has a fling with Barnabas.
•    Priscilla Collins, the ghost of Barnabas' first wife
•    Anselm Trask, the white sheep of the Trask family
•    Zeb and Jessica King, who run the local VD clinic. They hunt for Barnabas because Quentin has been using his name when picking up girls in bars.
•    Dr. Siegfried Verhoff (a friend of Freud, specializes in vampire children) and Cecily (a vampire child)
•    Richard Zimmerman, Julia’s cousin. A Holocaust survivor who became a vampire while running from the Nazis
•    Yolanda Overton, Sky Rumsen's niece
•    Urien Yost, a street urchin adopted by Barnabas and George
•    Zoya Zalisky, a gypsy who later becomes a phoenix

Now, everyone pull up a session of Notepad, because there’s going to be a pop quiz. In addition to keeping track of enough characters to populate a small town, Adriana goes to great lengths to develop every idea to its fullest potential.

“I am from the Three Stooges School, that is to say, no story is finished until the maximum amount of catastrophe can be extracted from it. Often the [original] writers did not realize what they had in their hands and were fumbling, which is what happens when you are churning out scripts daily; there is no chance to develop interesting sidelines. So I grabbed up all those tantalizing bits and pieces and tried to make sense of them.

“For instance, Quentin: the portrait keeps him young by preventing changes, but that includes mental changes too. In other words, Quentin has not learned one damn thing ever since his portrait was painted — perfectly logical when you think of it.

“I did not like to have the ‘normal’ characters sidelined. After all, Roger was supposed to be a chief troublemaker, but got demoted to saying witty things, brandy in hand. I restored both he and son David to their troublemaker status.  Had the writers kept to their original concept, when David discovers Barnabas’ coffin, he would not tell the adults, but rig an incendiary device to it. If I was to make a remake of DS myself, I would have Barnabas discover that he is the sane one of his family.

“I do not buy into that mindset that evil only comes in supernatural form, and that normal people are just innocent bystanders. Human capacity for mischief is unlimited, and a supernatural creature that forgets that may have a very rude awakening, which is why Elmer/Derek runs scared when the Mob is after him. The Mob might not know how to kill a vampire, but Elmer is not hanging around until they figure it out.

“I do not agree with the need to keep reality at a distance, though that was part of the original charm; you lose a lot of stories that way. There were Indian tribes in Maine, which made for a great storyline. The black descendant of Barnabas brings in the slave trade. Don’t forget the French Revolution. It always irritated me that they sent Josette to Paris to go shopping in 1794 when Robespierre was cutting off heads right and left. You ignore it and you lose great stories about tumbrels going to the guillotine, knitting ladies, and the Scarlet Pimpernel. If there is ever a DS remake, the 1795 storyline should be moved to 1785, when King Louis is still on his throne.

“As the 1960s were a cusp for a change of attitude, the goal should not be for Barnabas to be cured, but to learn to cope with his condition and become a fact of life that people can live with. After all, at this time, there were still some light-skinned blacks who wanted to pass as white.  There were also a lot of gays hiding in closets or submitting themselves to therapies that would make Dr. Lang seem sensible in comparison. So, given the change in attitudes, I decided that Barnabas should not adapt but demand acceptance. Of course, if he keeps feeding on different victims, soon there will be more people who know than people who don't, until someone says ‘Barnabas Collins is a vampire,’ and the answer is, ‘Oh, you noticed?’"

Give that man a picket sign that reads I’m dead, Blood’s red, Get over it.

The author chose to set her stories 10 years after the end of the series, in order to implement those changes. One excellent choice was the resurrection of Megan Todd as a strong, competent, yet gorgeous woman. When Barnabas employs his knack for making dippy decisions, she reminds him that vampirism is no excuse for stupidity.

For me, Adriana’s works are an amusement park fun-house ride. They fly this way and that, whip around corners and everywhere you look, some new, often totally outrageous (but not illogical) thing is popping up — sea monsters, mermaids, Sigmund Freud, a take-off on Casablanca, old-school sorcerers or Laura commanding an army of salamanders. Salamanders?

Why not? The possibilities are limited only by one’s imagination.

Marie Maginity is the author of the six-part Willie Loomis World Series, and writes under the names Mad Margaret and Lizzie Bathory. She has a BA in Theatre and works as a professional actor, director and drama teacher. She has had many “straight” jobs, including bartender, gas station jockey, graphic artist, website designer, facepainter and film projectionist. Once, she bullshitted her way into a newspaper job as a reporter and, over the next eight years, became a copy editor, feature writer and assistant editor. She lives in the suburbs of Philadelphia with one husband, two daughters and two cats.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Clipping: Jonathan Frid shuns "monster" status, 1971

“I Don’t Want To Be Known As A Monster!”
By Steve Lewis
TV BY DAY, February, 1971

New York City’s West Side is a far cry from the romantic setting of Collingwood(sic), but the moment I entered ABC-TV’s Manhattan studio, I knew I was in the right place.

Grayson Hall was busily discussing her wardrobe for the next day’s shooting, and David Selby was talking to a friend on the phone. Dark Shadows, the favorite daytime show of millions of viewers, had just finished shooting. The series’ most popular star, Jonathan Frid, came up in the elevator, leading from the ground floor studio where the show is taped, to the second floor offices and dressing rooms.

“I was watching the broadcast after we finished taping,” Jonathan explained, as we made our way to his dressing room. “I try to see as much of the show as I can when it’s on the air.”

