Voices from the Fringe: Erik Blair, Writer/Director of ‘Internal’

Making its world premiere at this year’s Hollywood Fringe is INTERNAL, a new piece from They Played Productions, creators of last year’s God: the Apologies Tour and 2016’s horror musical Nothing Bad.

INTERNAL’s writer/director, Erik Blair, was kind enough to give Better Lemons a sneak preview of this intriguing new production and how it fits in with the Fringe.

Better Lemons: Tell us a bit about the genesis of Internal.
Erik Blair: One of the ongoing ideas behind They Played Productions is to examine horror stories from new and different angles. That's what made us launch as a company with a werewolf rock musical and do a multi-chapter modern immersive version of Frankenstein over a 15-month period.

We continue to be really interested in looking at how horror stories are told and seeing how we can transform them in a modern setting or through a new lens.

Internal came from the idea that zombie stories are always about the shambling (or rushing) horde swarming around a group of people. We wanted to find a new way to tell the story — for one person, using specific technological ideas, and on the streets of Hollywood. We couldn't be more excited about how it's coming out!

BL: Briefly, what’s the show about?
EB: The show is about a growing viral zombie threat that is happening in real- time. It's a show built for one audience at a time as they traverse the streets around Vine and Santa Monica. As audience members walk, they will experience a story that is happening directly to them.

The goal is to find a way to terrify audiences by weaving a personal story in the midst of the busy Friday nights of Hollywood.

BL: What are the immersive aspects?
EB: This is one of the most exciting aspects of the show for us. We're going to try to immerse audiences directly into a story that is tailored to each audience member — while they are walking around outside.

We're going to use technology to place the audience member directly in the role of someone living through the early stages of a zombie apocalypse while still letting them experience the street they are walking on at the same time. We're going to add actors to the experience who are completely relevant to the story — and yet if others walk by, they wouldn't even look twice. It's a combination of clever storytelling and using the street itself as part of the story.

BL: What can audiences expect when they attend the show?
EB: They can expect to have a full story with a beginning, middle and absolutely terrifying end. They will find that the show places them directly where they are in real-space, even as the story they are experiencing is something mysterious, terrible and dark. This is not a kids story in any way — it's very much a horror tale.

BL: What makes Internal a good fit for the Hollywood Fringe?
EB: The Hollywood Fringe Festival is about trying things out that can't be done easily elsewhere. This is a true experiment for us as we try to find a simple but compelling way to flip the zombie story around. It might be too much for audiences — or too little.

And that's what makes it so interesting to us as a concept and also makes it a perfect fit for the festival. Hollywood Fringe has always embraced productions that expand how people think about theatrical experiences, and we fit that idea of expansion perfectly this year.

Erik Blair

Erik Blair

BL: Is anyone in the show that people will recognize from past Fringes?
EB: We're excited to have two new actors for this year, as well as one veteran, Adam Briggs, who is very excited to be back once again.

BL: How many Fringes have you participated in?
EB: I've been a participant in Fringe since 2016 as an actor/stage manager and They Played Productions has had a production that we have written, directed and produced since 2017. So this is HFF number four for us.

BL: What keeps you coming back?
EB: The sheer creativity of the festival is a tremendous draw for us. Last year, They Played Productions even launched our own sponsored award because we love the vast and unique takes on stories, theater and performance that we see every year. Even if we had a year that we didn't bring a production, I'd still be running around the festival and seeing everything I can manage to get to during the month. We just love HFF all around.

BL: What other shows are you interested in seeing at the Fringe?
EB: Everything immersive (as that's our focus these days). But a more accurate question would be what I'm not interested in — and the answer is very, very little.

I long ago learned that my favorite shows every year are those that I go see spontaneously and randomly. These days, I simply select the shows that I can up front, watch those shows that request to be considered for our awards....and then I just choose things that sound interesting at the moment.

Really, there's no wrong thing to go see in a festival full of such incredible talent and passion.


Internal will be performed on Friday nights from June 7 to 28 at the Hollywood Fringe. Audiences begin their experience at the corner of Santa Monica and Vine. traveling north to Sunset and back south to Vine. This performance requires audience members to be able to traverse that distance at a walking pace.

Ticketing and further information can be found on the Fringe site.


