The Roustabout Theatre Troupe's Dark Ride Hour Spooks and Excites

Get ready for the darkest ride of your life. You’ll go back in time to the golden age of radio. Close your eyes and let your imagination conjure horrors. I’m talking about the Dark Ride Radio Hour, replicating the radio shows from the ‘20s and ‘30s (Think Orson Welles’ “War of the Worlds”). Dark Ride Hour is presented by the Roustabout Theatre Troupe. The show took place the night of Oct. 14 in Ypsilanti at the basement of Bona Sera. 

The mind behind the madness is Joseph Zettlemaier, the scriptwriter of  the show, while the event is directed by Joey Albright. The show itself is made up of 4 actors and creepy sound effects provided by the theatre’s Foley artists, which are artists who naturally recreate sound effects for film, radio, and other media.

It’s a truly interesting experience to watch the Foley artists use strange objects to replicate the horrific sounds needed for the show. The artists use an array of techniques like crunching celery to imitate bones breaking or stroking a violin bow across a banjo to create a creaky door opening. Some of the skits performed include a sinister doll that traps a girl in another dimension, a resentful science teacher that kidnaps her enemies and turns them into pumpkins, and an angsty goth girl that wipes out a church using cursed apples. I was able to experience the show, and was intrigued and scared alike. I was also able to speak with Joey Albright about the event, to gain insight on it.

CT: Can you explain what the Dark Ride Radio Hour is? 

JA: It’s a live stage show that’s like a replica of what it would be like in the old radio shows from back in the '20s and '30s that were recorded in front of a live studio audience on a stage. Ours has a little twist to it with the Halloween theme. All of our stories have a horror element to them.

CT: What inspired you guys to start doing the event?

JA: Joe Zettelmaier, Anna Simmons, and I were the founders of the Roustabout Theatre Troupe. We all really like that kind of a play. I’ve always been fascinated by the radio hours like "War of the Worlds" by Orson Welles and all of that. We did a play that Joe wrote years ago that was loosely based on that era centered around a group of misfits actors that had their own radio show in New York city. Joe has participated in other radio plays around the country as well. 

CT: How long have you been doing this?

JA: Last year was our first year, we did it in Livonia only and it was pretty successful. We were very happy with it. So we’re doing it in Ypsilanti and Livonia this year. 

CT: How many people make up the Roustabout Theatre?

JA: For the theatre itself we just have Joe, Anna, and myself. We also have 3 consultants as well. That’s the administration of the theatre company. The radio hour itself will have four actors and two Foley artists.

CT: Can you give some examples of how the different sound effects in the show are achieved?

JA: There is one particular sound effect that is supposed to be a body liquefying and sort of splashing into something. Our Foley artist takes a big handful of pumpkin guts and lets them fall into some water. It sounds like this mass of flesh hitting something. When it gets amplified with a speaker it’s a lot of fun. Then she’ll also use a musical instrument to replicate a creaky door or something like that as well. Our Foley artists will use anything from food, children’s toys, their own voices, to instruments, really anything you can think of. 

CT: Do you write the scripts for the show yourself?

JA: Joe does. Joe Zettelmaier is an accomplished playwright. He’s our executive director and he produces plays all over the country. He has written all four of the skits for this particular show. 

CT: Is it safe to say Halloween is your guys’ favorite time of year?

JA: *with laughter* You know it’s funny, Halloween is definitely Joe’s favorite time of year. It’s also my wife’s birthday so it does hold a special place in my heart. I love it, I’m not sure if it’s my favorite but knowing Joe and my wife has kind of pulled me into that spirit as well. 

CT: Anything else you would like people to know about the Dark Ride Hour?

JA: Yeah! Come and have fun. There’s some scary/eerie things that happen but it’s a lot of fun. Watching the Foley artists do their work is worth the price of admission alone. 

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