HFC Presents: The Skriker
The Skriker is the second production from the VTL and the first worldwide to use 3D stereoscopic projection with motion-capture virtual characters integrated with virtual scenery in a live stage production.
For complete information on The Skriker click here.
American College Theatre Festival
Irene Ryan Nominations
HFC Innovation Award
Bellwether Award Nomination
LAND Innovation Award
Critics Picks, Detroit Free Press
Written by: Caryl Churchill
Directed by: George Popovich
Cast and Crew
THE HUMAN CAST
- The Skriker: LAURA MC CALLUM
- Lily: CARLA G. BANKS
- Josie, (Lily's Sister) Lily’s Great Granddaughter: DEVONA MOORE
- Man With Bucket, Man With No Chest: MIKE COCHRAN
- Girl With Telescope, Dead Child, Beach Girl, Lost Girl, Lily's Great Great Granddaughter: LENA AL-HANOOTI
- Passerby: RACHEL CAPRARO
- Businessman: JEREMIAH DEVLIN-RULLE
- Family Man, Businessman: CHRISTOPHER CALL
- Family Man, Businessman: BRANDON GRANTZ
- Underworld Denizens (Human Souls Captured By The Skriker): JEREMIAH DEVLIN-RUELLE, CARLA G. BANKS, DEVONA MOORE, CHRISTOPHER CALL, MICHAEL COCHRAN, LENA AL-HANOOTI, BRANDON GRANTZ
THE DIGITAL CAST
(In Order of Appearance)
- The Fairy Skriker: HUGH DUNEGHY*, LAURA MCCALLUM
- The Kelpie: ERIC GREEN
- Yallery Brown: JOSH MULKA
- The Green Lady: TESS ULREY, DEVONA MOORE
- The Bogle: CHRIS CALL
- The Spriggan: ERIC GREEN
- The Brownie: LENA AL-HANOOTI
- The Black Dog: BRIAN JOHNSON
- Jennie Greenteeth: CHRIS CALL, GERRY DZUIBLINSKI
- Rawheadandbloodybones: MIKE COCHRAN
- Director/Sound Designer/Special and Magical Effects Designer: George Popovich
- Chief Engineer, Director of Photography: E. Alan Contino
- Creature and Digital Scene Design: Chris Dozier, John Wilson
- Stage Scenic Design: Nick Riley
- Dialect Coach, Properties Designer: Gerry Dzuibinski
- Lighting Design: Chris Bremer
- Choreographer: Tess Ulrey
- Scenic Artist/Costume Designer: Judy Fletcher
- Man With No Chest Illusion: Bill and Maggie Freitag, Creative Intelligence
- Assistant Properties Designer: Laura McCallum
- Assistant Dialect Coach: Paul Meier
- 3D Words, Opening Monologue: Ron Labbe, Studio 3D
- Makeup Design: George Popovich, Devona Moore, Laura McCallum
- Assistant Costume Design: Devona Moore
- "News" Video Compilation and Editing: George Popovich
- Stage Technical Director: Gerry Dzuiblinski
- Stage Manager: Josh Mulka
- Video Technical Operators: Nick Kabrovich, Matt Votruba, Mark Rinn
- Light Board Operator, Production Assistant: Kristen Mercer Sound Operator: D' Angelo Glover
- Deck Captain, Shift Crew, FX Crew: Chris Call
- Slide Controller, FX Captain, Shift Crew: Brandon Grantz
- Prop Master, Shift Crew, FX Crew: Jeremiah Devlin-Rulle
- Master Carpenter: Kristen Gribbin
- Assistant Carpenters: Shawn Lipscomb, Laura McCallum, Chris Bremer, Jeremiah Devlin-Rulle, Nicholas Mondelli, Gerry Dzuiblinski, Diamond Williams, Mandy Robinson
- Assistant Painters: Jeremiah Devlin-Rulle, Mandy Robinson, Diamond Williams, Cindy Gergely, Laura McCallum, Shawn Lipscomb
- Stage Electricians: Diamond Williams, Gerry Dzuiblnski, Mike Cavallero
- Production Assistant: Nicole McComb
- Properties Construction: Jeremiah Devlin-Ruelle, Gerry Dzuiblinski, Mandy Robinson, Laura McCallum, Kimberly Hines
- Dresser, Costume Manager, Shift Crew, Production Assistant: Briana Jenkins
- Dresser, Costume Manager: Lena Al-Hanooti
- Archival Video Camera Operator: Nick Kabrovich
- Program Printing: HFCC Graphics
- Program Typist: George Popovich
- Box Office/Ushers: Cast and Crew, Theater Students
- Publicity: George Popovich
- Stage Technical Direction Consultant: Majd Murad
About the Play
Late in Caryl Churchill’s play, the title character, the Skriker–"a shape-shifter and death portent, ancient and damaged"–is trying hard to seduce Lily, the young woman whose love she so desperately needs. In an attempt to get through to her she says:
