Arts & Culture

Theater Artists offers new, quirky musical for holiday

Formed in 2003, Theater Artists Olympia has begun to develop a rhythm to its seasons.

This season, like last, there's drama, comedy (both black and not-so), a Shakespeare play and a big, bloody musical.

But the group does have big news: This year's musical, "Night of the Singing Dead," is the group's first completely original production.

"It's written by TAO people - the book, the music, the whole thing," said group president Pug Bujeaud. "That's going to be in the Christmas time slot, where we did 'Cannibal!' last year. 'Cannibal!' was such a big hit that we decided we're going to do something a little different and a little quirky at the holiday season so people have another option."

The show is based on "Night of the Living Dead."

"It's a George Romero film, and it's in the public domain," Bujeaud said. "Romero himself has said, 'Do whatever you want with it.' So we have carte blanche."

The show will continue to develop through improvisation.

"We watched the original 'Night of the Living Dead,' and a bunch of us sat down and Mystery Science Theatered it," she said, referring to the show where a man and his robot sidekicks poke fun at old films. "We talked about things that could happen. We made comments to the screen. Some of the things we were riffing on are things we're going with for the show."

TAO launched its season Sept. 13 with "Pvt. Wars," about veterans in an Army hospital. The comedy, which Bujeaud called "the nicest show we've ever done, if you know what I mean by nice," is playing at the Midnight Sun downtown, but the group will again offer shows this season at South Puget Sound Community College's Minnaert Center too.

"SPSCC has been really good to us," Bujeaud said. "But we can do the quirky smaller shows - quirky even for us - at the Midnight Sun, and we like to support that, too.

"It would be great to have a single location. It's something that 10 years down the road we would like to have. We're always working to better the situation. It's baby steps."

Nearly four years after its first production ("Chamber Music" in November 2003), TAO is enjoying a lot more interest in its shows, both from audiences, who flocked to "Cannibal! The Musical," and from actors, who can't wait to audition.

"We're getting more and more people interested all the time," she said. "When we first started, it was trying to convince people, 'Come, be in my play.'

"Now, already the buzz has been wonderful about 'Singing Dead.' Already people are asking me when the auditions are."