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U of L goes for the gore in A Night at the Grand Guignol:2022 for the last show of season

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The  University of Lethbridge props and  costume mavens  had a bloody good time designing costumes, props and special effects for “A Night at the Grand Guignol: 2022”  the last University of Lethbridge main stage production of the year, which runs April 22 and 23 in University Theatre.


Quinn Larder plays the emcee for the U of L’s production of A Night at the Grand Guignol: 2022, April 22 and 23. Photo by Richard Amery

 The show is a tribute to the renown Grand Guignol theatre in the Pigalle district of Paris, which featured horror plays from 1897-1962.

It features three shor blood tingling  horror thrillers featuring 15 actors, described as a “horallity (a mix of horror and hilarity) by Mia van Leeuan, one of the directors.

Despite the strike at the U of L, which caused a month’s delay in the production and meant minimal contact wth the actors and directors, MFA students Carla Simon and Jaime Johnson had a lot of fun creating elaborate costumes and props for the production.


Jaime Johnson shows masks she created for the U of L’s production of A Night at the Grand Guignol: 2022, April 22 and 23. Photo by Richard Amery

It features The Lighthouse Keepers by Paul Autier and Paul Cloquemin, translated by Justin A Blum and directed by Jay Whitehead; The Masque of Red Death, an adaptive theatre piece based on Edgar Allen Poe’s story, created by Mia van Leeuwen and the cast; and a staged reading of Jean Aragny and Francis Neilson’s “ The Kiss of Blood.”


Prop and costume designer Carla Simon noted “ A Kiss of Blood,” is more than just a staged reading.


“It’s hot and cold. It’s a melodrama, but more over the top and extreme,” she said.


“It’s like the Evil Dead 2,” described Quinn Larder, who plays the emcee who guides the audience through all three short plays, dressed in an Alice Cooper inspired tux and and top hat costume designed by Jaime Johnson.


“ He’s as if Cryptkeeper and Alice Cooper and Willy Wonka had a kid. There’s a lot of gore and blood. He’ll ask for audience responses like “eews” and “gross,” Larder described.


“ It’s just really weird,” he said.


Johnson took a lot of  inspiration form Alice Cooper’s stage show, which has always been very theatrical. 

Simon used a 3-D printer to  design a lot of her costumes and props for the show, including using it to scan one of the actresses to design parts of an elaborate dress for her.


 Because another of the actors dropped out of the production due to the strike, she had to alter one of the 3 D printed costumes to fit another actor.


 Jaime Johnson’s contributions focused on masks for the Masque of Red Death.


“I did casts of each of the actors and finished them with paper maché,” she said, adding it helped fuel her interest in death masks.


“ It’s basically the story Prince Prospero who is trying to escape a plague. So he invites his whole court and they have a party. But because it’s based on an Edgar Allen Poe story, it doesn’t end well,” Johnson described.


 “ Kiss of Blood” was a play actually performed in the Grand Guignol.


Carla Simon shows a dress she created for the U of L’s production of A Night at the Grand Guignol: 2022, April 22 and 23. Photo by Richard Amery

“It’s about a guy who tries to  murder his wife and he begins to feel guilty about it. But it effects him in strange ways,” Simon said.


 Of course there are twists including mad scientists who performs a brain transplant in a “cold,sterilized room” and ghosts, which allowed Simon to let her creativity run wild while designing  the props.

The third play is Paul Autier and Paul Cloquemin’s “The Lighthouse Keeper, translated by Justin A . Blum.


“ It’s about two brothers who are working in a lighthouse. And things start to go awry. It was supposed to be a father and a son, but we had to change it because one of the actor had to drop out,” Larder said.


The show only runs for two days.

“ It was a lot of work. But we wanted to give people their money’s worth. It’s really a work in progress because the actors and directors and we didn’t get  as much time together as they should of because of the strike. Luckily the staff were able to advise us,” Simon said.

“ So it is a work in progress,” added production designer and instructor Charlie Wilson-Borella.

“But horror on stage is something that just isn’t done much any more,” she continued.

“If you like  things like  Alice Cooper,  Scary Movie and Saw, then  you will get excited about this show,” Larder said.

Tickets  to  this  very  limited  two-night  run of A Night at the Grand  Guignol are available at the University Box Office (Monday   Friday, 12:30pm   3:30 p.m) or online:
Tickets are $18 regular, $13 seniors and alumni, $12 students. University of Lethbridge students are eligible for one complimentary ticket with their student ID. Haze and fog effects. Masking is mandatory. 

— by Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor

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