"Have you noticed the large number of meteorological phenomena lately? Earthquakes. Volcanoes. Drought. Apocalyptic meteorological phenomena. The increase of sickness. It was always possible to think, whatever your personal problem, there’s always nature. Spring will return even if it’s without me. Nobody loves me but at least it’s a sunny day. This has been a comfort to people as long as they’ve existed. But it’s not available anymore. Sorry. Nobody loves me and the sun’s going to kill me. Spring will return and nothing will grow. Some people might feel concerned about that. But it makes me feel important. I’m going to be around when the world as we know it ends. I’m going to witness unprecedented catastrophe. I like a pileup on the motorway. I like the kind of war we’ve been having lately. I like snuff movies. But this is going to be the big one."
When she started speaking, this angry and malevolent faerie did not intend to reveal so much; her rage gets the better of her. But what she says here is at the heart of the play. The earth is sick; human beings have brought on its fatal illness; and nature is about to get even. Nowadays, Nature likes a snuff film.
Churchill wrote this play in 1993; it premiered at the National Theater in London in 1994. In it she draws heavily on British folklore and mythology. The Skriker, "not a major spirit, but a spirit," is hungry for the love and respect human beings once extended to the faerie world–the mysterious creatures and spirits of the earth who for tens of thousands of years personified mankind’s understanding of nature. Goblins, Spriggans, Bogles, Elves, Fairies, Brownies–both helpful and dangerous–represented man’s more organic, and more ancient connection to the world: a way of understanding an existence in which it was imperative to live in balance with nature, to treat every element of the landscape with caution, respect, and more than a little fear.
The last vestige of that way of looking at the world perished with the Industrial Revolution. Respect has been replaced with arrogance, caution with foolhardiness, a wise sense of balance with a prodigal destruction of the irreplaceable. The world, with its swelling population, dwindling resources, and stifling poisons is hurtling toward catastrophe. The Skriker, a sick but ferocious representative of an older understanding, re-emerges from the underworld, determined to strike back at the bringers of this global disease: human beings. At her back follow other ancient creatures, equally damaged and equally out of place, but just as determined to avenge a savaged planet. What the Skriker wants, so she says, is a human baby, ostensibly a means of bringing a revival of the ancient powers of Faerie. But what she’s really after, or at least so Churchill implies, is the eradication of the human future. After the next mass extinction, whether by means of a good-sized asteroid or self-induced, the planet would renew itself in a mere few million years: the blink of an eye, in geologic time.
You will likely leave the theatre feeling there were parts of this play you didn't understand. The play is deliberately abstract, indirect and dense. It is written and presented in a fragmented fashion. It is not necessary that you comprehend everything to appreciate the show. Much of the show is aimed at creating a feeling of mystery, wonder, and dread. We hope that our acting performances and visual approach will accomplish that.
When Caryl Churchill tells a fairy tale, it’s not likely to conclude with happily ever after. In THE SKRIKER, the author of CLOUD 9, TOP GIRLS and MAD FOREST takes a surreal character extrapolated from English folklore and brings it into the present to deliver a disturbing message about a world out of balance.
