USF professor brings Gorey Stories to stage

Halloween is usually full of blood, guts and gore to frighten the masses, but this week theater instructor and play director David Jenkins, along with Jobsite Theater in Tampa, will be showing a different kind of horror with Gorey Stories.

Jenkins, the artistic director of the theater, was presented with Gorey Stories six years ago when a friend of a company member came back from the mid-west after seeing the show.

Based on 17 neo-gothic stories by writer and poet Edward Gorey, the appropriately timed Gorey Stories is a two-act collection of Goreys macabre works. The first act features a series of disconnected stories, while the second act, The Unsung Harp, is about a writer trying to finish a story, but each time he gets distracted, a new plotline begins.

Gorey Stories made its debut at the theater in 2007 with a cast of nine.

Dark, monochromatic colors combined with the Halloween season and a live band to play sound effects and songs created an audience eager for more, but officials at the theater decided against making the play an annual event.

Theres always sort of those diminishing returns, he said. If you do it every year, eventually people burn out on it.

But five years later, Jenkins decided to bring back the show that had received a warm reception its first time around, this time with a cast of six.

This time, he said the theater and the cast worked more on creating elements such as marionettes and live video that would make the show more true to Goreys stories.

Theres a whole video element to the show which didnt exist the first time, he said. This allows us to actually incorporate Edward Goreys drawings and illustrations in the show.

Another important change came with the plays music. Songs in the production come from a 1970s
adaptation of Goreys works, however the encore has a deeper connection with the poet himself.

In 2003, British cabaret band The Tiger Lillies released The Gorey End, an album based on unpublished stories that were sent to the band by its fan, Gorey, shortly before his death.

The 13-song album was added to the set list as the encore in the theaters 2012 production.

But Jenkins said Gorey Stories is far from a musical.

I consider it more a play with music because the live band plays all the sound effects throughout the show, Jenkins said. When you say musical, it kind of creates a certain expectation.

Audiences appreciated an encore concert at a sold-out preview since the show opened last Wednesday at the Shimberg playhouse at the Straz Center. Jenkins said audiences have been excited to see the shows improvements.

It was a very popular show the first time around and most of the performances sold out, he said. And right now, it looks like thats the way its going to go, but we still have a month, so its hard to tell.

Tickets to see Gorey Stories are $28 and can be purchased at The show runs from Oct. 24 to Nov. 18.