Chatting ‘Horror’ with Craig Colletta and Mike and Lori Travis at Yellow Sign Theatre

I miss the weekly hosted horror movie shows like Elvira’s Movie Macabre. If you also have fond mammaries, er, memories of those shows you should get to the Yellow Sign Theatre in Baltimore over the next three weekends to catch some horror-ible movies with the Horror Hosts of Horror! I chatted with three of the hosts, Craig Colletta, and Mike and Lori Travis recently about what to expect!

Horror Hosts

Tell me how the Horror Hosts of Horror got started. And this is the second year, yeah?

Craig: Yes, we did it last May.

Oh cool. So are you planning on doing it twice a year or just whenever you get the itch?

Craig: It’s a show that’s very much in line with our mission as a theatre…reviving an old “low art” form that has some cultural relevance and doing it in a way that creates an interactive experience for the audience.

Very cool. A little William Castle?

Craig: Very much so..I’m a huge fan

So what can audiences expect? How is the evening structured?

The audience area is your buddy’s basement somewhere in your adolescence (14-35). You’re over to watch the late movie. We run just as the host shows did…intro sketch, sketches going into and comng back from two commercial breaks (real vintage commercials) and an exit sketch. All the sketches in each show make up a complete story. Since it’s a crappy movie and you’re stuck, you make fun of it. Dad screams at you periodically to keep it down — the dad lines are hilarious. Mom brings snacks and humiliation.

Lori: …and everyone hides their beers when the parents are around.

This sounds so eerily familiar. 

Craig: See, that’s the whole point!

Lori: This is what we all did before the internet!

Craig: This is how we ALL had fun when choices were more limited and before we decided that “fun” also had to be “cool.”

How are you involving the audience? 

Craig: The audience is riffing the movie, we hope! The idea is that the hosts set the tone, our actor playing your buddy gets the riffing started, then creativity, play, and alcohol make performers of us all.

Lori: If you grew up in the 90’s, then people will be most familiar with MST3K.

So besides the hosts there’s a buddy and parents?

Lori: The audience is ARE the buddies!

Craig: We have a few in the crowd and backstage that make periodic appearances to interact and entertain.

Tell us about your Horror Host characters.

Lori: I’m Addie Pocere, Wyrd Sister.  We took all the Female horror host archetypes and put all three together. I would be most associated with Elvira.

So kinda sexy, kinda um, pre-occupied (I don’t want to say ditzy)?

Lori: TOTALLY DITZY.  I do play a Ditz, and it’s fun! A little brain vacation for me.

And your sisters are …?

Lori: Expira, mostly associated with Vampira and Bella, who would closely resemble Stella from Philly.

What movie are you all hosting?

Lori: Bloody Pit of Horror, very fun to riff track!  Having all three of us on stage lends itself to some…sibling rivalry.

And how do you all deal with that?

Lori: Magic!

Craig: …and complicated blocking!

Best way to deal with everything – magic that is.  Craig are you directing?

Craig: Yes, I’m directing that one.  How’m I doing Lori?

Lori:  By the end of this, we will be very well versed in physical comedy. Craig’s vast knowledge of the Three Stooges helps.

Mike – tell me about your Horror Host character.

I took elements from Dr. Frankenstein, R2D2, and C-3PO, and the Marx Brothers, smashed them together and got Dr. Kilgoresky and Rengor the Ape Man. I’d never seen a mad scientist as a host before.

And who is Rengor?

Scott Burke plays the part. Rengor is Dr. K’s mute monkey assistant.

And what movie are you all hosting?

Mike: Bela Lugosi’s The Ape Man.

Craig: You should hear Mike say that in Dr. K’s Transyltucky accent!

Those Transyltucky accents are tough! Craig what is your character?

Craig: I’m playing Zombeatie, a zombie beatnik. Lori’s husband Aaron is playing my pet, The Cadaver Cat.  We have a very Felix and Oscar relationship. Zombeatie is inspired by, but doesn’t resemble at all, Ghoulardi (Ernie Anderson) the legendary early 60s Cleveland horror host.

