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Artistic Director Goes from Cupcakes to Carnage in Out of the Box’s ‘Evil Dead: The Musical’

Samantha Eve, a dessert caterer by day, gets the audience in on the act in newest production, opening Thursday

When Samantha Eve graduated from New York University with a degree in musical theater, she continued living in New York and working in the industry. But after six years, the Santa Barbara native returned, ready to close the door on that chapter of her life and open a cupcake shop. But after starting her dessert catering business, Violette Bakeshop, it didn’t take long before she felt the itch and began looking around for local auditions.

“I was stunned to realize that for musical theater, there really weren’t many,” she said. “Santa Barbara is so fortunate to have a lot of wonderful youth musical theater programs, but was seriously lacking in performing opportunities for professional adult actors. While I love musical theater of all eras and genres, my passion for it has always been related to its ability to change and develop with the times. The idea of bringing edgy, contemporary musicals to Santa Barbara stuck in my head, and Out of the Box was born.”

Two years and a heaping helping of chutzpah later, Eve is artistic director of the young company, now finishing its second successful season. Debuting with Reefer Madness and Hair, the company produced Assassins earlier this year and closes the season with Evil Dead: The Musical, running Thursday through Monday at Center Stage Theater in Paseo Nuevo.

Click here for tickets and information.

Eve first became aware of the show, based on the Sam Raimi franchise of Evil Dead movies, with musical numbers added and the campy humor turned up, when it was running off-Broadway in New York in 2006. But it wasn’t until after Reefer Madness that she started to think of it as a potential Out of the Box production.

Reefer Madness had some zombie interaction in it, so I forced myself to put it on the back burner, not wanting to become known as ‘that theater company that only does plays with zombies,’” she said. “When we managed to reserve Halloween weekend at Center Stage this year, it seemed like the perfect opportunity. We specialize in ‘out of the box’ musicals that challenge previous conceptions about musical theater, and Evil Dead: The Musical fits this to a T. You don’t expect to see this particular brand of very contemporary humor on stage in a musical.”

Another thing you don’t expect to see in musical theater is blood and gore spraying over the audience. There is a special area of audience seating designated as the “Splatter Zone,” where hardy souls can volunteer to get up close and personal. And yes, ponchos will be available.

What are the challenges of accomplishing such a feat?

“It has definitely been challenging — more challenging than we ever could have expected — but ultimately, so rewarding,” Eve said. “This show has everything from puppetry, with a talking moose head in a surreal, Pee-Wee’s Playhouse-like sequence, to fake injuries, back-and-forth zombie transformations, a cellar deep enough to hold a person, and over 35 gallons of fake blood perfectly targeting willing audience members over the course of our five-performance run. A lot of the credit goes to our special effects designers, Paradox Reality FX, and all of the wonderful volunteers who have donated their time. Our set will be rigged with plastic tubing and not one but two blood cannons. Volunteers will be behind the set at key points during the show, triggering splatter effects and refilling the cannons.

“Specials thanks to the folks at Center Stage as well, for not kicking me out on the spot when I walked into their office and said, ‘Can I spray blood all over your theater?’”

Reflecting new trends in fundraising, Out of the Box has a Kickstarter campaign to help cover the costs of special effects for the show. Click here to contribute through Friday.

Sponsor benefits include handmade latex demon masks like the ones you’ll see in the show, tickets to Out of the Box’s regular Songbook Series cabaret events — coming up is “Rat Pack” at Reds Wine Bar on Nov. 10 — and tickets to a dress rehearsal of the company’s next production, Spring Awakening in April 2012.

— Justine Sutton of Santa Barbara is a freelance writer and frequent Noozhawk reviewer.

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