Monster of a Show
locals stage original Frankenstein adaptation
It’s not exactly Mary Shelley. Nor is it Mel Brooks. Lot Turner’s original adaptation of Frankenstein – the debut production for an up-and-coming theater group called Chapter 13 Productions – is itself a creature that has been “dead and resurrected dozens of times,” according to Turner.
Several years ago, back in his home state of Indiana, Turner had convinced his friends (rather hastily, as it turns out), that he could pull off writing, directing, and producing Frankenstein. A telemarketer at the time, Turner wrote a single line after each phone call, stringing together what would eventually become an original version of the classic gothic tale. Despite roadblocks, Turner finished his first production admirably. In 2008, newly arrived in Wisconsin, Turner was already incubating schemes for a fresh cast, stage, and audience for Frankenstein.
At first, Turner said, it made sense to tap support from neighboring Eau Claire’s established theatrical organizations. After struggling to organize within existing groups, however, he decided to go solo and seek out a venue. He had only to look “just up the hill” to the Heyde Center. Now he trusts that high quality entertainment will draw people from Eau Claire and further. It helps, too, that he is smitten with Chippewa Falls. “I’m in deep smit,” he says.
The decision to support the local playwright and his burgeoning theater group was an easy one, according to Heyde Center director Deb Johnson. While she appreciates the familiar faces and clear influence of well-known groups, she sees them as parts of a larger whole. “It’s important to see new groups starting up … so that we have not just a few people involved, but lots,” she says.
Case in point: the Heyde Center’s mail carrier is actually a talented light technician in powder-blue disguise. Referred to Turner by Johnson, she is now in charge of illuminating the production. While Turner’s stylistic preferences remain “bare-bones,” he and Johnson are excited about Frankenstein’s mood-rendering light and sound. “As soon as you walk into the building, it’ll be like stepping into the story … and that just gives me chills,” says Johnson.