“The Zombie Apocalypse, Bunker Necessities, and What the Post-Zombie World Would Look Like” – A Chat with Clare Blackwood on WELCOME TO THE BUNKER! at the 2017 Toronto Fringe
Interview by Madryn McCabe
We spoke with Clare Blackwood, co-writer/performer of Welcome to the Bunker! at the 2017 Toronto Fringe. We chatted about why she chose to go for the post-apocalyptic zombie genre, what she would bring to the bunker if/when the zombie apocalypse happens, and what audiences should prepare for when they enter The Bunker this Fringe.
MM: Tell me a little bit about your show.
Clare Blackwood: Welcome to the Bunker! is an immersive post-apocalyptic zombie comedy set deep “under” the Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace. Katie, a zombie rights millennial activist, and Todd, an antisocial Gen-X prepper, have holed up in Todd’s bunker after North America has been overrun by the undead and left for…well, dead by the rest of the world. Naturally, Katie has decided that the best thing to do in this situation is to collect as many survivors as possible and bring them down into the bunker, in order to create a harmonious new society when the whole “zombie thing” has died down (pun very much intended). Together, they’ll take each audience of survivors through a very enthusiastic-yet-half-assed apocalypse orientation… that is, unless that scratching in the walls gets any louder…
MM: Why a post-apocalyptic zombie show?
CB: Why not? was my very first response, but I have a feeling you’re looking for more intelligent stuff than that. I’d like to say that with all the chaos that’s going on in the US and abroad, that intelligent theatrical commentary about how the world may very well become a post-apocalyptic wasteland sooner than we think was what we were going for when deciding what to do for Fringe, but if we’re being honest with ourselves, it’s because I’m a giant zombie-obsessed nerd who thought the idea of two weirdos doing PowerPoint presentations about the end of the world was hilarious beyond all reason. However, there are wonderful motifs to explore in the genre, and it was interesting to use it to explore the themes of loss, generational tension, and hope for the future, in the midst of an absurd Armageddon scenario. Zombies have been used forever to make parallels to modern society’s worries and problems, and this play is no exception.
I originally had an idea for a show about two very polar opposite people stuck in a zombie bunker together over a year ago, when I first considered entering Fringe. However, I had dismissed the idea as unfeasible and too silly (I know, what a ridiculous concept, right? IT’S FRINGE!) and decided to do something else for the Festival. It wasn’t until a series of unforeseen events led me to having to abandon that particular show that I remembered I had this apocalyptic idea in my back pocket. So I followed my nerdy heart and found an incredible team of people ready to take on the zombies head-on. I think we’ve managed to make the zombie apocalypse fun for not only über nerds, but anyone who likes to have a silly, awesome time at the theatre.
MM: What’s your favourite zombie movie/game/TV show and why?
CB: Why must you make me choose one, you temptress?! Okay, so in terms of zombie movie, I would definitely say 28 Weeks Later. I’ve always preferred the fast-moving “infected” to the slow, shambling undead. Mo’ carnage, mo’ fun. Most people prefer the original 28 Days, and it’s admittedly a better movie, but I love Weeks because it’s just non-stop zombie mayhem goodness. In terms of video games, the original Left 4 Dead will always hold a special place in my heart. I will never tire of it. In theatre school, whenever I was super busy, headshotting the undead hordes was the best stress reliever ever. And lastly, I tried to get into The Walking Dead, but was turned off of it in the first few episodes because of the lack of the aforementioned zombie carnage. Call me bloodthirsty, but less bickering and more katana fights, please.
MM: If you could bring three things into your bunker, what would they be and why?
CB: 1) The Lord of the Rings extended edition trilogy.
2) My cat, Gandalf. He would be extraordinarily displeased with me if I didn’t, and would probably find a way in anyway and then barf on all my irreplaceable belongings.
3) My Orlando Bloom waifu body pillow. (Just kidding! Or am I.)
…Wow, that list accidentally ended up being super Tolkien-heavy. I hope you don’t think I’m a nerd. Oh my god.
MM: What do you think the post-zombie world will look like? After all the carnage, and you emerge from your bunker, what do you think the world will be like?
CB: I step out of the bunker and into the free air. My auburn locks have grown in the years underground, yet despite the lack of shampoo and personal hygiene it has somehow become even sexier and more luscious. My clothes are ripped, yet flattering on my figure that has somehow not become scurvy-ridden and emaciated due to lack of proper nutrition underground. There have been so many beets. So many. I look around, getting a look at a crumbled Toronto I haven’t seen in three long years. The New World Regime has done quick work. I have heard stories of the clashes between the rebels and the Winterfist Government on the bunker radio, but it is clear the military has won the War. Its factions are marked on the jackets of my fellow, similarly-beautiful survivors: the Foragers. The Warriors. The Diplomats. Conform to the characteristics of your faction or be killed. That was the law here, ever since we had won the fight against the Walkers a month ago. Now, I face my biggest challenge yet – to choose between my best friend, Graeden, and the strange, yet enticing man I had shared all those years in the bunker with – Paeder. Together, we would overthrow the dictatorship and bring peace to a land ravaged from the zombie hordes…
Oh wait. My bad. That’s from my upcoming YA dystopian zombie trilogy. Forget that happened. Let’s move along.
MM: What should your audience prepare for as they enter your bunker? What do they need to know going in?
CB: They should get ready for one hell of a ridiculous(ly fun!) immersive ride into the apocalypse! No additional preparation needed. Come in with an open, nerdy heart and be ready to laugh, because we’re going to chat you up and have a party. We can’t wait to have you as our guests down here in the bunker. And don’t worry, we’ll keep you all safe… hopefully.
Welcome to the Bunker!
Company – Portius Productions
Playwright/Creator – Clare Blackwood and Ryan F. Hughes
Director – Alison Louder
Stage Manager – Justine Cargo
Cast – Ryan F. Hughes, Clare Blackwood
Zombie apocalypse got you down? Grab your prep kit and your fellow survivors and join us underground to start your new life! Say goodbye to foraging for rations, sneaking through abandoned cities, and those pesky marauding death cults! Say hello to life in the bunker, where we will guide you through adjusting to your new surroundings. Generator power! Protection from the elements! Nearly fully figured out chemical toilets! Free canned beets while supplies last!* Join us for your orientation today!
*BEETS ARE GONE
Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace
16 Ryerson Ave. Toronto
9th July – 9:45pm
11th July – 8:30pm
12th July – 4:45pm
13th July – 6:15pm
14th July – 3:30pm
15th July – 1:00pm