Blood Countess

Written by Kelleen Conway Blanchard
Directed by Bret Fetzer

Oct 24-Nov 22
Thurs-Sat at 8pm | Mon, Nov 10 industry night
All Thurs PWYC
$20 general/$18 advance tickets
$12 senior, military, TPS / $5 student

The life of Countess Elizabeth Bathory- the historical noblewoman accused of bathing in young girl’s blood so she could live forever young becomes a supernatural tale both creepy and creepily funny in the hands of the playwright of “Kittens in a Cage” & “The Underneath”.

Kelleen Conway Blanchard lends her unique voice to the story of Elizabeth Bathory, the Hungarian Countess fabled to be one of the inspirations behind vampire lore. Bathory is rumored to have killed anywhere from 60 to 600 young woman and bathed in their blood to preserve her youth.

This fictional account follows the countess from her happy marriage to the fierce warrior Ferenc to her conviction and death bricked up within the walls of her castle. Along the way it explores her possible motivations for the sadistic murders of which she stands accused.

Landing solidly on the dark side of dark comedy, Blood Countess still employs plenty of Kelleen Conway Blanchard’s trademark humor and linguistic gymnastics. This historical horror story is filled with dead birds, headless soldiers, eel pies, and pailfulls of blood.

Blood Countess is directed by Bret Fetzer, and features original songs by Rick Miller, reuniting the team behind Gregory-nominated hit Kittens in a Cage.

Terri Weagant makes her Annex debut as Elizabeth. Weagant has appeared on stages big and small from Seattle Shakespeare Company and Book-It Repertory Theatre, to Theater Shmeater and upstart crow collective. Supporting Weagant is a group of wonderful local talent including Gregory-nominated Mary Murfin Bayley, Blanchard veterans James Weidman and Erin Stewart, and retuning Annex actors Ashlen Hodge, Martyn G Krouse and Sarah Winsor.

“Blanchard has written a gothic comedy that resists the temptation of camp. Instead, she lands startling punches with vivid and unexpected language… The two leads make grimly charming predators, bored by and superior to everything except morts, both petit and grand. Weidman brings a refreshingly abstracted, understated moodiness to a role that some actors would take as an excuse to chew up the scenery, while Weagant gives a positively sociopathic performance, fully unable to understand—and, in the end, not really caring—why other people don’t find chopping off people’s hands and branding the servant girls with hot coins diverting.” – The Stranger

“It would be easy to make the argument that Kelleen Conway Blanchard’s new play, ‘Blood Countess’ is a natural selection for October, with its Halloween balance of the horrific and the bizarre, its combination of cartoonish terror and god-awful blood lust. Blanchard, however, never lets a first impression become the content of her plays. As in ‘Kittens in a Cage’ and ‘The Underneath’ the initial triteness of commonplace tropes provide an easily accessible gateway to well-developed and compelling characters dealing with the absurdity of their situations with genuine emotion and real internal conflict. There are plenty of laughs throughout ‘Blood Countess’ but we never lose sight of the fact that these uncommon people are dealing with exactly the same challenges that we deal with daily, and that caring about their struggles is at least as rewarding as the pure entertainment of the evening…This is real drama. And it works.” – Seattle Actor

“…a gleefully fractured history tale that’s part wickedly black comedy, part demented love story and part scathing prod at the sexual and religious climate of the era… …with a sly performance as the bloodlust-consumed countess […] Weagant keeps the boiling passion simmering beneath the surface…” – Seattle Times

“Blood Countess is a lot of fun. As the countess, Terri Weagant’s unconventional looks and excellent expressive range are riveting… two other characters in her entourage are far more freaky: a deranged, id-like provocateur named Fitzco, played with nearly boundless perversity by Erin Stewart; and a priest, played with chilling, sexualized placidity (and heavy eye makeup) by Martyn G. Krouse. Bathory’s violence-loving libertine husband Ferenc (James Weidman) is another unctuous delight. In Bathory’s grim castle (a simple, black-walled, portrait-adorned set by Susannah Anderson), victims progress from birds to a parade of neighborhood girls (all winningly portrayed by Sarah Winsor)… canny performances and a wacky, Wikipedia-confirmed bite of Hungarian history make the Bathory vein a worthwhile draught.” – Seattle Weekly

