Ode To The B’s

Two cult films will be revived on Columbia theater stages this week: “Satan in High Heels” at Trustus Theatre Monday and “ Plan 9 From Outer Space” at Tapp’s Arts Center Thursday through Saturday.

The productions have different plots and subjects, but there is one common element — rather, a person — who binds the plays together: Larry Hembree, Trustus’ new executive director and the former director of Nickelodeon Theatre, has a part in both.

“It’s that great kind of bridge between theater and film,” said Robbie Robertson, who wrote the script for “Satan.” “Once again, it’s the Larry Hembree show.”

The cast of “Plan 9 From Outer Space,” a play that opens Thursday at Trustus.

“Satan in High Heels” was an early ’60s sexploitation film that billed itself as showing the most “intimate lustings ever to escape the censors.” How naughty was it?

“By today’s standards, it’s something you’d see at 8 o’clock in primetime,” Robertson said.

He saw the film 12 years ago and was enamored. He bought the film’s original press booklet on eBay, and he’s collected other items. Robertson referred to “Satan” as the original independent film.

“This just feels different, almost like a local theater group getting together and saying, ‘Hey, let’s put on the show,’” he said. “It really works for the film, because a lot of people in the film weren’t actors.”

The gritty, unrefined cast included Meg Myles, a pinup girl and singer who wanted a movie career. Myles acted as Stacy Kane, a striptease dancer whose path to becoming a top cabaret singer in Manhattan has stops in several bedrooms. Veteran actress Vicky Saye Henderson will play Stacy in the staged reading, which is essentially the play without the sets and costumes. Some of the actors might read from scripts.

The purpose of the staged reading is to gauge how well the dialogue, pacing and flow of the play works. Robertson thought about remaking the film before realizing it would make a good stage play. Most of the action takes place on one set.

He has redeveloped scenes and rewritten the ending.

“The first time I saw the film, I knew they were going for this ending. They just didn’t get it,” Robertson said. “There are elements (of the new script) I know that work, but there’s some I need to see how it plays in front of an audience.”

Tim Gardner, the co-founder of Mad Monkey, the Vista design company, will direct “Satan.”

“He’s opened my eyes,” Robertson said of Gardner. “He’s kind of taken it to a new level, which is what you really want from a director. Tim was the perfect person to direct it because he’s got the film and the theater background.”

The Monday reading sold out more than a week ago, but there is a waiting list for a March 28 performance. (The theater needs to sell a certain number of tickets to warrant opening the house. If you’d like a seat, call the theater at 803-254-9732.) Robertson said that he and Gardner are committed to doing a full production.

“It’s so hard to get new works done locally,” he said. “I think it’s because it’s all budget driven. Just from a business standpoint, people want to do something they know people will show up to.”

Hembree, if you were wondering, plays a character named Pepe in “Satan.” In “Plan 9,” he’ll play Bela Lugosi, a man who played Dracula in the movies long before starring in several low-budget films directed by Ed Wood.

“Plan 9 From Outer Space” is Wood’s 1959 film that has been referred to as the worst movie ever made.

“Obviously, it was very low budget,” said Chris Bickel, an executive producer of the play. “And the sets are basically falling apart on screen and the U.F.O.s are hanging by a string. But you’re never bored. The worst movie ever made would be impossible to sit through.

“We’re not trying to make fun of the movie. We’re paying tribute to the spunk of Ed Wood.”

The plot: aliens want to stop humans from developing a weapon that, if used, will destroy the universe. They resurrect the dead to help. Sounds campy, but Bickel says there’s more to Wood’s script.

“He was trying to make a statement of what was going with the Cold War. It was a reflection of the state of mind, ‘How much further are we going to take this?’ ” he said.

The staging will include three sets at the Tapp’s Arts Center. There will be 100 seats and 100 tickets sold for standing room only for the three performances. Tickets for “Plan 9,” which has more seats available than the sold-out “Satan,” have sold well, a sign that there is a thirst for alternative programming in the city.

“This is a little bit outside of the beaten path of what you typically see on the stage as far as theatrical productions in Columbia,” Bickel said. “There are some amazing people in it.”

Like the always wonderful character actor Gerald Floyd, who Bickel says steals the show.

“We can barely make it through rehearsals. He is cracking us up,” he said.

Bickel, who is known for his weekly karaoke parties at Art Bar, as well as his record collection and his always titillating music projects, is also in the play.

“I’ve never done any acting before,” he said. “It’s been a lot more work than I thought going into it. It’s been a challenge. But I love it. It’s a step outside of my safety zone.”

Doors open at 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, with the show starting at 8 p.m. The Whig will provide the cash bar. Tapp’s is at 1644 Main St. $10; plan9live.blogspot.com

Read more here: http://www.thestate.com/2012/03/25/2207591/arts-planner-state-homage-to-b.html#storylink=cpy