Jonathan told me that he was especially keen on preserving a sense of vitality in the character of Barnabus(sic), the vampire. “Many people say that after you’ve been doing one character for more than three years, your approach to it is no longer fresh,” he explained. “Well, we don’t have that problem on Dark Shadows because the constant time changes give the continued novelty to the roles. There are different sets all the time, new costumes, the whole atmosphere always changes.”

Jonathan is also concerned with the freshness of his own identity – as the monstrous television vampire. He has branched out in show business – does not want to be thought of only in terms of Dark Shadows. So he not only acts on ABC’TV’s show, he also does TV commercials. “I have turned down several offers, though, for monster commercials,” Jonathan told me. “I don’t want to exploit the image of the vampire, and furthermore, I don’t want to be solely known as a monster!”

Besides TV shows and TV ads, Jonathan, as you probably know, has gone into motion pictures. I asked him if he’d seen MGM’s House of Dark Shadows, the first in what may well be a series of films based on the popular soap.

“I’ve seen it three times,” Jonathan said. “The first time I saw it, as a screening, I was very pleased. I’m critical of my work, however, and after the first time, when I saw the movie again, I found some faults with my role.”

While Jonathan may be critical of his performance, the studio couldn’t have been more pleased – House of Dark Shadows has broken box office records in many cities in which it has played, and when Jonathan, as Barnabas Collins, appears on screen, audiences often break into applause.

“I’d like to see it again,” Jonathan told me. “This time in a small town somewhere, with an audience. I’d like to see how they react.

“Movies are very different from doing a daytime series — and this one was a first for many people. It was Dan Curtis’ (the producer of Dark Shadows) first film, and mine. I think we all learned a lot.

“The differences, I found, were mostly in time and in comfort. When you’re doing a daily show, you don’t always have time enough to go over scenes as many times as you’d like. Sometimes we get our scripts two weeks in advance, but at other times, and this happened just a few days ago, we got the script three hours before taping!

“With the movie, we had time to do lots of rehearsals, which was very good. But we made it in early spring, and there were weather problems — snow, rain, and drafty cold houses.”

Now that Jonathan has established himself as a “movie star,” numerous offers have come in. For the time being, though, he has no specific plans for his next film, although there is already talk of a whole series of Dark Shadows motion pictures.

Jonathan’s full attention is focused on the TV version of the series — and it’s more than a full time job!
“For the past couple of weeks,” Jonathan explained, “I was absolutely exhausted! We’ve worked very hard, and I really am looking forward to a chance to relax. Now, though, I have a few days off  — I’ll be spending them at my new apartment.

“I’m very involved with it right now. I’d wanted to move for a long time, and I finally did it! Of course, moving is only part of it — really, just the beginning. Getting a place organized takes so much work.
“I have two bedrooms, one of which I use as a study, and a terrace. The terrace is very, very important to me. I like the beach, but getting out of New York on weekends I murder. And really, weekend in the summer are the best time to enjoy the city.

“The terrace gives me the same feeling of being somewhere else —- do you know what I mean, relaxed and restful?

“As far as longer vacations go … I’d live to take one. I’m supposed to get three weeks each year, although not three consecutive weeks — I’d have to beg for that! And the fact is, I’m a terrible traveler, or perhaps I should say I’m too good a traveler.

“You see, I hate to go to a new place, a new country, because I know what can happen … I can fall in love with a place and not want to leave. When I went to Italy, I knew that I had found the love of my life — the country! And as much as I enjoyed myself, I kept feeling terrible because I knew I’d have to come back.

“But, one of these days, I think I’ll go someplace.. Where, I really don’t know — there are so many places!”
If Jonathan ever needs inspiration, he has only to look at the postmarks on his mail — which comes in by the bagful each day, numbering thousands of letters each week.

“I was so surprised,” Jonathan remembers,” when I began to get mail. I still can remember Dan Curtis coming down the hall and handing me letters — I’d originally been signed to do three days’ work on the series — and asking me to stay on for another week.

“But fan mail, for a vampire? I was sure that there was some mistake! I’m very grateful to the people who have written in to me — of course it’s very flattering.

“One Saturday a few weeks ago, some fans came in to help me sort the mail, and we tried to do it alphabetically. We had worked for give hours when I realized it just wasn’t going to be possible — I’d have to send it to a place that specializes in that sort of thing.”

If you’ve written to Jonathan asking him for a photograph, be patient a short while longer — you’ll be hearing from him soon.

In addition to the letters he has received, Jonathan has a collection of paintings of himself sent by Dark Shadows fans. On the day we spoke, two such paintings, one a pop-interpretation of Barnabas, and the other a more “classic” portrait,  were on display in his dressing room.

“These both came in this week,” Jonathan explained. “It’s really fascinating to see the way other people see you! And some of the paintings are quite, quite good. And then, of course, there are the drawings people send — all kinds of things!”

Jonathan has a reputation for always being nice to his fans, even when he meets them on the street, when he’d actually love some privacy. I mention this to him, but he responded with surprise, “I didn’t know that there were people who weren’t nice to their fans.” Jonathan knows that his fans have made him what he is today — the King of the Vampires. However, he did admit to having several secret haunts that he’d rather not publicize — places he goes to when he wants to be completely alone.

Fans and fan mail, to some actors, are the icing on the cake of daytime TV success. But to Jonathan, a serious actor, there is a good deal more.