The Skriker’s guises include (among others) an old crone, a pretty fairy and a female psychotic sexual hustler. The Skriker seeks to avenge its unsettled spirit by insinuating itself into the lives to two impressionable young women: one is pregnant and the other in a psych ward for killing her baby.
“I was certainly wanting to write a play about damage -- damage to nature and damage to people, both which there’s plenty of about,” the press-shy playwright told THE NEW YORK TIMES in 1996. “To that extent, I was writing a play about England now. Where this didn’t come from was any desire to write an escape into the airy-fairy.”
In its initial run at the Royal National Theatre and in the 1996 production at the Joseph Papp Public Theatre, reviews were largely laudatory while stressing that THE SKRIKER is a thick and challenging work. “Caryl Churchill’s astonishing new work is hardly a source of comfort,” critic Ben Brantley wrote in THE NEW YORK TIMES, describing the play as “a toxic variation on A MIDSUMMER’S NIGHT’S DREAM.” Everything in THE SKRIKER, even language, seems to be mutating.
The Time: The present. The Place: In and around London, England.
Scene 1……………………………………………..The Underworld
While the play is about the two sisters and their encounters with The Skriker, it is also about the condition of our world. Various references are made in the play to war, global warming, and a host of other negative influences that plague our planet. A brief video montage of network news from the past nine months opens the show and reinforces this. The Skriker appears and briefly torments the human souls she has seduced and imprisoned in the underworld. What follows is a very long monologue written in a poetic, surreal style. this monologue may confuse you. For insight we offer an analysis by critic Christian Nagy:
"The very first scene of the play is an extremely long monologue spoken by the Skriker, which at first sight resembles a senseless pile of words put together haphazardly. All the same, after a while the words miraculously begin to form a meaning, however obscure and impalpable.
Churchill’s play is a fairly traditional one in the sense that the initial speech of the Skriker retains the function of a prologue. A good prologue creates the atmosphere of the oncoming play, puts the spectator or the reader in a mood in which they are able to tune into the plot and the lives of the characters to be presented. It often refers to the events to come; sometimes it turns to the audience with some request or another. Similarly, the Skriker’s monologue is able to create the strange, half-rational, half-irrational aura of the scenes to come.
The unhindered flow of the words addresses the readers’ subconscious rather than their conscious, rational mind; one feels, by means of a mysterious sixth sense, rather than knows the exact meaning of what the Skriker is speaking about. By the end of the speech, therefore, we have seemingly unstructured clusters of information about a young girl who is in trouble now, (“may day, she cries,”) and about an unnamed baby (“put my hand to the baby”). Besides the function of creating a strong sense of atmosphere, the above extracts retain another role from the traditional prologue: they also refer to the main points of the action. “May day, she cries,” says the Skriker and she presumably speaks about Josie, who, having murdered her baby, is in a mental hospital at the beginning of the play. Josie does not actually use the well-known radio signal of planes and ships in danger, but she is clearly in danger due not only to her murderous act but to the disquieting presence of the Skriker as well. The baby without a name is Josie’s daughter who had been killed before she could be baptised.
The initial monologue of the fairy has also a significant role of characterizing the Skriker herself in at least two ways. In the first place the way it is rendered is very much like a speech of a shaman in trance, which only the initiates can understand. The shaman, who is connected with transcendental forces, brings his tribesmen a message from the world beyond, and the Skriker’s uncontrolled string of free associations based on puns, alliterations, homophones, and rhymes has a similar effect. The uneasy feeling that we do not understand it, yet it might have a coherent meaning, gives the speech an air of other-worldliness and suggests that its speaker is not of our familiar material world.
