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The Quickening featured in Paranormal Underground

By Cheryl Knight

Mysterious happenings, a Civil War ghost, and a family in turmoil. these themes feature prominently in the play the Quickening, which uses a unique storytelling approach to engage and invoke fear in the audience.

Playing at the Fells Point Corner theatre from June 8–July 1 in Baltimore, Maryland, the Quickening stars amanda Spellman (Beth), Debbie Bennett (Philomena), Marianne Gazzola angelella (rosemary ), and David Shoemaker (Matt). the Quickening’s playwright, Mark Scharf, and director, Ann Turiano, recently spoke with Paranormal Underground about the play and its paranormal themes.

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Q: Where did the concept of The Quickening come from?

Mark: The Quickening is a result of the confluence of many impulses, experiences, and I guess you could say tastes. When I was 12 years old, my parents let me stay up to watch a movie while the rest of my family went to bed. alone in a darkened room, I watched the Haunting of Hill House, made in 1963 and based on Shirley Jackson’s 1959 novel. it scared the hell out of me, earning a permanent place in my heart and head. and it did so by suggestion — by relying on my reactions and thoughts to create fear.

You never saw a creature or apparition; you saw empty rooms and stairs and the reactions of people to sounds. You saw writing that had appeared during the night on a wall. You heard banging on a door echo like timpani on steroids and watched as a door knob ever so gently turned, but the door never opened. the technique and the effect stuck with me, and I have always wondered if i could write a play — a ghost story for the stage — that employed the same approach to engage and frighten. It was an idea that kept appearing in my notebooks, but one that always ended up taking a back seat to a different play. I think now it hung around until i was ready to tackle it.

Q: How did the play begin to take shape?

Mark:  During the summer of 2014, a new draft received a staged reading at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, which I attended as a Participating Playwright. in spring of 2015, the play won for me a Maryland State arts Council individual artist award in Playwriting, which included a staged reading during the 2015 Baltimore Book Fair. Later that year, the play was accepted by the Comparative Drama Conference and given a staged reading during their 2015 Conference.

There have been seven drafts by my count on the way to this production. I began the Quickening in earnest in 2013 and completed it in 2014. I was excited enough about the first draft to put together an in-house reading of it — in our house. a notable thing about that reading was the reaction to the dog in the play. Buy me a drink