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Two chilling plays, two visions, one stage: the MainStage Season unveils The Skriker and In the Penal Colony

The Skriker is a dark parable for our time

Photo by Tim Trumble

March 16, 2011

The ASU School of Theatre and Film in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts

The MainStage Season presents two dark plays in repertory, The Skriker and In the Penal Colony.

The Skriker is an eerie trek into the supernatural world of an ancient shape-shifting spirit, or Skriker. This dark parable depicts a fairy underworld bleeding into our own as the Skriker befriends, manipulates and attempts to control two young women. Rich, evocative language is brought to life through movement and music. Written by Caryl Churchill, the play is directed by Joya Scott (who previously co-directed the acclaimed And What She Found There).

“The Skriker is a play in which things and people are not always what they seem,” says Scott, an MFA candidate in the School of Theatre and Film directing program. “The Skriker herself lurks in every environment and can become anyone and anything, from a homeless woman to a small girl to an attractive young man to a piece of furniture. She sneaks into the girls’ lives by twisting herself into the appearance of whatever they want to see, preying on their sympathies and taking advantage of their secret desires. Unable to escape her, they live on edge; it seems she and her fellow creatures have them surrounded.

“In this production, we are creating an environment where the audience likewise feels surrounded,” Scott says. “By transforming the Galvin Playhouse into a theatre-in-the-round, we're creating an eerie space where the Skriker and her cadre of mythical beings are able to encircle the audience, keeping spectators constantly guessing where someone (or something!) will come from next. The result will be a show that is entertaining, spooky, and totally immersive—a truly unique theatrical experience.”

In the Penal Colony presents another dark tale. Inspired by Franz Kafka's original short story, this piece explores the boundaries of punishment, loyalty, morality and tradition. This is a New Works Series premiere by Christian Krauspe, an MFA playwriting candidate. Directed by Kyle Lewis, an MFA directing candidate (co-director, And What She Found There).

“This production invites us into a world in which the rules are difficult to decipher,” says Lewis. “A chorus of seven use painted face and mask to aid in the almost religious ritual of death. Orchestrated by a fanatical officer and ending with an apparatus of human destruction, this haunting production will stay with the audience long after the curtain falls.”

In the Penal Colony was inspired first as an image in the mind of the director and later the design team, who envisioned a “theatre of surgery” in the round, wherein an ominous, dark apparatus dominated a scene. This image created for a class design project seemed so powerful that Lewis – with the support of School of Theatre and Film faculty and playwright Krauspe -- committed to creating a full-fledged production. Thus Kyle and his collaborators have spent the last two years writing, work shopping and revising In the Penal Colony, shaping it into the dark and nuanced production audiences will see treated to at the Galvin.

“This project is brand new, and completely student-generated,” Lewis says. “It seems the perfect emblem for the ASU School of Theatre and Film, which supports students to grow, collaborate and create new works as well as reinterpret the classics.”

The New Works Series is a highlight of ASU School of Theatre and Film’s MainStage Season, where master students, faculty and guest artists from across the nation premiere their projects. Workshops and staged readings give the artists as well as audiences an opportunity to experience a play that is in development. These shows contain mature language and themes and may not be appropriate for younger audiences.

Paul V. Galvin Playhouse, 51 E. 10th St., ASU Tempe campus

The Skriker: April 15, 17, 21, at 7:30 p.m.; April 23 at 2 p.m.
In the Penal Colony: April 16, 23 at 7:30 p.m. April 17 at 2 p.m.

$8 - $23; Half-price tickets on the First Friday of any MainStage Season production; Student $8; $12 Friday & Saturday, ASU faculty and staff: all tickets are $10 Sunday - Thursday.

Public Contact
Herberger Institute box office, 480.965.6447
School of Theatre and Film. 480.965.5337

The School of Theatre and Film in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts at Arizona State University provides a comprehensive range of courses in performance and directing; design and production; new work development; theatre and performance studies; film; and theatre for youth. Its Theatre for Youth program is nationally ranked in the top three and the dramatic writing/playwriting program is ranked 15th among public institutions by U.S.News & World Report. To learn more about the School of Theatre and Film, visit

Media Contact:
Laurie A. Trotta Valenti 
ASU Herberger Institute 
School of Theatre and Film