If a job application listed under its requirements that you be a "master of blood," you'd more than likely continue your employment search. But that's not the case for the brave cast of Evil Dead The Musical. Duties like spraying fake blood at the appropriate pressure and angle as well as quick cleanup are requirements for the cast of Evil Dead — lest some actor/actress choke or slip and fall on the set.
In the show, adapted from Sam Raimi's low-budget '80s horror trilogy with a rabid cult following, gore is used to the extreme. It's surely one of the bloodiest spectacles in the world of theater.
"For the first month on tour, we were still perfecting the blood, so it would come out at different pressures every night," says David Sajewich, who plays Ash, the star of the show. "There were a few times that month when the blood would get in my eye — which stings! — or shoot down the back of my throat. Let me tell you, it's not easy singing when blood is going down the opposite way."
Sajewich got the role of Ash last June when auditions were cast in Chicago. The musical was first performed in a small bar in Toronto in 2003 before spreading its demonic wings to NYC's off-Broadway in 2006. Currently, the musical is on its first U.S. tour, which opened in Madison, Wisconsin, in September. On Nov. 11, the show's signature undead fiends, busty babes, jerky jocks and dim-witted hero invade Knight Theater for a one-night-only performance.
For folks unfamiliar with Evil Dead: Five college students go to an abandoned cabin in the woods where they unleash an evil force that turns them into demons. But Ash is determined to save the day — Spoiler alert! — even after the death of some of his friends and the severing of his own hand (Eek!). He uses a chainsaw and shotgun to violently exterminate the hordes of evil. And there you have it, a plot line explained without the visuals that make it so captivating.
But despite the show's graphic nature, there are comedic elements to relieve the otherwise horrific scenes. During a dramatic scene involving Linda, Ash's girlfriend, Ash sarcastically responds with a sex-on-the-brain one liner: "This isn't the type of head I was expecting from Linda this weekend."
Inappropriate comments and playful puns defeat any scary elements that could arise from bloody acts that come to life with decapitations and the dismembering of body parts.
"This is, hands down, the goriest musical I've ever been in. The runner-up would have to be the production of Les Miserables that I did this past spring," says Sajewich. "We didn't use any blood or gore, but when I died at the barricade I got shot in the head, so that's something."
A designated area of seating for the show, specifically for audience members who want to go home caked in fake blood, is dubbed as a "Splatter Zone."
Jesse Lund, assistant stage manager and "blood expert" for Evil Dead The Musical, explains, "As part of my on stage 'track,' I'm in charge of coordinating the blood cleanup, too. There's one cleanup that happens during the first act and one that happens during intermission. The important thing here is that the actors always have a dry surface that isn't slippery to move around on."
While cleaning the set is major concern, Vanessa Lee Wishart, who handles the production's wardrobe, has the duty of cleaning costumes after every performance — another tedious task. "It is challenging because there are four to six hours of laundry that needs to be done every day," says Wishart. "The blood is designed to be cleaned easily, but many of the costume pieces need special care."
Clearly, working on the set of Evil Dead The Musical requires a unique skill set. Oh, and, it's not for the squeamish.
"A friend of mine once said that you should never take a job unless it's ridiculous or scares you," says Lund. "Given the learning curve I've had to go through with blood effects and rearranging my life to do this show, and the fact that part of my job is to spray fake blood on total strangers, I think I've taken his advice and run with it."