Zombies still hungry in ‘Night of the Living Dead’


One might say zombies have been part of her relationship with her husband since the beginning, says Rikkee Workman-Black.

“When we were dating we watched [‘Night of the Living Dead,’] and since then, we’ve seen a number of zombie movies,” she says. “It’s a genre that we really enjoy, because it’s an escape from reality. No one really fears that a zombie will come and grab you, but it still has enough realism to be creepy. So when we saw this script available, we were excited to see it come to life on stage.”

Based on the 1968 George Romero cult classic, “Night of the Living Dead” opens this weekend at Fort Smith Little Theatre with the Blacks sharing the helm. It’s Scott Black’s first time directing at FSLT, and “though Scott and I have worked on many shows together, this is the first time we have directed together,” Workman-Black says. They decided, she says, to go for “creepy, not gory” and “to approach the show as seriously as we could.”

The premise of the story is that a space probe returns to earth carrying deadly radiation that causes the dead to rise and attack the living. When siblings Barbara (Ashleigh Mathews in the FSLT production) and Johnny (Tyler Basham) visit their father’s grave, they are attacked by a strange silent man (John Faulkner). Barbara escapes to an abandoned farmhouse where she hides with other survivors — until they begin to encounter more of the living dead, including one played by FSLT veteran Micki Voelkel.

“I’m really excited to play a zombie,” she says. “Though it is a small role, it is super creepy, and it’s nice not to have to think about the character’s psychological state: I just want brains!”

The film, although considered a “B” movie when it was released, was eventually taken seriously at the box office, where it made $18 million on a $114,000 investment, and by other filmmakers, creating “the modern concept of the zombie as seen today in TV shows and films such as ‘28 Days Later,’ ‘Shaun of the Dead,’ ‘World War Z’ and ‘The Walking Dead,’” says FSLT publicist Suzanne M. Thomas. “Romero’s film is [also] considered culturally significant with its references to 1960s civil rights movement and its use of an African-American hero.”

For the directors, the job has been more about marshalling a stageful of actors than making a cultural statement.

“There’s different challenges with each show,” says Workman-Black. “With ‘NOTLD,’ you have a whole ensemble of actors that are on stage at the same time there’s serious dialogue going on. You definitely don’t want to take away from those moments, but it’s important to know that the characters have these zombies to deal with as well. It’s been incredibly rewarding bringing all these people together for this show — people that have a love of the horror genre. And so many new people too! That’s been wonderful.”



‘Night of the Living Dead’

WHEN — 7:30 p.m. Sept. 26-29

WHERE — Fort Smith Little Theatre, 401 N. Sixth St. in Fort Smith

COST — $12

INFO — 783-2966, ext. 2

Categories: Family Friendly