Zombeatie. Courtesy of Yellow Sign Theatre.

Zombeatie. Courtesy of Yellow Sign Theatre.

And what movie are you hosting?

Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things. It’s the first film by Bob Clark, who later wrote and directed A Christmas Story, Porky’s, and Baby Geniuses. – a Renaissance man!

How scripted is it? And who writes the scripts?

Mike: I wrote about 3/4 of the Sisters’ sketch. It was later revised and edited by the ladies last year.

Lori: We revised it for flow and character. You could say this is very much a collective effort. The general ideas are flushed out and we all help with edits and changes,

How did you all select the movies?

Mike: We kinda pooled them from what was available in public domain so we didn’t get sued.

Wise move. 

Craig: A lot of the public domain horror flicks out there DID appear on the old Horror Host shows.

Lori: We also needed maximum cheese effect.

Maximum cheese! How did you decide who was hosting what?

Craig: Which host seemed most natural for jokes about a given film, Bloody Pit of Horror is about scantily clad models being hunted down by a crazed bodybuilder, so it was a natural for the Wyrd Sisters.

What’s your favorite horror movie? 

Craig: I’ll give my standard answer — I don’t have favorite books, movies, or music. The point of all of those things is to create an emotional response. Different emotional responses are more or less appropriate at different times.

Lori: It ranges from ones like Nightmare on Elm Street (because it was the first movie that sparked the love of horror) to House of 1000 Corpses because it was just awesome and some Asian f**kery in between because Asian horror can both creep you out and gross you out. I tend to like both creep and gore factor. Like The original version of The Eye. CREEEEEEPY

Mike: The original Night of the Living Dead. It scared the hell outta me when I was a kid. It stands the test of time as I grow older. It’s creepy, done on the cheap with no name actors, has a political message, and still delivers one hell of a scare if you’re new to it.

What attracts you to the horror genre? 

Craig: Horror is our internal fears externalized.

Lori: I like the adrenalin rush that you get from being scared. Few movies do that, these days, but that is why I like it.

Craig: “The monster” is never REALLY the monster.

Mike: It’s now my go to genre for falling asleep with the tv on.

Craig: Plus, as Mike just pointed out it’s easy to make jokes about (at least if badly done)…what else do we do when scared but try to laugh it off?

What other fun and exciting stuff can we expect from Yellow Sign Theatre this Fall?

Craig: We’re waiting to hear about our Xmas show, but will be reprising our Gong Show recreation.  Also coming up is a stage adaptation of Roger Corman’s A Bucket of Blood.

Lori: Also, Mike’s original play beginning of next year!

Craig: Mike has an original show about writing in Hollywood called The Business End. Also, hopefully recording and podcasting some of Aaron’s radio dramas. Then back to the files…we have years or more worth of material we keep putting off.

Dr. Kilgoresky. Photo courtesy of Yellow Sign Theatre.

Dr. Kilgoresky. Photo courtesy of Yellow Sign Theatre.

Lori: An original silent play…scored and everything. That’s a long term project from my other half.

Craig: That’s right! Forgot we were so close on that one!

Very cool! If someone wants tickets to Horror Hosts or to know more about Yellow Sign they should …? 

Craig:  Go to the FaceBook page or buy tix on brownpapertickets.com.

Do your Horror Host personas have signature sign-offs? 

Craig: Not really, but for the purpose of this interview, Zombeatie says, DIG!

Lori: Tune in for more Hexes and Hoaxes!

Mike: Um, perhaps you should let me get back to my victim – I mean patient…

Great! Thanks and pleasant screams everyone!

Horror Hosts of Horror plays through October 17, 2014 at the Yellow Sign Theatre – 1726 North Charles Street in Baltimore, MD. Tickets are available at the door or online.



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