The Twilight series and its devoted fans have taken pop-culture vampires and werewolves worldwide. But Chris Sorensen believes they belong in Cripple Creek.
Sorensen, 44, is the author of Werewolves of Poverty Gulch, which the Thin Air Theatre Company will debut at Cripple Creek's Butte Theater this October. Over the past few years, Sorensen — who lives in New York City but says his "heart is in Cripple Creek" — has written a number of Halloween melodramas for Thin Air, including The Vampire of Cripple Creek, Dr. Jekyll's Medicine Show and Frankenstein of Cripple Creek.
"Werewolves seemed like a natural progression of that series," he says. "And walking around Cripple Creek at night, you can easily imagine a werewolf or two watching you from the brush."
Sorensen's story centers on the town at the turn of the century, a time when more and more people are showing up to the local doctor with vicious wolf bites. A gang of evil highwaymen is already terrorizing the locals, and the doctor must solve the mystery of where the wolf attacks are coming from while gathering his courage to defeat the outlaws.
Mickey Burdick, a producer for Thin Air, says the company tries to avoid the over-the-top style often associated with modern melodramas, and focus on a more traditional delivery.
"We try not to poke fun at the style," he says. "We treat it honestly. The basis for melodrama is matching human emotion and movement. It's stylized. Done properly, it's not campy."
So you can expect to see characters with "their hearts on their sleeves," in Burdick's words, and not to see "cheesy" effects, like someone bounding around in a dollar-store wolf costume. Sorensen aims to keep the creature scary by keeping it largely unseen — "you don't want to disclose too much about the monster, because it's almost scarier left to the imagination" — while letting his characters react to its appearance in humorous ways.
"I'm a big fan of the old Abbott and Costello horror movies where they used to run into Dracula, Frankenstein, the Wolfman," he says. "Those movies were hilarious, even though the monsters themselves were never played for laughs. That's the sort of balance I was going for."
This is the sixth year running for the company's Halloween melodrama show, and it'd be easy to think that Sorensen chose his subject matter based on popular trends. But he insists he didn't have Taylor Lautner or Robert Pattinson in mind when creating this story. It takes a "genuine experience" to have characters move him, he says, and that's what he's tried to create here.
"It doesn't hurt that vampires and werewolves have seen a rise in popularity," Sorensen says. "But I've always been in love with spooky stories. More than once I stayed next to the TV all night, afraid that if I tried to make it back to my bed something with fur and claws would gobble me up."