“I admit,” he says, “that I’m very interested in what people in the business think of my work … I hope they watch soaps! I know that at some time in the future, I’d like to do other things, and I like to think that producers and agents are aware of the work I’m doing now.

“Some of the acting on soaps, you know, is marvelous. I used to watch General Hospital because it was shown before our show, and I became interested in it. Those actors were marvelous — how I envied them! John Beradino, I think, is one of the most talented actors around.

“Soaps, for an actor, are a challenge … especially if you’re used to doing stage work. You have to make a transition, and it took me several months. I used to think that I’d rather be doing a Broadway show, or something where I could really work on a role and perfect it. Now I don’t know.

“I take my work very seriously, and often I’m dissatisfied with it. Criticism from other people, in reviews I mean, doesn’t effect(sic) me as much as criticism of myself — I’m pretty severe.

“People, I think, have a lot of ideas of what it’s like to be in a successful series. They picture an actor making a fortune — believe me, I haven’t! It’s rewarding work, certainly, but it’s also very demanding, and very hard on the social life.

“I’m something of a loner, I suppose, and it’s fortunate for me. There are friends I haven’t seen in months — people I’m really fond of.

“How can you? At night there are lines to go over for the next day, and when you’ve put in a day’s work and know you’ll be doing it again tomorrow, you just don’t have the strength to go running around. And when I finally get a few days, there are so many things to do at home. Since I spend so much time at home, I’m very happy about having found myself an apartment, and I’m enjoying getting it in shape. I suppose it’s not the most glamourous(sic) and exciting life — the kind of life you read about in magazines — but it’s the kind of life I live.”

(NOTE: These clippings are courtesy of Elena Nacanther, who is part of an effort to get Jonathan Frid nominated to Canada's Walk of Fame, a non-profit, volunteer-driven organization that recognizes Canadians who have excelled in music, sports, film, television, and other artistic endeavors. You can find the NOMINATE JONATHAN FRID TO CANADA'S WALK OF FAME Facebook page by clicking here. Please pay them a visit. You can see more selections from Elena's scrapbook each Friday here at the Collinsport Historical Society.)

Monday, December 16, 2013

MONSTER SERIAL: The Collinsport Historical Society's first book!


In October, the Collinsport Historical Society spent the month celebrating Halloween by writing about some of our favorite horror movies. Since then, we've revised many of these pieces, added a few new ones and have compiled them into a book titled MONSTER SERIAL. It collects dozens of essays on horror films, ranging from Universal classics like DRACULA and THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, to modern films like INSIDIOUS and Rob Zombie’s “re-imagining” of HALLOWEEN.

Even better, we also scored a terrific introduction by noted film historian Greg Mank, as well as some favorable notices on the book's jacket from Lara Parker, Joe Lidster and Magus Peter H. Gilmore.

This morning, the book went on sale around the world through AMAZON. We're really proud of it and hope you like the final product. If it's successful, you can expect to see SON OF MONSTER SERIAL sometime in 2014.

UPDATE: The Kindle edition is now available! MONSTER SERIAL is available on Kindle platforms all around the world, but here's the link to the U.S. edition.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Nancy Barrett returns in DARK SHADOWS: CURTAIN CALL

CURTAIN CALL, the next DARK SHADOWS audiodrama from Big Finish, is due out in January. Here's the official summary, which includes a few details about 2014's second installment, THE HARVEST OF SOULS:

Sheila Steafel as Henrietta Frobisher.
CURTAIN CALL sees the audio debut of cockney psychic showgirl Leticia Faye, played by Nancy Barrett (Dark Shadows, One Life To Live, Ryan's Hope). Leticia, now living in New York in 1857, is struggling to fit in with the high society she's married into. One night she meets the charismatic Joshua King, played by Peter Brooke (Doctor Who, Sherlock, Spooks), and it's the beginning of a dangerous new partnership.

DARK SHADOWS: CURTAIN CALL is written by David Lemon, a writer new to Big Finish. "It was great fun imagining Leticia’s life after the events of the TV series" says David. "I’m a big fan of the supernatural, especially in audio drama, so the idea of Leticia’s return to the limelight being fraught with danger - and echoes of both her past and future - really appealed to me” .

“It's a brilliant script,” says co-producer Joseph Lidster. “It's very funny but there's a real sadness at the heart of Leticia's character.”

The cover, full cast list and behind-the-scenes photographs are now available here. A trailer will be released shortly.

February's Dark Shadows release, THE HARVEST OF SOULS, sees us return to Collinsport in the 1970s to see what effect the events of this Halloween's Beyond the Grave have had on the surviving residents.
Pre-order CURTAIN CALL from Big Finish HERE.

1971 interview goes in search of the "real" Jonathan Frid

"His Best Friend Reveals the Real Jonathan Frid"
TV Dawn to Dusk, Jan., 1971

By Arnold Latham

Loneliness is a word fraught with hints of melancholy and despair. It means a sense of hopelessness or futility that guides the thoughts, word and deeds of those suffering from it.

Years ago, when he was a youngster, Jonathan Frid experienced much that is common with the melancholy person. During a recent interview, he spoke openly about this.

"My father and I were not particularly close," Jonathan told us. " I had respect for his thinking but we weren't what you'd call buddy-buddy at all. He was very approachable but not terribly interested or involved."

