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Emily Dickinson: Paranormal Investigator: 10 Things To Know About The Show Before You Go (2016 FRIGID NEW YORK FESTIVAL)

by Karen Tortora-Lee on January 29, 2016

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Ten Questions. Ten Answers. And one Big Surprise in the audience …



Emily Dickinson: Paranormal Investigator

produced by PowerOut

It’s 1849 and New York is a gritty, grimy city filled with ghosts, ghouls, and irresponsible transcendentalists. After a string of curious incidents Emily Dickinson, New England’s premiere paranormal investigator, and her estranged mentor Edgar Allan Poe are on the case! Armed with esoteric knowledge and brass knuckles—not to mention a strong grasp on both blank and metered verse—they venture to Brooklyn on the trail of a horrifying new adversary. Emily Dickinson: Paranormal Investigator is an  ahistorical romp through poetry and Americana with ghosts, ghouls, and more! Part of the 2016 FRIGID New York Festival.

Show  Info:

  • Wed Feb 17, 2016 | 8:50PM
  • Sat Feb 20, 2016 | 5:00PM
  • Thu Feb 25, 2016 | 8:50PM
  • Tue Mar 01, 2016 | 10:30PM
  • Sun Mar 06, 2016 | 5:10PM

Kraine Theater New York, NY $10

Answers byTodd Brian Backus (playwright)
Ben Ferber (director)

1. Forget the PR version. When you’re talking to your friends, how do you explain this show to them?
Todd: It’s a mash up of a lot of different things I love: Buffy, Sherlock, Sailor Moon, Ghosts, and American Poetry.
Ben: I say, “I’m directing a show called Emily Dickinson: Paranormal Investigator,” and it’s exactly what it sounds like.

2. Here’s a scenario: After the show some audience members go have a drink.  What’s the part of the show you hope they’re discussing?
Todd: Probably the sword fights. I think we’ve lost a lot of the fun of fighting on stage with the living room drama, so I’m trying really hard to write the opposite kind of play.

3. What drives your show – character, theme or plot?
Todd: I think character, seeing how these characters who we kinda know from history grow and change and learn in the face of ridiculous supernatural circumstances.

4. In rehearsals, read-thrus, or prior incarnations, what’s the one thing someone said about the show so far that made you (or the team) the most proud?
Ben: One of our actors, after the first read, exclaimed, “It’s just so fun!”

5. If money and resources (and even reality) were no object what is the most lavish, luxurious, pointless prop, costume, effect – anything – that you would spend money on for this show?
Ben: I’d have characters appear and disappear in puffs of smoke and/or flashes of light.
Todd: Have you ever watched a magical girl anime? Sailor Moon, Card Captor Sakura, Magic Knights Rayearth, that sort of thing? There’s a point in the show where one of the characters reveals she’s been posing as someone else and she reveals her true form. In a lavish, luxurious production I’d want timed theme music and a costume the she could pull a ribbon out of and spin (a la Broadway’s Cinderella) and go from her disguise to her true form, samurai swords and all.

6. What’s the one thing you’re looking forward to regarding the FRIGID Festival itself?
Todd: FRIGID is always exciting because it’s all of these wild people doing crazy shows that range from the extraordinary to the truly weird. It’salways a lively mix and I’m looking forward to a season where Emily Dickinson: Paranormal Investigator is not quite the weirdest title on the list.
Ben: I feel a real sense of competition to be the weirdest show in a big batch of weird, fun shows.

7. Is there a scene, a moment, a gesture … anything at all in the show that you anticipate may get a completely different reaction depending on the audience that night?
Ben: The ending because, and this is not a spoiler, we have this incredibly sad, somber moment which explains sort of why Emily Dickinson becomes a recluse in our version of history. And then we turn on a dime and reveal that there’s going to be a fun, exciting Part II which is about Abraham Lincoln and a train heist! And one of our actors appears wearing a stovepipe and it’s awesome.

8. What’s your favorite line from the show?
Ben: So at one point in the show, Kate Fox, a real-life 12-year-old spirit medium who was super popular/controversial in the mid 1800s, pulls a wired microphone out from nowhere and raps to a sick violin beat about how ghosts told her that Henry David Thoreau is, and I quote, an “asshat.” Then at the end of the number she drops the mic and collapses.

9. What’s the last thing you usually do before the beginning of a show?
Todd: Tell the House Manager we don’t need to hold for anyone else.
Ben: Realize I super need to pee as the lights go down.

10. You scan the audience and you see a face that stops you dead in your tracks – who is it? And why are you shocked?
Todd: Neil Gaiman, we really only interacted on twitter a few times, I didn’t think you’d actually be here. I slide up next to him, slipping a ring out of my pocket, it fits alongside the wedding band he wears for Amanda, just like me. We make out, the first scene starts but we’re too busy making out to listen. The actors are a bit thrown off by this incredibly public display of affection but I can’t help myself, we snog through the rest of the 60-minute affair.
Ben: But what the cast is really looking out at in the audience, in confusion, is me and the real Emily Dickinson, who is secretly an ageless vampire and came to see our show about her, doing an impromptu synchronized dance number in the back.

Okay, Todd and Ben … I’m going to offer up that this was possibly the first time that question was answered with something which  – in and of itself — could be turned into another FRIGID show.  Maybe not a full-length, but I definitely could see it on the main stage.  But don’t take my word for it!  Write it up and see if it sticks!

The rest of you – don’t forget to check out Emily Dickinson: Paranormal Investigator.


Horse Trade Theater Group will present the 10th Annual FRIGID New York Festival at The Kraine Theater (85 East 4th Street between 2nd Avenue and Bowery) and UNDER St. Marks (94 St. Marks Place between 1st Avenue and Avenue A) February 16-March 6. All shows run 60 minutes, or less. Tickets are available for purchase in advance at  


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