Jackie Sibblies Drury had been working on a play for the Trinity Repertory Company for a few years, and, as you might expect, the script went through rewrites. Social Creatures continued to go through sweeping changes during rehearsals for the Curt Columbus production.
Characters in the play barricade themselves in an abandoned building, hiding from the contagious undead who multiply outside. The undead were zombies in some versions, vampires in others. “In the course of rehearsals, everyone turned into zombies one day, but nobody did the next; this character was out, and another was in,” says Trinity’s production director, Laura E. Smith, adding that the ending was always in progress.
When lighting designer Josh Epstein arrived for the initial design meeting, he learned the last 45 pages of the play he had read no longer existed. “By the time I came back for a designer run before tech, there was another new ending, and by the start of tech, there was a third new ending,” says Epstein. “I knew not to get too emotionally invested in any single idea.” The theatre pushed the due date for the lighting plot up by a few weeks, which Epstein says might have strained lesser electricians and crew. Adds Smith, “I would rather hang everything at the last moment than have to rehang.”
Endings included a full-on zombie attack and one zombie urinating on another. “That would have involved some sort of rig, and that ending didn’t last very long,” says properties master Michael Getz. Finally, the play ends in almost complete darkness. In the story, a generator blows at the top of the show and is restored with difficulty, then blows out again. “We had to build the generator because real generators are ungodly expensive,” says Getz, who counts himself lucky that the generator did not have to function. The play does end with a zombie attack, but because it occurs in the dark, design requirements weren’t overwhelming.