Jonathan admits to never liking his childhood. "I was a loner," he confirmed. "I was the youngest of three boys. I was always kind of jealous about what they could do. This frustrated me to a considerable degree when I was a child. I was feeling sorry for myself much of the time, and never really contented with my life as it existed then."

But what sort of man is Jonathan today? What are his strengths and weaknesses? Is he a good person to have as a friend?

To find out as much of this as we could, we interviewed a close friend of his named Jimmy Butler. Jimmy first met Jonathan some three of four years ago, and they hit it off immediately though Jonathan isn't a particularly easy person with whom to establish a friendship.

"He genuinely likes people," Jimmy says. "And he is definitely a good drinking companion."

But that could be called "the occasional Jonathan," the side of him that is not commonly called into evidence. It comes out only if he is truly relaxed and enjoys completely the people he happens to be with. Such moments, unfortunately, are rare.

He usually finishes at the studio," adds Jimmy, "then zips right on to his apartment where he cooks his own dinner, studies the next day's lines and then perhaps reads some philosophy and, finally, goes to sleep."

A great many people would call this sort of existence dull or might even go so far as to label it "stagnating." Not Jonathan. It's what he prefers. You can see how serious he is about it by the expression on his face and the way he talks. "I'm sociable enough," he says, "but on the other hand, I don't mind being alone. I'm not a gadabout town. It's very difficult to get me pinned down for any social engagements and if I make a commitment, I usually end of regretting having done so."

Ironically, though, he gets along well with just about every member of the Dark Shadows cast and crew.

"It's really absolutely marvelous!" Jimmy tells us, obviously enthusiastic. "The rapport that exists between everyone! It makes for a very healthy, cooperative atmosphere, and one that greatly benefits the show."

Can Joan Bennett be counted among his group? Reports have circulated that she acts very much the part of reigning movie queen, and makes the cast and crew subservient to her whims.

"No true," Jimmy says, frowning a bit at another example of journalistic inaccuracy. "Joan is a very friendly, helpful person. No one has been more aware of this than Jonathan. He was concerned about working with her at first. He fully realizes, of course, the extent of her background and he wondered whether or not there would be serious conflict between the two of them. After all, Jonathan has an extensive background, himself, including Shakespearean roles, the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, Broadway and other areas. He was, as it turned out, very pleasantly surprised by her attitude."

"I've had it all, Jonathan," she once told him. "Now, it's your turn."

The incident that prompted this remark was Jonathan's realization that he was getting far more exposure and fan mail than she was. In years past, the reverse would have been true.

"So he asked her frankly one day, if she were annoyed by this turn of events," comments Jimmy. "That's when she looked at him and replied as she did. Jonathan was very much relieved."

It seems that people have different preconceived ideas about Jonathan, himself, just as he'd had about Joan Bennett. He is considered by his fans to be very romantic and sexy, or very villainous and disagreeable, or maybe a combination of these impressions. He is none of them, according to Jimmy Butler.

"I felt absolute surprise myself when I met Jonathan for the first time," he admits. "He was quiet, scholarly, the type of man I could have expected to wear a sweater with patches on the arms or sitting in his study at a midwestern university. The perfect professorial-sort of guy. But, you see, I had expected the opposite - a terribly flamboyant character!"

Jonathan has a temper but he managers to keep it under control and only once, as Jimmy can remember, did he let it loose.

"The only incident I can think of occurred when he moved into his new apartment," his friend tells us. "The telephone company kept giving out his unlisted number and he was getting phone calls at 2 a.m. Kids in California were calling him at 11 p.m., not realizing that there was a three-hour time difference. He keeps changing his number every so often, which makes life a bit more hectic than it really should be. All this made Jonathan enraged when it first started happening. He battled the phone company constantly. The situation has improved, but it still happens now-and-then, to his despair!"

Obviously, Jonathan's moodiness is not a shortcoming in some respects. He is not a good mixer as a result. "I loathe parties," he admitted. "I loathe, especially, the idea of putting on a face and smiling and being jovial even though, it might so happen, that you don't feel like it at the time. I try to avoid such social obligations as often as I possibly can. But when it does prove inescapable, I spend hours of misery. But, somehow, I manage to appear to be a good guest."

But, according to Jimmy Butler, moodiness and its associated hangups are not what bother Jonathan the most. His biggest problem is something altogether different, and totally surprising in view of his extreme dramatic training.

"He's a terribly slow study," reveals Jimmy. "As strange as it may sound, it's quite true that he has a tremendous problem getting his lines down. If somebody visits the Dark Shadows set, he is never rude to that person but, usually, he has his mind on the script. He might seem to be abrupt but he really doesn't intend, ever to create that impression.

"This problem of memorizing his dialogue has always  been a hangup, even during the days when he was doing Shakespeare. The fact that he was so successful is doubly a tribute to his ability in view of the slowness he labors under. As for filming an episode of Dark Shadows every day, five days a week, well, it's been agony, absolute agony for him. And to realize that there'll be a whole new script each week, 52 weeks a year, the pressure is unbelievable on him. It's only natural then, even if he were not normally a loner, that he might drift in that direction if only to conserve his time and have more of it for studying and memorizing."

According to Jimmy, one other far less serious but nearly as odd hangup Jonathan has is the fact that "Jonathan will tell you his age - which is 47 years - but not his birthdate itself. He doesn't like to receive presents, or have parties thrown for the occasion."

"I've never been able to figure out why this is so," Jimmy adds, "but it is very pronounced."

