Alumni Produce New Horror Play "Sunset Park"

October 26, 2017

Alumni Matt Minnicino ‘15 writes, Jolene Noelle ‘15 directs, and Stephen Christensen ‘15 dramaturgs the new play by Traumaturgy Productions, Sunset Park


"When a long-vacant apartment in Sunset Park goes back on the market, bright-eyed young couple Matty and Theo soon discover it was more than supply and demand that kept their new home empty. As their grasp on what's real and what's false begins inexplicably to fray—and their marriage with it—the pair must rely on the aid of a local linked to the building's murky past to peel back the layers of unsettling phenomena springing up around them. But with this ghostly presence growing more urgent by the moment, it may take more than just the truth to save them," the Company's website writes. 


Traumaturgy Productions was conceived by Stephen Christensen and Jolene Noelle as a vehicle through which to explore and develop a modern aesthetic for horror on the stage. We talked with Stephen to find out more about the company and their collaboration.


There is an amazing Columbia team working on Sunset Park. Did this collaboration start during school, or after? Could you tell us about that process?


Traumaturgy Productions was formed during our third year in direct response to Noelle's thesis work. We approached Matt Minnicino about writing a play for us a year or so ago. He was a playwright in our year, so we were familiar with his writing and had gotten to work with him in various capacities. He was readily interested in creating a horror play, both for the stylistic novelty and the avenues the genre offers to explore contemporary socioeconomic anxieties.


We met several times before going into production. Noelle and I would outline what themes we were interested in, what type of horror vocabulary we were trying to develop in the piece, production realities, and what sorts of effects physical choreography we could execute, and Minnicino would likewise tell us what directions his musings had taken him, what sorts of ghost stories he was uncovering, and what sorts of themes and characters he had tumbling around in his mind.


After several drafts, we had a script we could take into production.


Could you tell us more about Traumaturgy Productions, what's your mission and goals? What motivated you guys to start this company?


Traumaturgy Productions is dedicated to creating live horror performances for the stage. While the horror genre has always had a lively existence on screen, it has for a long time now been a neglected vein of live dramatic storytelling. With a goal to end this dearth, Traumaturgy Productions experiments with a variety of theatrical devices and forms to determine the most efficacious ways to stage horror for modern audiences.


What are your plans for the future? Where would you like to be in 5 years from now as Traumaturgy Productions?


In the future, we want to create larger and more immersive works. We are still on the hunt for a funding source that would allow us to do so. We would also like to expand our technical repertoire and perhaps begin some classes on horror stagecraft. And as always, the dream is simply to be able to pay the artists around us what they are worth.


Sunset Park is showing at Theaterlab until October 31. Students receive $10 tickets with discount code: "StudentScare".