“The mayhem is directed by Bret Fetzer as he uses Annex’s usual minimal technical accessories to exceed their low monetary value and provide great stagecraft at the same time. With Ian Johnston’s support for set design, Gwyn Skone providing inventive creepy lighting, super costuming and wigging from Samantha Armitage (probably on a miniscule budget), and sound by Kyle Thompson, the overall effect is a very sophisticated production… The play could be seen as a ‘Halloween’ event at this time of year, but that downplays its execution, cast and the beautiful poetry of the script. Blanchard seems to love creepy, but also demonstrates that she loves language more. Go get your fright on and also experience a multi-layered biography.” – Miryam Gordon

Terri Weagant Elizabeth Bathory
Ashlen Hodge Dorkus
Mary Murfin Bayley Mother
James Weidman Ferenc & The Inspector
Martyn G. Krouse The Priest
Sarah Winsor The Victims
Erin Stewart Fitzco
Playwright Kelleen Conway Blanchard
Director Bret Fetzer
Original Songs Rick Miller
Stage Manager Cynthia Kelly
Light Designer Gwyn Skone
Set Designers Bret Fetzer & Ian Johnston
Scenic Painter Susannah Anderson
Prop Designer Katie McKellar
Sound Designer Kyle Thompson
Costume Designer Samantha Armitage
Fight Choreographer Paul Ray
Costume Assistants Fantasia Oslund & Carmen Olmedo
Assistant Director Catherine Blake Smith
Production Manager Kaeline Kine
Technical Director Ian Johnston

The Underneath

Written by Kelleen Conway Blanchard
Directed by Pamala Mijatov

Thurs-Sat at 8pm | Oct. 18 – Nov. 16
Preview Thurs, Oct. 17 | Industry Night Mon, Nov. 4
$20 general, $12 TPS/Seniors/Military, $5 Students.
All Thursdays Pay-What-You-Can.

Something monstrous is bubbling up at the new waterpark. Something icky is making Tina, misunderstood girl genius, uneasy—her little sister Winnie has a piece of tentacle in a jar that hisses, her mom Denise is taking too many pills, and the local Sheriff can’t bake enough crumb cakes to make himself feel better about the body parts washing up on the shore. And just what does the fry cook at Salty’s Sea Palace have in his pants? Welcome to the world of The Underneath, the latest play from the writer of Kittens in a Cage and Hearts Are Monsters. Featuring Daniel Christensen, Meaghan Halverson, Tracy Leigh, John McKenna, Pilar O’Connell, Mandy Price, and James Weidman.

“A show about the evil ocean … begins with humping and gore, which is a good precursor to the rest… Playwright Kelleen Conway Blanchard is drawn to pulp material, injecting it with funny grotesquery and ear-catching details… These moments, where actors have the freedom to just let loose with strings of Blanchard’s perfectly deranged rambling, make the show worth checking out.” —The Stranger

“Through the ingenuity of set designers Bret Fetzer and Susannah Anderson, there’s also clever and almost instantaneous transformation of the small stage into five separate sets… Meaghan Mary Halverson provides a really good portrayal of youth and innocence as sweet Winnie, the nice little girl who is abducted by the slithering monsters. Pilar O’Connell, as her brilliant but emotionally wounded and therefore nasty sister, is equally powerful. She’s cruel, angry and rebellious, yet you can’t help rooting for her. The dread, menace and humor underpinning ‘The Underneath’ work really well.” – Seattle Times

Songs Violet Séverine Blanchard
Stage Manager Kaeline Kine
Production Manager Katie McKellar
Set Designers Bret Fetzer & Susannah Anderson
Lighting Designer Gwyn Skone
Sound Designer Kyle Thompson
Costume Designer Meaghan Darling
Prop Designer Emily Sershon
Make-up Designer Jana Hutchison

Kittens In A Cage

Written by Kelleen Conway Blanchard
Directed by Bret Fetzer

Thu-Sat at 8 pm, July 27th-August 25th (Thu PWYC)
$15 general / $10 TPS, senior, military / $5 student

Kittens in a Cage tells Junie’s story, a good girl gone bad, sent to the pen by a buncha rats. From the knife fights in the showers to riots in the prison mess hall, Junie has to toughen up fast. Lucky for Junie, she’s got Vickie. A tough love story about bad broads that can’t get no breaks.

Junie, a juvenile delinquent with a heart of gold, gets thrown into a prison cell with hardened arsonist Vickie.  But as they team up against the predations of prison queen bee Jeanine and her cannibalistic sidekick Barbara, not to mention the deranged scientific schemes of the Prison Matron, Junie finds her heart swelling up over Vickie.  Does Vickie feel the same?  Will Jeanine take vengeance in the shower?  What’s up with those rumors of strange furry babies in the Matron’s secret laboratory?

