The air has gotten crisper and the nights are getting longer in Greenpoint, and that means Halloween is on the way. And while Kevin Ray’s new theatrical piece Unearthly Visitants may not be directly inspired by Halloween, it indeed offers a ghostly tale and performs right around that spooky holiday. What’s more, the show comes to Triskelion Arts, October 22 through 24. Triskelion is the neighborhood’s beloved theater institution known for producing genre-bending work, and it has finally returned to in-person performances. Here, director Kevin Ray discusses his unique work, adapted from Edith Wharton stories, and what “chills and thrills” the upcoming piece will offer.
Greenpointers: Give us a snapshot of Unearthly Visitants: what will it entail?
Kevin Ray: Unearthly Visitants is an adaptation of ghost stories written by Edith Wharton. Wharton is most famous for novels like The Age of Innocence and The House of Mirth, but she also wrote over 80 short stories and several of them are about ghosts. I am currently creating the performance in collaboration with actors and designers. The final piece will be four stories interwoven with Wharton’s non-fiction writing about the characteristics that make a ghost story chilling to the bone. The performances will be at Triskelion Arts, 106 Calyer Street, October 22, 23, and 24.
You received grants from Brooklyn Arts Council and The Puffin Foundation. How did you pitch the project to them, or how did those grants come to be?
When I applied for the grants, I explained Wharton’ stories are a canny mix of spine-tingling tales infused with tart social critiques. Ghost stories are about the past intruding on the present: something unresolved from long ago returns to deliver a message the living are unable or unwilling to see. I told the funders I saw an opportunity to create a performance that delivered entertaining chills and thrills while also engaging audiences in the central questions of our time: What is our relationship to transgressions in the past? What cost do we pay for ignoring the past? What can be learned if we dare to confront the past?
This is an ensemble-driven piece; can you explain a little more what that means? How many performers are there, and what has the collaboration been like with you in a director and adaptor role?
I’m creating the piece in collaboration with eight actors, four designers, and a stage manager. We’ve all been in the room together experimenting with ways the language of the stage (dialogue, light, shadow, movement, acting, projections, sound effects) can explode the theatricality of Wharton’s writing. As the director and adaptor, I have a hunch that the stories are ripe for theatricalization, and I’m using the process of collaboratively creating the piece to follow that hunch. In the beginning, we all put out ideas and try them on our feet. As we move closer to the performance, I begin making decisions about the strongest choices and shaping the piece into a cohesive performance.
What has been a highlight of this process for you?
Every day is a highlight because I’m working with an ensemble of exceptionally talented, generous, and brave collaborators who come to rehearsal overflowing with excitement about creating live theater. One moment I will never forget was on the first day of rehearsal. We hadn’t been together for over a year because of the pandemic; during that time, I wondered if rehearsing in person would be possible again. After everyone arrived, we all sat down on the floor. I looked around at this big circle of 14 people and thought, “We did it! We made it back! Now let’s make a show!”
Anything else you’d like to add?
Tickets are on sale now. All seats are $20 and they can be purchased at Eventbrite. You can support the show by liking and sharing the posts on
Facebook and Instagram. Read more about the show on the website: https://kevinrayworks.com/unearthly_visitants/.