|Stefani Bishop as Cassie & Adam Mack as Vlad in New Millennium Theatre Company's production of "Hack/Slash"|
"Hack/Slash" the play came about because both New Millenium and Devil's Due were working on projects based on Sam Raimi's cult horror comedy "Army of Darkness." "We've been producing theater in Chicago for about seven years now. Funky stuff out of the norm, a little different, very pop culture influenced," Chad Wise told CBR News. "So, we were doing a musical parody of 'Army of Darkness' this past summer and Devils Due is local here in Chicago and they were publishing the 'Army of Darkness' comic at the time. So, we sent them some of our information out to them."
Tim Seeley came to see the production and loved it. "I saw it, and I was blown away...I'm not much for theatre, but this had everything I could want in a play," Seeley said. "It was irreverent, had elaborately staged fight sequences, and it was full of laughs. I met Chad, and handed him a copy of 'Hack/Slash'. I was like 'Hey, wanna make this into a musical?'"
Wise read the comic and thought about the best way to bring it to life. "It didn't quite seem like it was musical material," Wise said. "I wanted to take a stab at doing it straight first off and that is pretty much where it began. It kind of went from there."
The script for the stage version of "Hack/Slash" is an adaptation of the first two comics. Seeley said it's actually the same script, almost word for word, and is a combination of the "Euthanized" and "Girls Gone Dead" stories.
Wise is using a technique that will have the comic characters literally jumping off the page. "What we're doing is we have a digital projector," Wise said. "What I'm in the process of doing now is going through all the original artwork, the comic panels from the actual books, and removing all the characters from the front, and some of the foreground material and leaving just the background. We're going to project those wall-size behind the actors. So it will give a nice pop for the actual actors in front of the actual panels -- real life versus the original art."
The production will also include some film segments with all the flashback sequences film and mixed in with the projections.
Seeley will receive a producing credit on the play and will serve as a creative consultant throughout the entire production. "Chad lets me hang around and keep a hand in the creative stuff," Seeley said. "I hang out with actors and we discuss the characters over many beers. It's a good job."
One of tasks that Seeley took part in was casting. "The casting thing was really interesting," he explained "I'd never done it before. I didn't realize how tough it is to be an actor. Take the stress of a job interview and add reading-your-book-report-in-front-of-class to it. Jesus!"
Wise also praised his leading lady. "Stefani, she is this character," Wise said. "I was having a discussion with her the other night over a cup of coffee and she says, 'I'm fighting my urges to play this as myself.' I said, 'Well I've been doing this for long enough that I'm good at casting actors and actresses that will save me work in the long run. Don't fight it. There are so many aspects of Cassie that come out of you. Embrace them and we'll go from there.' She's quick as a whip, funny, sexy, sultry and just a bad ass all rolled into one. That's a good start."
Wise believes they lucked out with their pick of Adam Mack for Vlad. "He's a big comic fan and a big guy," Wise said. "We're going to have to bulk him up a bit size wise because unfortunately I didn't have any body builders coming out for the show, but he's really down with it. He's grasping the character. He's been talking to Tim a lot as well because not a whole lot about Vlad has been given up in the first two issues."
Stefani Bishop found out about the play adaptation of "Hack/Slash" from her friend Jason Bone, who also landed a role in the show, as the slasher Father Wrath. "He and I got together for coffee one afternoon, when he started talking about Chad's idea for the show," Bishop told CBR News. "At this time, Jason slid the comic books toward me, looked at me very seriously and said, "When I read this I thought, 'this has Bishop written all over it'!' I started reading both issues right there in the restaurant, and Jason was right - I loved it. I knew I had to audition."
"The first trait I recognized in Cassie after having read the comics was her vulnerability," continued Bishop. "She wears confidence like armor, and not necessarily to defend herself from others, but to defend her from herself. There is a constant battle between present day Cassie and her ego that was shattered by her childhood experiences. In childhood she was not accepted and continues to carry that stigma with her, applying it to present day situations. I'm really looking forward to tapping in to that aspect of defense without exposing her Achilles' Heel all together."
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Adam Mack discovered "Hack/Slash" while thumbing through "Performing," a trade magazine for theater in Chicago. "I saw an ad that said 'Hack/Slash' based on a comic book and it said looking for extremely tall guys," Mack told CBR News, "and I'm like, 'Hmm this sounds like something up my alley.'"
Mack read both issues of "Hack Slash" between his first and second auditions. They provided some insight into the character of Vlad, but he's still figuring out what makes Cassie's partner tick. "I've got a lot of stuff that I have to figure out between then and now. So I'm really kind of glad we have as much time as we do and the room to develop," Mack explained. "Because he is a pretty complex character and in the comic book Tim really goes into Cassie's background, but there is next to nothing about Vlad. I just found out he's Czech. So that's new. There's a lot to him that I'm going to have to pick Tim's brain to kind of get in there and see who this guy is."
Mack understands Cassie and Vlad's partnership. He compared it to one of the most famous pop-culture partnerships. "His relationship with Cassie reminds me of Han Solo and Chewbacca in that life debt sense," Mack said. "It's still not clear, but just from the panel that I saw where they first meet it seems like because she is not afraid of him and respects him like a human being and doesn't see him as a monster, he feels like she saved him somehow. So it's now like that he owes her."
Wise is also enthusiastic about the rest of his cast. "I've got some really good actors coming into play my slashers," Wise said. " My Father Wrath was actually evil Ash in the 'Boom Stick' show we did. He's a good regular of mine. The Bobby Brunswick from the first comic, he's a little green but he's got a fresh excitement that I'm looking forward to. The Laura Locke, she's perfect. She just walked in and I cast her on the spot, she was so perfect. I really got lucky with this one."
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While the stage version of "Hack/Slash" might not begin until later this year, Wise is hoping to bring the production to a number of comic book and horror conventions this summer. "We've been producing at the Flashback Weekend Horror/Sci-Fi Convention that's produced here every summer in the suburbs. We got invited the year we did 'Evil Dead-The Musical' which was two years ago. We took that. We also took 'Boomstick' last summer. I let Mike Kurz, at the festival, know what we were doing this year and he said, 'By all means. Which night do you want to perform?' Ideally, of course I'd love for Wizard to come out and take a look at what we got and say, 'We'd love to include you on the bill as some of the alternative entertainment for LA, Philly, Chicago, Dallas, whatever.' In a perfect world, that would happen. At the very least, we're going to see what comes of it." Wise is hopeful that WizardWorld Chicago will be interested, but should that not happen he's not discounted the possibility of renting a conference room at one of the outlying hotels and put the show up on their own.
The New Millenium Theater Company would love to take "Hack/Slash" to the San Diego Comic Con. "I'd love to. Really, we've been around for seven years, but we're still not your Steppenwolf or Goodman or big theater houses like that," Wise said. "So if we could find the right kind of match for sponsorship, that's what would get us to San Diego."
If the stage play version of "Hack/Slash" does well the cast and crew would love to do follow up plays. "I would love to do as many sequels as Tim's got stories to write, by all means the door is still open," Wise said. Seeley added, "Hell yes. Chad has said he'd keep doing 'em and I'm holding him to it."
The feature film version of "Hack/Slash" is still in development and Seeley would love for the cast members of the play to have some involvement in the film. "Heh... well, I'll tell ya what. If the Hollywood guys don't want to make money, and decide not to do 'Hack/Slash,' I'll make the damn thing myself, Troma-style," Seeley said. "And, yes, I'll cast everyone from the play."