Kittens in a Cage features an all female cast of Annex favorites, original songs by Rick Miller performed on the ukulele by Francesca Mondelli, and Kelleen Conway Blanchard’s unique voice. Kittens in a Cage is a love story, a story of breaks both good and bad, a story of survival, and an agonizingly funny portrayal of women behind bars.

Kittens in a Cage is directed by Bret Fetzer. Blanchard and Fetzer previously teamed up on Small Town (produced by Annex Theatre in 2007) and Hearts are Monsters (produced by Macha Monkey Productions in 2010).

“‘Kittens in a Cage’ is a f***ing riot. ‘Kittens’ takes on women’s-prison B movies and pulp novels with biting wit—no worries about offending anyone—and a gorgeous splatter of comically short prison uniforms (top buttons undone), smeared red lipstick, bright blue eye shadow, bouffant hairdos, and crazy accents…. This wicked, uproarious show features an all-female cast—not impossibly rare, but not common enough. Bosoms heave, brains leak out of heads, and women make out. Blanchard seems fully aware and in control while she wades into the muck of exploitation entertainment, with a wink and a nod (and a shiv) to its complicated history of empowerment.” –The Stranger

“In a nutshell: Kittens in a Cage is a funny, witty, naughty romp through chicks in prison films, with a spicy dash of horror and all overlaid with a delicious lesbionic sauce of camp and heaving bosoms.” –Seattle Gay Scene

“So what’s not to love about a play starring 7 local powerhouse actresses and written by an equally strong local, female playwright?! Given the dearth of substantive roles for women in theatre and film, it is great to see a show like ‘Kittens in a Cage’ infused with so much estrogen and feminine prowess…. The entire cast does a great job, and it is obvious that they are having a lot of fun in their respective roles; and when I saw the show on opening night, it was obvious that the audience had just as much fun watching them.” — Drama in the Hood

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Francesca Mondelli Junie
Katie Driscoll Nancy
Lisa Viertel Prison Matron
Laurel Ryan Vickie
Tracy Leigh Jeanine
Erin Pike Barbara
Erin Stewart Junie’s Ma, Lois, Peggy
Writer Kelleen Conway Blanchard
Director Bret Fetzer
Songwriter Rick Miller
Stage Manager Daniel Christensen
Set Designer Bret Fetzer & Ian Johnston
Scenic Artist Susannah Anderson
Sound Designer Kyle Thompson
Prop Designer Megan Tuschhoff
Costume Designer Meaghan Darling
Hair & Makeup Designer Jana Hutchison
Mugshot Photographer Ian Johnston
Poster Designer Ellen Forney

Kelleen Conway Blanchard was the subject of a recent SLOG post.

Reviews of past Bret Fetzer / Kelleen Conway Blanchard collaborations:

Hearts are Monsters
Hearts Are Monsters, a loose riff on Hamlet, fills the small stage at
Rendezvous with the gallows humor and elegant garishness of a 1970s
exploitation film…Monsters has a style that hovers somewhere between
John Waters, Daniel Waters (Heathers), and Jack Hill (Switchblade
Sisters, Foxy Brown), but Kelleen Conway Blanchard’s world-premiere
script bristles with dense, dirty intelligence, and the jokes come
thick and fast…The cast, directed by Bret Fetzer, never plays the
script for camp, but delivers the craziest lines with a dead-ahead
seriousness that makes the comedy that much sharper.” – The Stranger

Small Town
“[Small Town] is snappy and quick-paced; Fetzer, who has an obvious
knack for comedy, keeps things flowing nicely, and he seems to work
well with actors, drawing from each a solid performance. The staging
is exceptional, especially considering the tight space of CHAC’s
downstairs venue; for instance, by virtue of a ratty couch that flips
back on hinges, Stu Lionel’s underground abattoir is revealed. It’s a
nice touch, as is the split-second conversion of that same couch into
a mammoth dining table. Also noteworthy are the wonderful musical
interludes that punctuate the action: Bud’s uproariously heartfelt
crooning of the Scorpions’ “No One Like You,” or the final number, an
astonishing bluegrass version of Outkast’s hit “Hey Now,” with the
whole cast chanting the chorus in a flat-footed monotone. These
moments stand out not only for their expert execution but also for
their refreshing sense of levity—of good-hearted fun and comic warmth,
for lack of better terms.” –The Seattle Weekly