Theatre professor’s horror play headed to Florida



David Skeele, Slippery Rock University professor of theatre and horror-genre playwright, said he is pleased a Florida theatre will stage his play “Starla.”

Sept. 11, 2015

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Haunted houses never scared him; neither did bloodthirsty screams. In fact, David Skeele, Slippery Rock University professor of theatre and horror-genre playwright, embraces all things ghoulish. He is more than OK with trying to unsettle others, and his work is finding a growing fright-night audience.

Infinite Abyss Productions, a horror theatre in Florida, will present Skeele's "Starla" six times in October.

Erynn Dalton Torrenga, Infinite Abyss producer, found the play on Skeele's website and contacted him about staging it. The company explores the dark side of life via immersive, live horror shows, sucking viewers into the abyss, she said. It's a perfect venue for Skeele's work.

"The play is about a lecherous theatre professor who brings a young co-ed into his school's abandoned, haunted theatre - ostensibly for work on her Lady Macbeth monologue," Skeele said. "When he suggests using the monologue to summon an actual spirit - the ghost of a young woman who killed herself there several decades earlier - things go horribly awry."

Skeele, who has written four other horror plays, "The Margins, "Dark North," "Hungry Jane" and "Deepchurch Hollow," said he relishes terrifying a sizable audience out of its skin.

"There are moments of physical violence in all of the plays - 'The Margins' even requires some use of blood effects - but in essence these are psychological horror plays," Skeele said. "They deal with the darkest corners of the human mind and heart, and so they require actors and directors who are daring and committed and absolutely unflinching in their willingness to look into those corners."

Skeele's horror work has been presented internationally. SRU students have staged his work as part of Fringe Arts Festival Scotland. The University of Basel presented "The Margins" and "Hungry Jane" last year. Lexx Productions in Canberra, Australia, picked up "Hungry Jane" too.

The exposure "gives me credibility as a teacher of writing," he said. "My students understand that with an appropriate amount of hard work, they too can get their plays in a similar situation."

Skeele, who joined SRU in 1993, has written more than 10 plays and directed more than 35. He expects to be shocking audiences well into the future, if they're brave enough to attend.

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