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Ladies Who Lunch and the Thrill of Homegrown Horror

in Arts & Culture/Featured by

If there is one thing to say about theatre in Newfoundland and Labrador, it’s that the community is constantly expanding and exploring the definition of “theatre” and how it is presented to audiences—always focusing on different elements and tactics to make every show a unique experience.

This is true of Ladies Who Lunch Productions, who explore the boundaries of how we can emulate different forms of entertainment on stage, writing and performing live radio plays as though the audience was there in the recording studio. With all original pieces, in-show ads that mimic radio commercials, and an on-stage Foley artist creating sounds to enhance our imaginations, Ladies Who Lunch expose the comedy, drama, and passion that go into producing a radio play. And with Covid-19 still casting a pall over the theatre community, Ladies Who Lunch knew that they would have to get creative with this year’s show. Through the help of the Resource Centre for the Arts, they announced three original episodes which virtually transport audiences into the recording booth.

A Passion for Horror

Ladies Who Lunch Productions is made up of four core members: Lynn Panting, Mark White, Théa Morash, and Philip Goodridge. They started as friends, but decided to form this group over weekly lunch meetings at The Ship Pub. Lynn Panting says that since this decision, it has been their mission to produce and present these original retro radio plays on stage.

“Phil wrote the first Three Tales of Terror collection in 2011 and we’ve been serving up live radio drama to audiences ever since,” Panting told the Independent.

These original scripts, or “episodes,” are written by Philip Goodridge, who started writing them for their group specifically.

“I literally started writing radio plays for Ladies Who Lunch and Three Tales of Terror,” Goodridge told the Independent. “I’ve always loved them. My first introduction to them was the movie Haunted Honeymoon with Gene Wilder, Gilda Radner, and Dom Deluise, they play famous radio actors and the movie opens with them doing a werewolf story. Baby Phil found that whole world fascinating.”

But while Goodridge is the one writing these stories, he doesn’t work alone.

“Honestly a big inspiration is the group, anything I write is specifically for them and they can do anything. What really brings them to life is workshopping it with the gang and the character work we all do together. What you see in the final product really is a huge collaborative effort.”

Along with writing these radio plays, Goodridge was also recently published in Mike Hickey’s Terror Nova, an anthology of Newfoundland-inspired horror.

“I’ve only ever written plays and music, never a short story or novel or anything like that,” he explained. “So I swallowed my fears and, very much like writing the radio plays, I mulled over a few concepts and ideas until I circled in on the story I wanted to tell. I’m delighted with the result and so pumped to be part of such a cool concept with these other writers.”

The Spirit of Radio

What makes the Three Tales of Terror shows stand out is the use of a Foley artist live on stage, giving the audience an extra element of shock to hear perfect sound effects reproduced in front of them.

Foley artist Kevin Woolridge has a process of how to get started in creating these sounds for the live performance.

“My process with Foley really starts with what the writer has specifically given me in the script, Woolridge told the Independent. “I like to listen to a read, and then start to look for places where other sounds make sense, or where certain notated sounds could be cut.”

This process not only focuses on what objects Woolridge can use to recreate the sounds, but taking into account the atmosphere and mood on stage.

“Something I always keep in mind is the intention of the scene and the characters, as that will often affect how a sound is produced. Is the character angry in this scene? Trying to be gentle? That kind of thing.”

As these sounds are produced live in real-time, Woolridge has the impressive task of keeping up with the action on stage.

“Since the Foley for these shows are done live in front of an audience I really have to make sure I am synced up with the actors,” he explained. “Sometimes it can get fairly complicated, so we’ll rehearse sequences multiple times to get it just right. It is always a lot of fun, and there’s a certain sense of satisfaction when all the pieces finally come together. It’s a little touch of theatre magic.”

Along with Woolridge, Kyle McDavid has added an extra layer of magic to the sound aspect of the show by creating an original score for each episode that builds the drama and conflict in the script.

“Composing for horror opens up so many possibilities,” McDavid told the Independent. “I’m essentially creating a creepy soundscape, and can break all the rules, while also incorporating some of the standard horror music tropes.”

McDavid crafts this music specifically to the script, and the atmosphere created by the actors on stage. “Typically, I’ll sit in on several read-throughs of the script to get the overall tone—is it campy or serious and ominous? Sci-fi or adventure based? I’ll pinpoint spots in the script where music will enhance the creepiness, ramp up the tension, or convey a character trait.”

Covid-19 as Creative Catalyst

With the pandemic shaking up the normal routine for the theatre community here in Newfoundland and Labrador, there has been an increase in innovative (and obscure) theatre, changing the way we indulge in entertainment. Lynn Panting says that Covid-19 has helped artists think in a new way, getting creative with how to showcase their art.

“I think that COVID-19 presented a lot of people with an opportunity to reflect on their practice and really determine how they want to move forward,” she explained. “We know that digital integration and smaller audiences are here to stay for the foreseeable future. Instead of seeing that as a limitation, we could choose to see it as an invitation to create and explore new ways of doing theatre.”

Ladies Who Lunch saw Covid-19 not as an obstacle to production, but rather a catalyst for exploring different ways to expand their creative outlets. Goodridge also goes to say that artists need to experience this to continue growing in their field.

“I think there is always a need to break boundaries with different forms of performance and now is certainly the time to explore it,” he told the Independent. “One of the biggest challenges right now is distributing our art, and while it’s tricky to navigate, the positive is that we’re all developing new and innovative ways to keep working and to keep reaching our audience.”

Ladies Who Lunch Productions will be presenting their Three Tales of Terror show in association with RCA, with filmed performances being released on the RCA’s Youtube page. This plan allows for audience members to enjoy these spine-tingling original radio plays in the comfort of their own home while still able to obtain the visual experience that Ladies Who Lunch aim to showcase.

Newfoundland and Labrador is rich with theatre, and the way theatre is presented here is ever changing. With groups like Ladies Who Lunch, not only are you supporting a local group which creates all original material, but you get a handcrafted experience made with old-school radio magic. There is nothing more powerful then when passion and creativity are mingled in the arts, which is what Tales of Terror represents. For more information on how to tune into these thrilling episodes, check out Ladies Who Lunch Productions on Facebook, or visit www.youtube.com/RCAatLSPUHall.

Photo by Chris Hibbs.

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