The Ghastly Dreadfuls Invite You to Become a “Dreadhead”

The Ghastly Dreadfuls at the Center for Puppetry Arts

Spencer G. Stephens manipulates a puppet in The Ghastly Dreadfuls. Photo by Clay Walker ©2010 Center for Puppetry Arts.

While the idea of attending a puppet show may not top the must see lists of many adults, the Center for Puppetry Arts has created a holiday celebration in The Ghastly Dreadfuls that has found an “adults only” audience. Featuring vignettes and stories from around the world, The Ghastly Dreadfuls includes live acting, singing and dancing along with puppet shows to entertain the audience.

“It is suspenseful and includes some original material and some adaptations. Some of the stories are funny, some are creepy and some are horrifying, but they are all in the macabre,” adds Reay Kaplan, one of the actors and puppeteers in the show.

When the show first played on stage in 2005, no one knew how successful it would be. When preparing for the first show, written by Jon Ludwig and Jason von Hinezmeyer, the cast and crew hoped audiences would like it. As soon as the first audience saw the piece, they all realized that they had been a part of something special.

“We have had people come here for the past five years and people that come from out of state each year,” states Spencer G. Stephens, another actor and puppeteer in the show. “There are blogs and reviews on what we have done over the years.”

The following has developed into a devoted audience that attends each October. Affectionately called “Dreadheads” by some in the cast, the faithful followers have parties before shows, wear costumes to the performances, and plan their whole evenings around attending the show. Some groups even rent conference room space for gatherings, and one lucky group gets to have a pre-show party that is auctioned off as part of the Center for Puppetry Art’s annual String Fling Fundraiser.

“In each performance there’s someone that comes in costume,” mentions Kaplan. If anyone wears a costume, he/she will receive a discount on tickets at that night’s performance. Audience members have come dressed as Oompa Loompas, Powerpuff Girls, witches, magicians and even Dexter. Some have been extremely creative with one patron dressing as a puppet in costume. To celebrate the season even more, there have been costume contests held in conjunction with the show.

But, the one thing that “Dreadheads” do the most is make new converts. This group introduces new people to The Ghastly Dreadfuls each year. “I love seeing people who are brought to this very skeptical, and they leave saying that they ‘have no idea what that was it just blew my mind,’” Kaplan says. “Having people walk out raving, I think that says something for puppeteers,” adds Jessica Kornhoff, actor and musician for the show.

Ghastly Dreadfuls at the Center for Puppetry Arts

Spencer G. Stephens and Reay Kaplan peform in the finale of The Ghastly Dreadfuls. Photo by Clay Walker ©2010 Center for Puppetry Arts.

Because of the enthusiasm of the “Dreadheads,” this show has become one of the hottest tickets in town during October. “Word has gotten out about how great it is,” states Stephens. Everyone has a favorite part of the show, even the performers.

Stephens comments that the audience reaction, in particular the first three rows” is his favorite part of the performance. “By the end of the show, they are on the edge of their seats and the first ones to stand up to scream and clap,” he says.

As a musician Kornoff feels that her favorite part is “saying lines because I have to get out of my comfort zone.” For Kaplan she loves the stockings she wears in the show. In response as to why they are her favorite part of the show, she responds, “You have to see the show to see why.”

A part of the 2011-2012 Teen and Adult Series, The Ghastly Dreadfuls plays through October 29 at the Center for Puppetry Arts. The show is for audiences ages 18 and up. For more information and tickets, please visit or call 404-873-3391.

By Kenny Norton