Going Gothic

Things To Do

Pictured: Frankenstein will come to life via radio theater at Bookstore1Sarasota. Photo Courtesy of Bookstore1Sarasota.

For an evening of thrills and chills, head to Bookstore1Sarasota to experience The Gothic Library, a live radio theater program that brings gothic literature to life. If it’s been a while since your last English class, Thought Co. defines gothic literature as “writing that employs dark and picturesque scenery, startling and melodramatic narrative devices, and an overall atmosphere of exoticism, mystery, fear and dread.” Noteworthy gothic works include Rebecca, Dracula and Frankenstein, an iconic story by Mary Shelley that Bookseller Ren Pearson has adapted to a radio format for the December edition of The Gothic Library.

“I know the horror scene back and front,” says Pearson, who does sound tech for Theatre Odyssey, which puts on a festival featuring ten-minute-long plays and another with works from local student playwrights. “Theatre Odyssey is best known for the Ten-Minute Play Festival, but COVID put a damper on those plans,” he adds. Pearson and his friend and fellow Theatre Odyssey alum Tom Aposporos found an unexpected way to keep the festival alive. “I had a bevy of useless knowledge about old-fashioned radio theater, and all that we needed was a place to record, microphones, equipment and for the scripts to be rewritten for a radio theater format. Tom and I talked about how other people were using Zoom, but it had its limitations much to the detriment of the enjoyment of the listener. We came up with the idea of doing a full podcast, which gave us more control and made it a lot easier to deliver quality. Surprisingly, Theatre Odyssey took a chance on our wild idea, actually purchased the equipment and turned the 2020-2021 season’s Ten-Minute Play Festival into an online radio festival,” says Pearson.

As pandemic restrictions eased, Pearson returned to the stage and began working at Bookstore1Sarasota. “I ended up with this really good equipment and thought ‘What do I do with it now?’” Inspired by the lofted event space in the shop, he pitched the idea of an evening of classic gothic literature, and The Gothic Library was born and is now presented in association with Theatre Odyssey. The first event this past July featured short stories The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allen Poe, The Signal-Man by Charles Dickens and Oh Whistle and I’ll Come To You My Lad by M.R. James. “I honestly expected a handful of people to show up. I did not expect for us to sell out both nights,” Pearson adds. “It really clicked and was much bigger than I expected.”

For Pearson, Frankenstein presented a challenge in terms of casting. “It’s a really well-written book that can be a hard read because it’s so emotional and heavy. I had a Doctor Frankenstein, but it wasn’t until I found my monster that I decided to do the piece,” he says. Tom Horton will play Victor Frankenstein, and Pearson’s brother Vincent will give the spark of life to his monster. “I’m fortunate to cast people who love these characters as much as I do and can give them their own spin.” Alongside the actors, the show is set to feature visual elements that will enhance the viewing experience. “We encourage the audience to use their imaginations, close their eyes and listen. We see their bodies react to certain sounds, wince and jump,” he adds. “My goal is to educate people, and it’s exciting to keep these stories going and add to them as modern mythology. I hope that they’re entertained and having as much fun as we are. And if they get scared, that’s good too.”

The Gothic Library will present Frankenstein on December 14, 15 and 16 and tickets can be purchased on Bookstore1Sarasota’s website. Bookstore1Sarasota, 117 S. Pineapple Ave., Sarasota, sarasotabooks.com.

Pictured: Frankenstein will come to life via radio theater at Bookstore1Sarasota. Photo Courtesy of Bookstore1Sarasota.

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