Thrills and Chills in Store for New TMA Production ‘The Turn of the Screw’

Livestreamed production is based on a famed 1898 gothic novella

Livestreamed performances April 8-10, 7:30 p.m.

After the success of fall 2020’s “Illusionary Tales,” the Department of Theatre and Media Arts is delighted to present a new tale, “The Turn of the Screw,” adapted and directed by faculty member David Morgan

“The Turn of the Screw” is a horror novella by Henry James that tells the story of a young governess who accepts a job at an isolated estate. She soon finds herself believing that the malevolent spirits of two ill-fated lovers are influencing her young charges.  

The performance will again feature TMA’s groundbreaking work with the spine-tingling Pepper’s Ghost effect, combined with the innovative designs of its best theatre students.

“Though many of the original challenges with the Pepper’s Ghost effect were overcome in ‘Illusionary Tales’ last semester, adapting the effect to a full-length show has created a different set of challenges,” said dramaturg Makenna Johnston. “Some of the main differences are working the effect with a larger cast, as well as the inclusion of filmed segments.”

Like every other performance this year, COVID restrictions played a part in how cast members participated. Beyond the usual precautions of distancing, masks and symptom checks, Johnston explained that “certain roles were double cast as a way for more students to be involved in mainstage productions, as well as safeguard against potential virus exposure. Parts of the production were pre-filmed as an additional precaution.”

Johnston is a true believer in the power of theatre to stir deep emotion and empathy. She described a life-changing moment that occurred while working backstage on BYU’s production of “Radium Girls.” 

“I was overcome with empathy for a character who many viewed as the antagonist. As the man in question sat sobbing in his wife’s arms, I realized that I was witnessing a moment of pure humanity,” she said. “Words can’t give it justice. I remain thoroughly mesmerized by this moment.”

Though “The Turn of the Screw” tackles a much different genre than “Radium Girls,” Johnston is no less certain about its power to impact the audience.

“I have a soft spot for all things dark and dreary, which is why I was drawn to working on this production. I love that gothic aspects of the Victorian era permeate the show,” she said. “It’s such a fascinating period in history. I wish I could talk about my favorite part of the show, but that would spoil the fun! What I can say is that viewers can expect a thrilling, and somewhat chilling, experience.”