Lest we give the impression that Jonathan is a very cold, emotionless individual (which is definately not the case, by the way), it should be mentioned that he leaves New York for only three reasons: a once-in-a-great-while vacation, such as one he took to Mexico a few months ago, personal appearance tours, visits to children's and veteran' hospitals.

The latter take up much of Jonathan's time.

"From what I gather," Jimmy says, "he has an enormous respect for these people. The fact that they have survived as well as they have is really inspiring to him. He figures if, by spending an hour or so with them, he can make life a little happier, it has been well worth any possible trouble. Furthermore, Jonathan is basically such a nice guy that he finds it hard to say no."

Not everyone can point to Jonathan and say, "He's a good friend. I enjoy his company." But those who can know one very important thing - as a friend, Jonathan is unswervingly loyal. He is incapable of betraying people he likes and respects - or anyone, for that matter.

"Those blessed with the melancholy temperament do not have to strive to be faithful," wrote one journalist. "With them it is natural. A melancholy temperament person usually does not attract a large number of friends ... but he will keep tjose he attracts and would literally 'lay down his life for his friend'."

Loneliness has been changed into aloneness and his moods controlled Jonathan knows what is so very crucial in the life of every human being - that there are other people who care whether he lives or dies.

(NOTE: These clippings are courtesy of Elena Nacanther, who is part of an effort to get Jonathan Frid nominated to Canada's Walk of Fame, a non-profit, volunteer-driven organization that recognizes Canadians who have excelled in music, sports, film, television, and other artistic endeavors. You can find the NOMINATE JONATHAN FRID TO CANADA'S WALK OF FAME Facebook page by clicking here. Please pay them a visit. You can see more selections from Elena's scrapbook each Friday here at the Collinsport Historical Society.)

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Watch Kathryn Leigh Scott in THE RISING LIGHT

Last week was a busy one for Ansel Faraj. Not only did his first feature, DOCTOR MABUSE, arrive on DVD, but his short film THE RISING LIGHT hit the interwebz, as well. Here's how he describes the 52-minute film:
"It's a road movie. It's an odyssey across fantastical realms and worlds. It's an alien drama that blends 50's sci-fi with existential themes, the exploration of an outsider, and a study of loss and failure. It's a tale of magic and sorcery."
The short features many of the conspirators behind DOCTOR MABUSE, including Kathryn Leigh Scott, Nathan Wilson, and Linden Chiles. You can watch THE RISING LIGHT for free streaming above. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Collinsport News Bulletins

* The Lovecraft eZine has an interesting essay about the relationship between DARK SHADOWS and H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhy Mythos. Writer Rick Lai argues that Lovecraft's writings might not have been the sole inspiration for the controversial story arc.
"The Leviathan storyline may have also borrowed an element from the Cthulhu Mythos stories of August Derleth. There was no true defense against the Old Ones in Lovecraft’s original tales, but there were vague references to a symbol called the Elder Sign. In stories like “The House on Curwen Street” (first published as “The Trail of Cthulhu,” Weird Tales, March 1944), Derleth decided to transform the Elder Sign into a five-pointed star, a pentagram. This version of the Elder Sign could repel the Old Ones in the same manner that a crucifix thwarts vampires."
Read the entire essay HERE.

* Speaking of the Leviathans, we've got a sponsor! Even though The Collinsport Historical Society has bills to pay, I've avoided cluttering this page with unnecessary ads. Nobody visits a DARK SHADOWS webpage to see pop-up ads about power saws and penis pills, but I think HORROR IN CLAY is a good fit for the site. See that add at the top of the rail to your left? Use the code "leviathan" to save 10% off a purchase of $43 or more. Please pay a visit to their store.

* David-Elijah Nahmod's latest BARNABAS' COLUMN entry at Fangoria is a profile of actress/writer Kathryn Leigh Scott. It also includes a mention of yours truly, which makes it all the more unforgivable that it's taken about three weeks for me to mention it here. GO READ IT!

(NOTE: I spent several hours watching DARK SHADOWS last weekend, shot some video from the TV screen with my smartphone, and accidentally made a few music videos using free apps. The imagery that resulted was ... interesting. The photo at the top of this post should give you a taste, but you can watch the whole thing yourself at The Collinsport Historical Society Tumblr feed.)

Monday, December 9, 2013

UPDATED: Your 2013 DARK SHADOWS Holiday Gift Guide

The holiday shopping season is upon us! For me, the hardest part of Christmas has always been picking out thoughtful gifts, which is a much more loaded statement than it might appear on first reading. It's hard enough finding the right gift for someone you love; it's even more difficult finding the appropriate present for that relative you don't much like (but are obliged to shop for, anyway.) Many years ago, I solved this problem by giving almost everyone I knew a copy of Blue Oyster Cult's CULTOSAURUS ERECTUS album. Some people were happy, while others got a passive aggressive critique of their shoddy tastes in music. Merry Christmas!

If you're shopping for a DARK SHADOWS fan, you've got quite a few possible gifts from which to choose this year. Here are some of my favorites:

Get Lara Parker's DARK SHADOWS novels signed by the author
Over at her Facebook page, Lara has announced a holiday sale on her three DARK SHADOWS novels. You can get all three from her for $30 plus $5 shipping, and the books can be signed with your choice of dedication. Send your check to Lara Parker, Box 1254 Topanga CA 90290, and visit www.larapaker.com for all autographed merchandise.

