Arts | Rialto Community Players

By: Natalie Bates

Halloween is almost here! It's time for costumes, trick-or-treating, haunted houses and . . . theater? Yep, that's right: theater. The Rialto Community Player's production of Stage Fright, set to open on October 24, is sure to put anyone who sees it in the Halloween spirit! Directed by Cameron Harris and written by Todd McGinnis, Stage Fright is a terrifying tale of a centuries old "evil presence that has haunted the Orpheus Theatre, awaiting the fulfillment of a chilling prophecy. A blood-stained Ouija board and a cryptic rhyme are the only keys that will unlock a terrifying truth.


A tale told in four vignettes, Stage Fright is an alternately terrifying, hilarious and always intriguing journey across the decades. The theatre-venue itself becomes a character in this tale that allows the audience to experience the history of a haunted playhouse . . . from the inside. As generation after generation encounter the legend of the Orpheus and the dark power that lurks within it, piece after piece of the sinister puzzle fall into place and the dark prophecy draws nearer to fulfillment . . . or does it?


The Rialto Community Players theater company was founded in 1982 under the direction of Sandy Courtney, a Rialto resident and Pasadena Playhouse alumna. Back then they had no financing and no theater. They had to use the Carl Johnson Center gymnasium for their performances; actors used paint closets as dressing rooms, and stage lights were created using coffee cans. It has since grown into "the biggest 'little' theater in the Inland Empire," complete with their own theater, the Sandra R. Courtney Community Playhouse. Endeavoring to enrich the community through cultural and artistic expression, the Rialto Community Players produce a full season of performances throughout the year, operating as a not-for-profit organization.


Stage Fright Director Cameron Harris is on the Board of Directors for the Rialto Community Players, and when the idea of doing a Halloween show was suggested, he jumped at the chance. I had the chance to speak with Harris regarding the upcoming production, and he told me, "I love scary! Scary movies are my favorite genre. The search was on . . . I needed to find a great script that would scare my audience." After searching through several scripts, he landed upon Stage Fright due to its ability to be shaped into a production as scary (or not) as the director chooses. "It allows me to add all those creepy and scary horror elements," says Harris. "I took it from a scary play and made it scarier to make sure my audience gets the full Halloween treatment!"


The play is set in a haunted theater throughout various historical eras, which made stage design an easy task. "We used the theater itself as the main set, [and added] about 15 packages of cobwebs to add age to our haunted theater, as well as creepy photos of some of Rialto's resident ghosts. I wanted to base the stage design on a lot of special effects and lighting techniques." Using dark colors and strategically placed lights to cast creepy shadows throughout the theater, Harris aims to give his audience a psychological scare, "There are a lot of hidden surprises we placed in the theater . . . they aren't hard to find, but when people do find them, it will definitely give them an unsettling feeling." The aged, haunted look is completed by the historical costumes created by costumer Miss Candy Kane. Says Harris, "I can honestly say I have the best costumer the Inland Empire has ever seen. She is a genius when it comes to period costumes and costuming theatrical shows."


Should the kids stay at home for this one? "I would say the production is rated PG-13," says Harris. "There are some very scary sequences in the show, with loud noises, psychological scares and a little bit of blood. If children can handle scary moments in major Hollywood movies, our show won't be any worse than that. No promises on nightmares though. We like to aim for that piece of Halloween fun!" Stage Fright was written with two possible endings, but Harris decided to take his own direction with this production. With one of the written endings being too cheesy, and the other too gory, Harris created an original ending for the Rialto Community Players. "It is sure to leave the audience on the edge of their seats and definitely asking questions! The perfect recipe for a scary night of theater!"


So if you are feeling brave, and in the mood for a good scare, be sure to check out Stage Fright! It will be a frightening night of theater you won't soon forget.


"Stage Fright" will be showing at the Sandra R. Courtney Community Playhouse from October 24-November 8, 2015 with performances Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00p.m., and a Sunday matinee at 2:00p.m. For tickets and reservations, call (909)873-8514, or go online. The Sandra R. Courtney Community Playhouse is located at 150 South San Bernardino Avenue in Rialto.