Production Concludes on Horror/Comedy Feature “Theater Is Dead”

Production has wrapped on Theater Is Dead, a campy horror/comedy feature about an earnest engineering student who finds her true calling in the theater but realizes there may be a devilishly dark side to this fantastical dream when she lands the lead in a prestigious production.

Theater Is Dead is from the team behind STX Entertainment’s drama/comedy feature Juniper (Showtime, Tubi) and is written, directed, and produced by Katherine Dudas (Waking Up Worried); written and produced by Decker Sadowski (Brooklyn Nine-Nine), Olivia Blue (This Game’s Called Murder), and Madison Lawlor (Casa Grande); and produced by Jacob Nichols (Situationships), Shane West (A Walk to Remember, ER, The Dirty South), and Juan Mas (Z Nation), in association with Zach Mann (1-800-Hot-Nite, Tiger 24, Low Low) of Halfway Crooks Entertainment. The cast features writer/producers Decker Sadowski, Olivia Blue, and Madison Lawlor; producers Shane West and Jacob Nichols (Bel-Air); and Stephanie Suganami (Opus), Colin McCalla (Ruthless), Dylan Adler (First Time Female Director), Tammy Tavares (Days of Our Lives), and Julie Wittner (ACME Saturday Night).

The film was shot on location in Vashon Island, Washington, with the team discovering the small, rainy island when Juniper played the Vashon Island Film Festival in 2022. They felt its familiarity and quaintness could become confining and threatening, like being trapped in a cage, and the horror genre was the perfect vehicle to explore such themes. “We fell in love with the beauty of Vashon and its incredibly kind artistic community,” says writer/producer Decker Sadowski. “Being able to shoot at the Vashon Center of the Arts was a dream that brings audiences into the reality of theatrical performances.”

“When the writers and I were deciding on the best genre to utilize for this story, horror/comedy immediately occurred to us as the right fit,” adds writer/director/producer Katherine Dudas. “I come from a comedy background, and horror would bring the proper stakes to the empowering, feminist message of the film. Both genres rely on a buildup and release, and combining the two has given us the best tools to tell this incredibly important story about an artist’s journey.”

Theater Is Dead is inspired by the all-too-common experience of being an artist taken advantage of by a mentor, turning that trauma into feral female rage. The story follows sheltered Willow (Decker Sadowski), who meets mysterious theater director Matthew Malvaggio (Shane West) when he comes to the isolated island where she lives. Willow is profoundly affected by Matthew’s work, auditioning for his play—a modern adaptation of Sophocles’ Greek tragedy Women of Trachis—and booking the lead role. This launches Willow on a journey of self-discovery under Matthew’s tutelage, as she ignores dangers lurking in the shadows to get closer to her dream.

Sadowski shares her own experience in Hollywood, “I always wanted to be an actor, but I didn’t think it was a realistic career choice. After graduating engineering school, I turned down a job offer and set out for Los Angeles. I quickly learned that this dream had nightmare-like qualities and after a few years, I was ready to pack it up. When I met Blue, Dudas, and Lawlor, we shared similar experiences working with exploitative mentors and decided to make a film about facing these demons (literally). The truth can be shocking and ridiculous, so we embraced all that dark absurdity and hilarity with this film.”

Theater Is Dead is a sobering peak behind the curtain of the intoxicating world of acting, unraveling the sinister dance between vulnerable performers pursuing their passions and the shadowy puppeteers pulling the strings; it is a cathartic release, where one woman triumphs in the reclamation of her own power, on her own terms.


(Staff Writer) Lover of all things horror and metal. Also likes boobs and booze.

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