I came late to the zombie genre but just like everyone and their flesh-eating mother, it's got me by the entrails now. 28 Days Later was my turning point, my zombie awakening if you will; images of that chittering priest amid a church full of zombies still accelerates my pulse when I head for the bathroom in the middle of the night.
Jason Geis, Co-Artistic Director of pH Productions knows what I mean. A fast-zombie aficionado himself, (“Why? Because they can catch you and eat you.”) Geis is responsible for the much anticipated annual Zombie Pub Crawl. A benefit for pH Productions, the crawl started on a lark and has grown exponentially with each passing year. Below, Geis discusses all things zombie.
Our Town Zombies have been around for decades; what’s behind the recent cultural resurgence?
Jason Geis There are a lot of theories on this. Obviously shows like Walking Dead help push the zombie meme harder. But my favorite theory is that we can relate to zombies. They aren't hard to kill, they aren't particularly sneaky, but they can overwhelm you pretty fast. In this day and age with all the emails, and Facebook and everything else - if you don't keep up with it all you feel overwhelmed and can fall prey to the zombies. Zombies as a metaphor for modern society - how's that for brainy?
OT What’s the Zombie pub crawl origin story?
JG A former cast member came to us and told us that Minneapolis had done a Zombie Crawl and wouldn't that be a funny fundraiser. I immediately thought - not funny - downright awesome. So now we do it every year. The cast looks forward to it as much as the zombies.
OT Why Andersonville?
JG I'm actually not sure why we picked Andersonville for the first crawl. I think we were trying to think of an unexpected location that might go for something quirky like this. We have since kept it in Andersonville, because that is where we want to move our comedy theater permanently. It's an amazing neighborhood, with amazing people, amazing businesses and amazing leadership in the alderman and chamber of commerce. Did I say amazing enough? I think I did.
OT How do you go about enticing neighborhood bars to participate?
JG After the first year it was easier. Bar owners saw how many people came out. On a non-Cubs Saturday afternoon there's a pretty nice potential to make some profit for your bar. Plus, we try and get a beer sponsor to give cheaper beer to the bars so they turn more of a profit that day. It's a win-win for everyone. Oddly, there are still bars that will not participate; they are skeptical that they won't make any money or they think we are going to destroy their bar. Simon's and Hamburger Mary's have been on from the beginning - and I'm sure they could tell you otherwise.
OT How many participants do you expect?
JG It has grown every year. The first year we had 400, the next 600, then 700 - last year we were right at the 800 mark - so this year we are striving for 1000. 1000 zombies could be pretty amazing, yes?
OT Do any costumes/participants from past crawls stand out in your memory?
JG Oh jeez, there's been so many. Zombie Mary Mother of God was good, Zombie Mario, Zombie Swedish Chef - there was a zombie pregnant teen with a zombie baby eating its way out of her stomach - that one was well done. It gets more creative every year.
OT What are you most looking forward to about the event?
JG There's a couple surprises that I won't blow just yet, but it is essentially the kickoff of our theater in this neighborhood permanently. The hope is to have registration at our new theater and really have this be the first chapter in what we can bring to Andersonville. It's an exciting time for us and what better way to kick it off then with the undead?
OT And finally, how are you preparing for the zombie apocalypse?
JG According to the Mayans, the world is going to end soon, so I say bring on the Zombies!
The Zombie Pub Crawl begins April 28 at 2 p.m. sharp. To purchase tickets or for more information, go here.
A writer with an MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Sarah Terez Rosenblum freelances for a number of web sites and print publications. Her debut novel, “Herself When She’s Missing," (Soft Skull press) is available for pre-order here. She is also a figure model, Spinning instructor and teacher at Chicago’s StoryStudio. Inevitably one day she will find herself lecturing naked on a spinning bike. She's kind of looking forward to it actually.
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