At the bottom of a long series of stairs, and beyond walls lined with posters from years past, lies Studio 60, home of the Samford Underground Theatre.
On the nights of Feb. 17 and 18, this home was decorated in psychedelic ‘60s neon, and groovy music from the same swinging decade played over the scene as the gathering crowd found their seats and waited for the show to begin. They were there to see the Samford Underground’s latest production, “Spooky Dog and the Teen-Age Gang Mysteries.”
As some might deduce, “Spooky Dog” is a parody of Scooby Doo, though aimed at a decidedly more adult audience than the Hanna-Barbera series. The show plays off of the various tropes and traditions found in the original cartoon as the eponymous gang of teenage mystery-solvers and their canine companion set out to find their missing celebrity friend (which celebrity that is depends on the night’s audience suggestion), who has mysteriously vanished at a county fair due to possibly paranormal foul play.
Isabella Blohme, the show’s director, said she immediately fell in love with the play when her older brother first introduced her to it while in high school.
“To me, it was just the perfect example of all of the little theories about each character coming to life, and it was just so lively and comedic and chaotic, that I just immediately latched onto it,” Blohme said. “And I’ve always wanted to do it since high school, and so, it was just so, so exciting for it to finally come to fruition with the underground theater department.”
Blohme and Assistant Director Kate Ortiz held online auditions for the show near the end of Christmas break. In addition to the normal line readings, the prospective cast was asked to improvise some dialogue and stories about celebrities, since improvisation and on-the-spot creativity would be needed in the final production.
This element of improv and spontaneity is a major component of the final show. At the beginning of the night, the cast asks the audience for their input on certain aspects of the show, such as the name of a celebrity, and an object that they can use. They then incorporate what they are given into the plot and dialogue of the show, making each night a new and unique experience. Although not without its challenges, the cast was well prepared for whatever may be thrown at them on any given night.
“I really, really encouraged all my cast members to take the time when they’re not in rehearsal to stay up to date on anybody that was heavily in the pop culture news at the time,” Blohme said.
Because of the way the show works, the only way to prepare was to go into each rehearsal with a different celebrity to practice adapting to those on-the-spot additions. This extra work proved worthwhile in the long run; Blohme noted how much fun the cast and the audience had with the improv aspects, as their quick thinking created an exciting spontaneity that wouldn’t have been present otherwise.
On their first night, the celebrity suggestion was Britney Spears, and the prop given was the Constitution.
“Being able to work those into somehow relating to each other was really, really fun, as a director watching it, and I could tell the audience was really having a good time,” said Blohme. “And I think that that’s an aspect of it that, for an audience, is really enjoyable. Because, as much as the cast members are thinking about ‘oh, my gosh, what are they going to say next about Britney Spears and the Constitution,’ the audience gets to sit there and also wonder. And so I feel like it gives them so much creativity in the back of their mind, thinking about what could possibly come next within this story. So I think that it was definitely an enjoyable process on both ends.”
Arts & Life Editor