Kathryn Leigh Scott's (mostly) DARK SHADOWS gift box
Kathryn is selling a "holiday gift box" until Dec. 15, which collects Dark Shadows: Return to Collinwood, Dark Shadows: The Movie Book, Dark Shadows Memories CD, Scott's Dark Passages novel (plus bookmark,) Fiction: The Art and Craft of Writing Fiction and Getting Published, The Bunny Years, two signed photos and a surprise gift. The retail value for these items is $150, but Kathryn is selling them for just $50, plus shipping. Visit her website for details.

A subscription to Big Finish's 2014 DARK SHADOWS audiodramas
As I mentioned here a few days ago, Big Finish has announced its slate of DARK SHADOWS audiodramas for the coming year, which will bring back original cast members such as David Selby, Nancy Barrett, Donna McKechnie, Lisa Richards, Kathryn Leigh Scott, Lara Parker and Jerry Lacy. Click here to buy someone a subscription to the year's entire roster of stories!

DARK SHADOWS bobbleheads
MPI Home Video, the company that owns DARK SHADOWS, has significantly marked down its collection of bobbleheads. Each item is currently discounted to $9.98 each, which is 66% off the original list price. Visit MPI's official store to order!

Zazzle has a number of items available that would appeal DARK SHADOWS fans. Among their items for sale are shirts bearing the logos of DAN CURTIS PRODUCTIONS shirt, TRASK ACADEMY BIBLE CAMP, and our own COLLINSPORT HISTORICAL SOCIETY logo. (Note: The TRASK and CHS shirts are creations of this website.)
The complete DARK SHADOWS movie experience (Part 1)

It's a wonderful world we live in. A few years ago, the original DARK SHADOWS movies were consigned to home video purgatory, available on out-of-print VHS tapes. Today, the films are available for the first time ever in high-definition,and they've never looked so good. The bonus features are skimpy, but most of the content created for DVD "special features" is forgettable junk, anyway.

You don't have to end your viewing experience with the movies. While commentary tracks would have been nice, Kathryn Leigh Scott has published a book about HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS and its sequel/sidequel NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS. The book includes the original shooting scripts for both films (which includes all of the excised scenes and director Dan Curtis's original hand-written notes) but also excerpts from her journal written during the making of HOUSE.

But wait! There's more! If you're a completist, there's also an out-of-print (and kind of expensive) CD that collects both of Bob Cobert's scores for HOUSE/NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS. It's some of his most sophisticated work that builds on the melodies created for the original television show. As I said before, the CD can be a little expensive, currently selling on Amazon between $23 and HOLY CRAP $109. 

The links:

The complete DARK SHADOWS movie experience (Part 2)

The 2012 DARK SHADOWS feature film had a decent amount of bonus features, even if they managed to successfully compile featurettes that failed to mention the original ABC television show in any meaningful way. While there was scant merchandise created for the film, the movie received a published guide to its art direction, which is almost obligatory for a Tim Burton film. It's packed to the gills with preproduction art that revised Barnabas Collins, Collinsport and the rest for a new generation. There's also a limited edition of the book available, but it's a bit more expensive.

DARK SHADOWS also had a pair of movie soundtracks collecting Danny Elfman's moody score on one disc, and the pop music featured in the film on the other.

The Links:

This is probably the ultimate gift, and also one of the more expensive. Original selling for $599 upon its release in 2012, this 131-DVD collection has been hovering around $300 in recent months. It's an amazing package, and is so sturdy and heavy to almost qualify as a piece of furniture. It's so packed with bonus material that I've got doubts I'll live long enough to watch them all. GET IT AT AMAZON.

DARK SHADOWS figurunes by the Clayguy
Barry Crawford is one of the original '60s "Monster Kids" and took his love for classic model kits into a different medium with his Clay Guy figurines. He's created statues for Barnabas Collins and Julia Hoffman (seen above) as well as for Angelique and Quentin Collins. Visit Clayguy.com for the details.

The psychological thriller DOCTOR MABUSE, seen in limited theatrical release earlier this year, is now available on DVD, exclusively via mail-order from the Dark Shadows Festival.

The 95-minute drama stars Jerry Lacy as the nefarious and maniacal title character. Lara Parker and Kathryn Leigh Scott co-star as mysterious sisters in the supernatural. Exclusively available now via mail-order, DOCTOR MABUSE on DVD is $19.95 + $3.00 shipping & handling.) Please send total payment of $22.95 by check or money order, made payable to: Dark Shadows Festival, P.O. Box 92, Maplewood, NJ, 07040.

Broadway veteran Marie Wallace provides an intimate, informative, often humorous look behind the scenes of such stage classics as GYPSY and SWEET CHARITY, not to mention her work on DARK SHADOWS. The book features a forward by Jonathan Frid, and a preface by Ruth Buzzi.

ON STAGE & IN SHADOWS is available from AMAZON, and from Marie's personal website.

Are you a fan of Joan Bennett?
Immortal Ephemera has an impressive collection of vintage trading cards, photos and other collectibles featuring Bennett, and all at shockingly low prices. Click here to see for yourself.

Friday, December 6, 2013

BIG FINISH announces titles of 2014 DARK SHADOWS releases

BIG FINISH has announced the slate of DARK SHADOWS audiodramas due out in 2014. Returning next year are a lot of familiar faces, including Nancy Barrett, Lisa Richards, Kathryn Leigh Scott, Lara Parker, Jerry Lacy, Donna McKechnie and David Selby. Many of the studio's regular supporting players are also slated to return, including my new favorite, Stephanie Ellyne as Amy Jennings.

