When we announced our 2019 season in June of last year, among the exciting titles like Fun Home and A Doll’s House Part 2 was another familiar title with a vague playwright attached. Below House on Haunted Hill it simply read, “B Street Company.” With the play set to open Friday, it’s time we reveal some of the secrets to this premiere production based on a classic Vincent Price horror film from 1959. The following is an interview with Artistic Producer, playwright, and actor Dave Pierini on the process behind this new work.
Dave, when did B Street Theatre decide to produce our own adaptation of House on Haunted Hill?
Last summer, when we were putting together the 2019 Season, we had selected six out of the seven plays we would produce, but couldn’t find the right play to start off the season right. So, Buck, Jerry and I began talking about stories in which we could adapt in the fashion of Around the World in 80 Days and The 39 Steps, fun theatrical adaptations of beloved stories, that our company of actors always performs well. So we began looking at pieces of literature and discussed some titles, and nothing was clicking. And then one day, I looked up movies that were in the public domain, and House on Haunted Hill was on that list. I mentioned it to Buck, and he pointed to it and said “I remember this movie. I watched this as a kid. It scared the hell out of me. We should adapt this.”
How long did it take for the play to get written?
Well, I initially started around late June, early July of 2018, when we made the initial decision. I just watched the movie over and over again, and had found the original screenplay and looked to that for inspiration. The first draft took me about two months.
How much does this adaptation take away from the original script and how much does of the story is new?
The basic story of the movie is still there. I mean, why mess with that? What we wanted to do with this adaptation is make it wildly entertaining while staying loyal to the original film. You can’t put—what Buck likes to call—the murderers row of comedy actors on our stage and do a straight-up adaptation. Our audiences want us to enhance the humor and enlarge the story. My job as the playwright was to provide a canvas for Buck to create all the creative bits and ideas which he is prone to do. We enlarged some of the personality traits of the character, and I limited the amount of locations. My job was to make a clear, simple story so that Buck could easily add his own creativity to the story.
How has it been like to be the playwright and also one of the actors in the play?
I don’t recommend it. It’s hard, because, in rehearsal, I’m constantly listening and thinking about the script, when I’m supposed to be focused on acting. That’s difficult. The fun thing is when stage management gives me a line note, I can just tell them, “Oh no, that’s a rewrite.”
What’s this play gonna be like for our audiences?
They can expect a classic B Street comedy; similar to Around the World in 80 Days, The 39 Steps, Big Bang, the comedies that made B Street Theatre so popular in this area. A big grand story, with some incredible comedic talent onstage. And I hope they’re a little scared.
B Street Theatre’s House on Haunted Hill opens Friday January 11 and runs until February 17. Come see Dave Pierini, along with Tara Sissom, Amy Kelly, Greg Alexander, Elisabeth Nunziato, John Lamb, and Jason Kuykendall in this hysterical adaptation of the classic 1959 horror film.