News Column

Ghosts, Southern folk and rock haunt Ames

October 27, 2013

YellowBrix

Oct. 27--Ghosts will be haunting Stephens Auditorium even after Halloween this year.

The supernatural musical "Ghost Brothers of Darkland County," written by horror-suspense writer Stephen King with music and lyrics by rock artist John Mellencamp, will haunt Ames on Saturday, Nov. 2.

The musical is about two brothers, Jack and Andy, who are killed one night at a cabin in Mississippi in an apparent murder-suicide. Forty years later, as that story has become legend, the brothers' nephews are heading in the same direction. Joe, Jack and Andy's younger brother, must reveal his own secret from that night to save his sons.

The music is a mix of southern blues and rock and is used to reveal emotions and the inner workings of characters rather than move the narrative forward.

Susan Booth, director of "Ghost Brothers," has been involved in theater since college. She started directing when she was in her 20s and works with many new American plays.

Booth, of the Atlanta-based Alliance Theatre, answered a few questions about the production.

Q: How did you come to be the director of "Ghost Brothers"?

A: Years ago, I had been asked what projects I'd hoped to bring to the Alliance Theatre during my time there. I said I hoped to get John Mellencamp to write a musical because I always thought his songs were these brilliant character studies. A few years later, a mutual friend reached out to me and told me that he had, in fact, already written one, and that he'd partnered with Stephen King. I started trying to land that fish then, and it only took another few years before the conversation began. As a Midwesterner who grew up reading King and listening to Mellencamp -- and now living in the South -- I felt like the world of the play made personal sense to me, so put my hand up and said I'd like to direct. They were good enough to say yes.

Q: How would you describe the musical?

A: Southern Gothic meets roots music and staged as a theatricalized concert.

Q: With the musical's two well-known writers, Stephen King and John Mellencamp, what about "Ghost Brothers" makes it different from other plays and musicals?

A: The form is a complete mash-up. It's not a play, it's not a musical. It's a great ghost story fused with a killer evening of songs. We deliberately avoid the trappings of big Broadway musical theater and instead rely on music, actors and the power of the audience's imagination. It's like sitting around a campfire, but with the world's greatest band.

Q: What do you think people will take away from the musical?

A: They're going to love the music and be left with the need to argue about the story -- "Was that fair? Was what happened fate or choice?" The really big stuff.

"Ghost Brothers of Darkland County"

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 2

Where: Stephens Auditorium, Iowa State Center

Cost: $39.50 to $67.50

Tickets are available at the Iowa State Center ticket office or through Ticketmaster.com.

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(c)2013 the Ames Tribune, Iowa

Visit the Ames Tribune, Iowa at www.amestrib.com

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