The speech contains several references to persons, objects, concepts and literary pieces, which are more or less significant parts of the Western, and especially of the English-speaking world. They are sometimes fairly explicit, sometimes distorted, or even carefully concealed; yet a lot of them can be detected. There is an extremely complex reference to the Devil in the following sequence:
“Out of her pinkle lippety loppety, out of her mouthtrap, out came my secreted garden flower of my youth and beauty and the beast is six six six o’clock in the morning becomes electric stormy petrel bomb.”
The biblical allusion to the Book of Revelation is woven into a net of other allusions: the “secreted garden,” Eden, is inseparably connected to an allusion to a figure of speech “the flower of my youth,” which again is partly a constructive element of the cliché that follows “youth and beauty.” “Beauty” is put together with “beast” and thus forms a reference to the legend of the beauty and the beast. Among the wide variety of cultural allusions there are further biblical ones, for example the one to the story of the fall in the Book of Genesis and “eat the one forbidden fruit,” or the one to the seven angels and their trumpets in the Book of Revelation. Another layer of allusions is the one made to literary pieces: “everything gone with the window cleaner” includes the title of Margaret Mitchell’s famous best-seller, Gone With the Wind, another well-known title is concealed in “wail whale moby dictated the outcome into the garden maudlin," Herman Melville’s Moby Dick or the White Whale. The sequence “what can the matternhorn piping down the valley” hides a part of a line from William Blake’s Introduction to the Songs of Innocence.
Such a delicate net of cultural references suggests that the Skriker is not an ordinary person, not even an ordinary fairy. She has pre-eminently the English, in a wider sense, the whole of Western culture in her unconscious, and now she lets it pour out, lets it come to the surface. The clearly recognisable references are but the tip of the iceberg, what is below in the depth is everything made, every word uttered or written, every legend conceived, the sum of all human beings dead or alive. Probably the closest relative of such profundity is Carl Gustav Jung’s concept of the collective unconscious, which contains in each individual an obscure and secret corner of archetypes, ancient memories and fears. If the idea of such a relationship holds water, the style of the Skriker’s speech can be characterized by the term “stream of the collective unconscious” and is organized in a surrealistic way by the ocean of the common cultural memories of humankind.”
Or, to look at it in a simpler way: this is the Skriker’s language; it is “Skrikerese.”
Scene 2……………………………………………..A Mental Hospital
Lily, who is pregnant, visits her sister Josie. Josie is in a mental hospital for killing her child. The Skriker appears and possesses a female mental patient.
Scene 3……………………………………………..A Street
A derelict woman is possessed by the Skriker. The Skriker causes Lily to cough up coins.
Scene 4…………………………………………….. A Pub
The Spriggan appears and reacts to movies playing on a TV in the pub. The Skriker, (in another human incarnation) tries to understand how a TV works.
Scene 5…………………………………………….. A Street
Josie discovers the Skriker has punished her: toads come out of Josie’s mouth.
Scene 6……………………………………………..A Room
The Skriker appears as a sham fairy and produces a shower of flowers for Lily.
Scene 7……………………………………………..A Park
The Skriker appears as a small child and attempts to manipulate Lily. Josie, aware of the Skriker’s tricks, attacks the Skriker.
Scene 8……………………………………………..The Underworld
The Skriker transports Josie to The Underworld. Rather than the torture of human souls displayed in scene 1, Josie is “treated” to a feast attended by the captured human souls being pressed into service as banquet guests.” An underworld captive possessing no entrails is humiliated.
Scene 9……………………………………………..A Park
Josie’s journey into the underworld occurs in an instant of our time and Josie finds herself back in the park as in Scene 7.
Scene 10…………………………………………….A Room
Lily and Josie are in their London Flat. Lily has had her baby. Josie advances the idea that Lily’s baby may be a changeling. According to Celtic Legends, fairies would steal human babies and leave a fairy child (changeling) in their place.
Scene 11…………………………………………….A Kitchen (The London Flat)
The Skriker appears as a sexual hustler and further attempts to seduce Lily.
Scene 12…………………………………………….A Room
The Skriker appears in the guise of Marie, a friend of Lily’s.
