Joplin Zombie Apocalypse


Nathan Carter / The Chart

The entire cast of ‘The Survival Guide’ practices the zombie dance to a Micheal Jackson song under the instruction of Melissa Mullen, senior theatre major.

The Survival Guide may have similar title and subject matter to The Zombie Survival Guide, but senior theatre major Todd Manley swears it was a mistake.

“It’s just called The Survival Guide,” he said. “A lot of people actually have been asking me about it and I didn’t even think about it—there is the book The Zombie Survival Guide but this has nothing to do with that.”

Still, Manley promises a 28 Days Later scenario, personalized for Joplin.

“It’s as if a virus were to have taken the Joplin metropolitan area,” he said. “It spreads so quickly that people need to take shelter and a public service announcement has been sent out.”

Manley wrote the story for his senior project, which he is now directing. He said his main focus was to do something to get the audience involved in the story. One of the ways was to make the setting of the story the theatre. The group has quarantined themselves in the theatre along with the audience.

Another way was to keep the story moving through various characters. The story has a total of 23 people.

“That’s what’s great about it,” Manley said. “When you come in there are people in different groups and they are separated and there’s always something to focus on and something to pay attention to so there’s one person you are supposed to be gaining information from but you don’t always have to pay attention to them.

 “If you’re ADD like I am and they’re not entertaining you then you can watch another group over here. I think that ought to do quite a bit for it—lots of fragmented images and stuff that you can’t see completely and lots of use of light at the end. It’s pretty cool. This is my senior project so I kind of went balls to the wall for it.”

Manley said the large cast made the auditions interesting.

“We didn’t do monologues or cold readings or anything like that,” he said. “I had everybody come in and we did group stuff. We did improv exercises and we did warm ups and [looked for] who was really interested in being there. You could really tell because they’ll participate and they’ll have a lot of energy and it was a lot cooler in my opinion than bringing in one person at a time. I actually ended up casting everybody that came.”

The size of the cast has also served as a reminder to everyone of theatre basics. Showing up to rehearsals is key to a good show.

“Making sure people are there is the hardest part,” he said. “You just have to keep a set time but usually they let you know if they won’t be there so you just have to catch them up. Really, we’ve had really good attendance. That’s one thing that we’ve learned here is attendance is key. If you aren’t here for rehearsal you can’t really go on stage and know what you’re doing.”

The show begins at 10:30 p.m. Dec. 3 and 4 in the Bud Walton Black Box Theatre. A suggested donation of $1 can be made at the door to benefit Southern Players.