Voices from the 2018 Hollywood Fringe: David Lucarelli, Writer of ‘Dr. Zomba's Ghost Show of Terror'

The writer talks about the ghost shows of yore, their relevance in today's society and its manifestation at the Fringe.

Making its world premiere at the Fringe is the intriguing-sounding Dr. Zomba's Ghost Show of Terror, a throwback to the theatrical ghost shows that were popular from the 1930s to the 1960s. Writer David Lucarelli was kind enough to answer some questions about the show.

What was the inspiration behind the creation of Dr. Zomba?

I was at Comic-Con one year and I stumbled on a book called “Ghost Masters,” by Mark Walker, about the history of the ghost shows. I found out the ghost shows were this spooky, funny, scary magic show that featured hypnotism, mind reading, a séance, monsters and ghosts. I was immediately fascinated by this lost bit of spooky Americana. I really wanted to see one, but since very few people are doing them anymore and it's kind of a lost art. I figured the only way to see a ghost show was to write one and put it on myself!

What will audiences be experiencing? Is the piece immersive?

The climax of every ghost show is an immersive “blackout sequence,” in which the audience is in total darkness and surrounded by supernatural phenomena they can see, hear and feel! They had all kinds of tricks to make this happen. We went back and studied the ghost show manuals from the '50s, and came up with a few new tricks of our own.

What's your personal history with the ghost shows of yore?

I'm a monster kid and a horror writer. I grew up loving Halloween, haunted houses, Scooby Doo, TV horror hosts, Rocky Horror, Famous Monsters of Filmland, etc. This show is for all the misfits like me.

What are the skillsets of the talent involved?

Dr. Silkini's Ghost Show was considered one of the top ghost shows in the 1950's. A few years ago when the people that had the rights to Dr. Silkini were looking to bring the show back, they hand-picked our star, David M Beach, to be the new Doctor Silkini. That didn't end up happening, but we've very lucky to have David as the star of Doctor Zomba. David is an actor, comedian, magician, juggler and ventriloquist, all of which makes the perfect skill set for him to be the ringmaster of our ghost show!

Kerr Lordygan plays Ear-Gore. He is a Fringe veteran and an award winning actor, director and playwright. Tamara Torres plays Sirena. She's an actress and dancer who has appeared in film, television and music videos. S. Alessandro Martinez is a horror and fantasy writer who is making his stage debut as Dracula. Our director, Kevin Wetmore, is the Professor and Chair of Theater Arts at Loyola Marymount University. Fight choreography is one of his specialties and we'll be utilizing that talent — among many others — in the ghost show.

I wrote Tinseltown, the critically acclaimed crime drama from Alterna Comics, and The Children's Vampire Hunting Brigade graphic novels.

Given the time restrictions of Fringe, how will the logistics be handled?

We allowed ourselves twice the normal time to set up our show (30 minutes, vs. the usual 15). And since we're the final late night show at the Flight theater every Saturday night, we won't have anybody breathing down our necks on the back end, either.

It is. Abacab Studios is the name for all my creative projects. I stumbled on the Fringe Fest last year when a co-worker at Fox invited me to see her perform in a play and I ended up going to four other shows! You can find out more about my other work at abacabstudios.com.

And what makes the show an ideal fit for the Fringe?

The ghost show is a lost art, but you can see its influence in the séances at the Magic Castle, in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and in the graphics of artists like Rob Zombie. It's in some ways the last vestige of vaudeville, and in other ways is still on the cutting edge of immersive experiences.

Since the Fringe is collaborative, are there any other shows you'd like to give a shout out to?

So many shows sound so compelling I want to see them all! I won't make it, but I'm going to try. Blackballed, about the history of Negro League Baseball, sounds fascinating. Lights Out in the Hermit's Cave is a performance of some of the classic spooky radio shows of the 30s and 40s. Dracula's Taste Test and Cthulhu: The Musical! both sound like really fun shows that might appeal to fans of Doctor Zomba's Ghost Show.

Final comments: We want as many people to see this ghost show as possible. You can save $3.00 off tickets with discount code: BetterLemons. For Fringe participants, tickets are only $5.00 for all shows, and the show is free for Fringe Volunteers.

Dr. Zomba's Ghost Show of Terror plays June 2, 9, 16, 18 and 23 at various times at the Flight Theater at the Complex, 6472 Santa Monica Blvd. Tickets can be purchased on the Fringe site.