Here's the press release.

Big Finish is pleased to announce details of the 2014 series of Dark Shadows Dramatic Readings. As ever, the series will feature characters both old and new facing a terrifying array of spooky horrors. Titles, authors and back cover blurbs can be found on the individual story pages with further details if you follow the link below.

The series kicks off in January with Curtain Call, by television and radio writer David Lemon. In 1857, Leticia Faye (Nancy Barrett), a music hall singer and psychic finds herself embroiled with the mysterious showman Joshua King (Peter Brooke) and his new religion.

February's release, The Harvest of Souls, is by returning writer James Goss. A dark character study featuring Maggie Evans (Kathryn Leigh Scott) it explores her state of mind following the devastating events of this Halloween's Beyond the Grave. The story also features Jonathon Marx as Sheriff Jim Hardy and Colin Baker as the mysterious Gerald Conway.

March sees the return of Amy Jennings (Stephanie Ellyne) in The Happier Dead. Despite her best attempts to escape the supernatural, Amy finds herself in a hospital in which nobody dies. The story, by theatre playwright Adam Usden, also features the return of Sabrina Jennings (Lisa Richards).

Sabrina takes centre stage in April's Carriage of the Damned by new writer Alan Flanagan. Determined to find a cure for her werewolf curse, Sabrina boards a train on which she hopes to find the head of long-dead warlock Gerard Stiles. The story also sees the return of Hallie Stokes to Dark Shadows, with Kathleen Cody reprising her role after over forty years.

Private detective Tony Peterson (Jerry Lacy) and the witch Cassandra (Lara Parker) return in May's The Devil Cat. The story, by Mark Thomas Passmore, sees them facing their greatest challenge yet – the English aristocracy.

Although we previously announced that there would be a Christmas special this year, we're sorry to say that, due to time constraints, this is no longer the case. The Darkest Shadow, featuring Quentin Collins (David Selby) and Amanda Harris (Donna McKechnie) will now complete our 2014 series in June. The story, by award-winning writer Nev Fountain, presents a previously untold encounter between the two immortal lovers.

The plays will be released from January through to June and are available to pre-order now – individually or as part of a six-story subscription package.

Exciting news about further Dark Shadows releases for 2014 will be announced soon.

DOCTOR MABUSE now available on DVD

The psychological thriller DOCTOR MABUSE, seen in limited theatrical release earlier this year, is now available on DVD, exclusively via mail-order from the Dark Shadows Festival.

The 95-minute drama stars Jerry Lacy as the nefarious and maniacal title character. Lara Parker and Kathryn Leigh Scott co-star as mysterious sisters in the supernatural.

The film had its world premiere in April, 2013, as part of the DS Festival’s “Dark Shadows Island Weekend” in Coronado, CA. The three DARK SHADOWS actors, director/writer Ansel Faraj, and other cast members participated in an audience Q&A and autograph session after the screening.

DVD special features include:
  • "Behind the Scenes of DOCTOR MABUSE," a 24 minute featurette detailing the making of the film, featuring behind the scenes footage, outtakes, and new interviews with writer/director Ansel Faraj, and actors Jerry Lacy and Nathan Wilson.
  • Deleted Scenes.
  • "DOCTOR MABUSE: ETIOPOMAR" The Comic Con 2013 Panel Footage of the sequel, in theaters Summer 2014.
Exclusively available now via mail-order, DOCTOR MABUSE on DVD is $19.95 + $3.00 shipping & handling).

Please send total payment of $22.95 by check or money order, made payable to:

Dark Shadows Festival
P.O. Box 92
Maplewood, NJ 07040

Please note that the Festival can not accept PayPal or credit card payments.

Faraj and Wilson were guests on the Collinsport Historical Podcast in January. Click HERE to listen to it.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The sordid criminal history of JONATHAN BREWSTER

Once and future Jonathan Brewsters.

There’s a certain joy to be had from watching Jonathan Frid murder people.

It’s no coincidence that almost every story arc on DARK SHADOWS ended with Barnabas Collins killing half the cast. It might have looked like narrative laziness had it not been so goddamn satisfying. Be honest with yourself: Did you feel sorry for the Rev. Trask when Barnabas opened up a cask of Amontillado on his ass? It’s OK to admit your bloodlust here. You’re among friends.

It’s been almost 30 years since Frid went on tour with a stage production of ARSENIC AND OLD LACE. Considering the roster of actors who’d previously played the part, casting Frid seems almost inevitable. Oddly enough, he wasn’t the first choice for the role of the villainous Jonathan Brewster in the national tour. While one or two of his co-stars might have been better known, it's his performance in the play that’s still being discussed today, though.

ARSENIC AND OLD LACE (originally titled BODIES IN OUR CELLAR) is a black comedy that debuted on the New York stage in 1941. The story centers on Mortimer Brewster, a drama critic who returns home to find his aunts have been poisoning bachelors and burying them in the basement. His two brothers are both maniacs: Teddy Brewster believes himself to be Theodore Roosevelt, while the estranged Jonathan Brewster is a career criminal and wanted killer. It's funnier than it sounds.

