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Friday, October 10, 2014

Shocktoberfest 15: Halloween Every Weekend

Posted By on Fri, Oct 10, 2014 at 1:00 PM

click to enlarge shocktoberfest.jpg
Thrillpeddlers is back with their annual Shocktoberfest. This is the 15th edition of the scary, funny, and popular festival which harkens back to those wonderful spook shows that filled theaters during the 19th century.

Shocktoberfest 15 has been dubbed The Bloody Debutante, and it promises to be an extravaganza of terror and titillation. The show previews tonight and officially opens on Saturday, Oct. 11. 

Russell Blackwood, director of two of the evening's short but scary offerings, chatted with SF Weekly about a grand old theatrical tradition which rises from the grave every year in San Francisco. 

SF Weekly: Can you explain for newbies exactly what Shocktober Fest is?

Blackwood: Shocktoberfest is Thrillpeddler's annual pageant of terror and titillation, celebrating the theatrical genre of Grand Guignol. Now in it's 15th year, ours is the longest-running festival dedicated to the theater of sex and death.

What can audiences expect to see and take away from the plays?

An evening of Grand Guignol theater is made up of several short plays that alternate between terror plays, sex farces, and comedies. The act of moving through this cycle of "cold" terror plays and "hot" sex farces was dubbed "the Scottish shower effect" by the original Grand Guignol theater. It's a real roller coaster ride that will likely offer something to suit all tastes.

How might Shocktoberfest differ from, say, a production of Dracula? 

Dracula deals with a supernatural monster; Grand Guignol Theater does not. Though on occasion Shocktoberfest breaks with that tradition, for the most part our theater is about the human monster rather than the supernatural one.

Can you tell us a bit about your theatrical background?

I grew up working in theater in Kansas City, Missouri. At 18, I went off to study theater at Boston University where I received my BFA in acting. Right out of university, I got a job at California Theater Center in Sunnyvale and have acted and directed in the Bay Area ever since. In 2004, Thrillpeddlers were offered a permanent home, our theater on 10th Street, the Hypnodrome.  

What inspires you to work in the horror genre and particularly the Grand Guignol genre?

I just love it like crazy. When Thrillpeddlers co-founder Daniel Zilber and I first heard about the Grand Guignol as kids in the early 1980s, there was scarcely anything written about it in English. Thrillpeddlers began producing Grand Guignol plays in 1991. Since that time, we worked with theater artists and historians to launched the website, and are continually engaged in creating new works and reviving classics from the Grand Guignol repertoire. I can safely say that this boyhood fantasy inspired me to revive Grand Guignol Theater and to stay at the forefront of its resurgence. 

Performances continue every Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Hypnodrome, 575 10th St., S.F., with special Halloween performances on Oct. 28 and 29. For those of you who simply can't let Halloween go, performances will run through Nov. 22. For more information on Shocktoberfest 15: The Bloody Debutante, please visit

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