Scene 13…………………………………………….A Mental Hospital
Lily confronts the Skriker in the form of an old woman. Lily embraces the Skriker with her heart and soul. The Skriker has won.
Scene 14…………………………………………….A Dark Place: a hundred years later
Lily is transported into the future where she sees her daughter and great granddaughter. She takes a piece of food from her great-granddaughter and the Skriker's victory is complete.
Special Thanks to The Technology Improvement Fund Committee, Dr. Lynn Hensel, Rick Goward, Ron Labbe, Bill Freitag, Sandro Sylvestri, HFCC Voice and Data Technicians, Judy March, Henry Morgan, Brian Johnson, and Mousepad Computers.
- The Fairy Skriker: The Oxford English Dictionary reveals the secret, claiming that there exists a verb ‘to skrike' which means “to utter a shrill harsh cry; to screak.” The Skriker then is the one who screaks, a “screaker.” Unlike some other members of the company from the Underworld, such as the Kelpie, which is a water-spirit or demon in Lowland Scottish folklore, or the Bogle, which is a phantom or specter of the night causing fright, the Skriker is not a traditional figure of British folklore, it is rather Churchill's own artistic invention. The remaining creatures are taken from traditional English, Irish, and Scottish folklore.
- Yallery Brown: The name of a malicious fairy in England. His appearance is extremely ugly and wrinkled, with long hair and a beard.
- Black Dog: Creatures, which typically resemble black dogs though it is also often used as a generic term for canine apparitions of other colors and types.
- Kelpie: In old Scotland, the Kelpie is a treacherous water devil who lurks in lakes and rivers. It usually assumes the shape of a young horse.
- Green Lady: Green Ladies have power to change their forms at will. A Green Lady may sometimes deceive a traveler by appearing before him in the form of his lady-love, and, after speaking to him for a time, turn away with mocking laughter and vanish from sight. Perhaps, too, she may appear as a dog, and torment shepherds by driving their sheep hither and thither in wild confusion. Each Green Lady lives alone in a solitary place, either below a river or waterfall or in a green knoll, a forest, or a deep ravine. One is rarely seen in daytime. The Green Lady wanders about in the dusk of late evening, in moonlight, or in darkness. She is ever a deceiver, and woe to the traveler who has not the knowledge how to overcome her spells, for she may drown him at a river ford or lead him over the edge of a precipice. It is difficult to fight against her, for if she asks a man what weapon he has, and he names it, she can, by working magic, make the weapon quite harmless.
- Jennie Greenteeth: A water spirit who lurks in swamps, bogs, and slow-moving rivers. She hides in shallow, murky water with her head half-submerged like a frog and looks for unwary children to drown and devour.
- The Bogle: A freakish spirit, who delights rather to perplex and frighten humankind than either to serve or seriously to hurt humans. He is like a mischievous type of Brownie. He is exactly the same as the poltergeist in his activities and habits. He is an evil-natured goblin who tortures liars and murderers. He haunts crossroads at night and likes to trick merchants. and travelers.
- Brownie: The best known of the industrious domestic hobgoblins. The Brownie's land is over all the North of England and up into the highlands of Scotland. The Brownie is small, ragged and shaggy. Some say he has a nose so small as to be hardly more than two nostrils. The most gentle of the creatures. Many Brownies can be taught to clean and do domestic chores.
- Spriggan: Ghosts of giants, which haunted megaliths and standing stones, guarding the treasure buried there. They could swell to a huge grotesque shape or shrink to a small size. They were to blame for all kinds of disasters, such as falling buildings, bad weather or lost children.
- Rawheadandbloodybones: A specter that frightens children. One of the most evil of the border goblins. It lives on ancient battlefields and in the ruins of fortresses, castles, and, towers. Once a cruel and violent human, its offenses against the world of Faerie condemned it to the underworld where it was first made immortal and then flayed alive. Its pain never ceases and it vents his rage against whatever human beings fall into its hands by tearing them in pieces and eating them alive.