Boris Karloff as Jonathan Brewster.
Boris Karloff was cast as Jonathan Brewster in the original stage production. According to Greg Mank’s book, BELA LUGOSI AND BORIS KARLOFF: THE EXPANDED STORY OF A HAUNTING COLLABORATION, Karloff only agreed to take the role because of the character’s supporting status. He hadn’t tested his stardom against the stage and feared he might be setting himself up for a public embarrassment that would adversely affect his film career.

The year ARSENIC AND OLD LACE debuted on stage, Warner Bros. put a feature film into production. Cary Grant was cast as the lead, co-starring with Priscilla Lane and Peter Lorre. Raymond Massey, who played the title role in ABE LINCOLN IN ILLINOIS in 1940, played Jonathan Brewster. Director Frank Capra enlisted in the U. S. Army Signal Corps during the production of the film, but was issued an extension until after shooting wrapped.

Still, legal restraints kept the film from release for several years. The studio was contractually obliged to keep the film in its vaults until the end of the Broadway production’s run. Much like Iggy Pop, the Broadway production of ARSENIC AND OLD LACE survived longer than anybody could have guessed, closing in June, 1944, after more than 1,000 performances. Warner Bros. wasted no time and releasing the long-finished film just a few months later in September.

Raymond Massey in Frank Capra's 1944 adaption of ARSENIC AND OLD LACE.
As with the stage play, Jonathan Brewster remained the film’s scene stealer. “The picture serves to welcome back Raymond Massey after an extended leave,” a review published by The New York Times in 1944 observed. “While it is a little breath-taking to hear ‘Honest Abe’ shambling around sounding like Lincoln but looking like Boris Karloff, that's the condition that prevails.”

The casting of Karloff in the stage production of ARSENIC might also have set into motion a series of events that shook up Universal’s monster movies during those years. Bela Lugosi, who famously declined the role of the monster in James Whale’s FRANKENSTEIN in 1931, got a second shot at the role, perhaps thanks to Karloff’s commitments to the ARSENIC AND OLD LACE play.

Lugosi later took over the role of Jonathan Brewster for several tours as Karloff returned to Universal, just as John Carradine took over the role of Dracula in the studio’s HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN. The 1944 film also featured Karloff, in case you weren't already confused. He played neither the monster, nor a Frankenstein.
Bela Lugosi as Jonathan Brewster.
Fred Gwynne.
Since then, ARSENIC AND OLD LACE has never really gone away. The story would be adapted all over the world in just about every venue you could imagine, from stage to screen to radio. Karloff would reprise his role in 1962 in a television performance opposite Tony Randall, while one-time “Herman Munster” Fred Gwynne played Jonathan Brewster in a 1969 TV movie opposite Bob Crane.

The play was dusted off again for the New York stage in 1986. Abe Vigoda played Jonathan Brewster in the Broadway production of ARSENIC AND OLD LACE from June, 1986, until January, 1987. When the decision was made to take the production on a national tour, Jonathan Frid was tapped to play its villain. (It’s worth mentioning that Vigoda appeared opposite Frid in 1968 in a handful of episodes of DARK SHADOWS.)

Jonathan Frid as Jonathan Brewster.

Frid was partnered with Gary Sandy (of WKRP IN CINCINATTI), Larry Storch (F-TROOP), Marion Ross (HAPPY DAYS), and Jean Stapleton (ALL ON THE FAMILY.) For a handful of performances, James MacArthur of HAWAII FIVE-O filled in for Sandy as Mortimer Brewster. The collection of former television stars prompted critics to accuse producers of stunt casting, something that Stapleton refuted in a 1987 interview with the Chicago Tribune.

“There is a prejudice and a belittling of television actors,” Stapleton said. “These people have all been trained for many years. And those people up there, whether they`re on the stage or on the tube, are actors.”

Frid, whose own anxiety issues are well documented, would have sympathized with the first actor to portray Jonathan Brewster. Karloff was the only actor genuinely considered for the role in the original Broadway production, but reportedly came to regret his decision. An inexperienced stage actor, Karloff spent the week leading to the debut of ARSENIC AND OLD LACE looking for ways to graciously bow out of the production.

Boris and Bela in dueling promotional images for the ARSENIC AND OLD LACE stage play.
Frid has similar fears, bringing this relationship of actor and role full circle.

“The day he was to open (replacing Abe Vigoda) in the role he went to the theater very early,” recalls Nancy Kersey, one of Frid’s creative partners for much of his later career. “He was nervous, I could tell.  I had a beeper for work and Jonathan also used it to contact me. After telling me he didn't need me for the rest of the day (he opened that night) he wound up beeping me several times for this and that and I finally convinced him to just let me stay at the theater.  He was uptight, nervous — and that always manifests itself in his being snappy and overly picky.”

For Frid, playing Jonathan Brewster was a matter of finding a balance in the story’s conflicting tone. There were a lot of competing personalities on stage, making it easy to tip the scales toward accidental farce. Frid concentrated on making the character frightening, but took opportunities later in the tour to explore the show's comedic elements.

“In ARSENIC AND OLD LACE, I had to play comedy, and I had to play horror … and really be horrible,” Frid said in a 2008 interview for the Archive of American Television. “I had to be a threat … we had too many comedians in this show already.”

Jonathan Frid and Larry Storch
Marion Ross, Jean Stapleton, Jonathan Frid and Larry Storch

(Note: I know a lot of you got to see Frid in ARSENIC. I missed it, myself, but would love you hear your thoughts about the play in the comments below.)
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