Suspense, with a twist
Skyler Heathwaite of Shoot the Moon Theatre Company performing in a scene from its upcoming production of “Cameo.”

Suspense, with a twist

Inspired by Alfred Hitchcock, Shoot the Moon theater company presents ‘Cameo’ at Hooker-Dunham

BRATTLEBORO — Shoot the Moon Theater Company continues its inaugural season with Cameo, an original production inspired by the films of Alfred Hitchcock, on Friday and Saturday, June 10 and 11, and Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, June 16, 17, and 18, at 7:30 p.m., in the Hooker-Dunham Theater & Gallery.

Cast members are Xoe Perra, Skyler Heathwaite, Jennifer Moyse, Josh Goldstein, Terry Carter, and John Ogorzalek. Alistair Follansbee is the stage manager, and the production is designed by Colin Grube and Joshua Moyse.

Shoot the Moon, the company-in-residence for the Hooker-Dunham Theater, evolved from the group of theater artists who created the Annual Halloween Spectacular at Hooker-Dunham, including Dracula and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

The company produced its first non-Halloween production, Venus in Fur, last February.

“Our next production will be an entertaining mystery inspired by Hitchcock presented in an innovative and cinematic way,” says Joshua Moyse, Shoot the Moon's artistic director.

Why Hitchcock?

“We had been wondering what project would be best for our company to do now,” Moyse continued. “We wanted something that kind of related to the pop culture of the past, perhaps from the 1950s, certainly post-World War II.”

“Besides that, I have always loved mysteries, no matter if they are books, movies, or television shows. I even named my child Dashiell after Dashiell Hammett, the great mystery writer.

“With all this in mind, we settled on Hitchcock as an area of investigation.”

At times referred to as “the master of suspense,” Alfred Hitchcock was an English-born film director who came to the United States after a successful career in British cinema. In the U.S., he created classic suspense films, including Rear Window, The Birds, Psycho, North by Northwest, and Vertigo.

“Our show's title comes from Alfred Hitchcock's penchant for inserting himself into a scene during many of his films,” Moyse said.

“Hitchcock's cameos become a sort of 'Where's Waldo?' game for movie audiences,” he added. “They actually became so popular, he grew concerned it would distract the audience from the plot. So Hitchcock began to insert himself as close to the beginning of his films as possible.”

Yes, Cameo may be Hitchcockian, but it is not an adaption of any of Hitchcock's films or television shows, nor does it even allude to any specific scenes from his work.

“For over six weeks, our company went through much of Hitchcock's movies, but we never found quite what we were looking for,” Moyse explained. “Then we stumbled on a project he intended to do right after Psycho, but for some reason or another it was never made. So we took a stab at it.”

The spirit of Hitchcock

Going back to the original story that film was to be based on, Trap for a Lonely Man, the members of the company created a version of their own, all the while keeping the spirit of Hitchcock in mind.

“We reshuffled gender and scene presentation, put it all into a blender, and came out with something new,” Moyse said.

Moyse characterizes the plot of Cameo as a “whodunit.” The story revolves around a wife whose husband has gone missing. When he returns, she doesn't recognize him, but the husband claims that she is mentally unstable. And the audience is left unsure who to believe.

“Our viewers will, hopefully, be kept guessing not only by the plot twists, but also by how we, as theater artists, are doing the show,” Moyse said.

The first act is set in the modern day. Here, the actors sit around the table doing a reading of the script. As they read aloud, some of their words appear behind them on a screen as stage directions (for instance, “Sound: Car pulls out”).

As the act proceeds, however, something changes, and what happens on stage seems less like a reading than a full dramatic presentation of the story.

“The actors' chairs become their world, and they find themselves believing in this full-blown chair as their reality,” Moyse explained.

From script to cinema to theater

The second act takes place in the period of the piece, the 1960s. As the actors perform, a live camera feed projects their images onto a screen.

“Rather than a mere reading or a rehearsal, now we are on location, and are in the moviemaking process, in which the audience experiences the live filming of Cameo, the movie” says Moyse.

However, certain elements of the production proceed to transform the movie Cameo into a work of live theater.

“The whole thing shows a process from script to cinema to pure theater,” Moyse said.

On top of all this, an actor in the role of Hitchcock will make several cameo appearances, during which he will comment on Hitchcockian themes and images reflected in the work on stage.

“While this may seem rather complicated, the end result is an evening that is primarily a lot of fun,” Moyse said.

A successful first season

Josh Moyse is full of enthusiasm about this new project, as well as the success of its very first season of its Hooker-Dunham residence.

Cameo will be the third show we've done in the space in the past seven months,” he said. “We really enjoy working there and being in the heart of downtown Brattleboro.”

He added that Hooker-Dunham Theater Manager Jon Mack has been most supportive and enthusiastic about Shoot the Moon's work.

Cameo will be the first show that really allows us to take full advantage of the wonderful electrical and lighting upgrades recently made in the space,” Moyse said. “Shoot the Moon looks forward to bringing exciting and entertaining theater, at a reasonable price, to Brattleboro on a regular basis.”

Shoot the Moon's next and last show of this season will be its annual Halloween Spectacular in October.

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