Each day forward in October means a little less hair for Rod Peter Jr.
The local theatre actor and comedian is slowly moving toward complete baldness in preparation for his upcoming role in The Fall of the House of Usher, being staged in the rooms and stairwells of Craigdarroch Castle from Oct. 21 to 31.
To start its annual Halloween programming at the castle, Giggling Iguana Productions is re-adapting the Edgar Allan Poe play, having performed it from 2001 to 2004. Peter plays central figure Roderick Usher, whose deteriorating mental health is key to the story’s haunting nature and spooky antics.
“When (Giggling Iguana) director Ian Case asked me to play Roderick Usher I said yes, knowing I’d seen it way back,” Peter said. “But I’m not sure I knew what I was getting into, namely getting my head shaved. Last night I scissored my hair and I’m cutting it progressively shorter day by day, just to avoid the shock.”
Adjusting to the role of Usher has been challenging, as a comedy-based actor, Peter said. He recently ended a five-year stint with comedy theatre troupe Atomic Vaudeville to co-found cabaret group This is Twisted Theatre, which held its first show on Oct. 2. One of Twisted’s main segments is the continued story of this year’s Victoria Fringe Festival hit, Tara Firm and the Lunar War Chronicles, including all the same cast.
“(Usher) is very, very dark, and the way we’re going with it is much more extreme than past productions, which is great,” he said. “I think it resonates with audience members.”
While memorizing his lines, the comic in Peter couldn’t help but make light of Poe’s ample use of language. “I feel like the most poetic, depressed Frasier Crane right now. It’s the most long-winded, but beautiful language.”
Case said it seemed fitting to start the company’s second decade of Halloween programming at the castle with the play that started it all. Peter was barely a teenager studying at Vic High when Giggling Iguana premiered Usher at Craigdarroch in 2001.
Peter and classmate Mike Delamont were scouted by Case during their 2004 Fringe performance of The Long Walk, and both were recruited for that year’s performance of War of the Worlds at Craigdarroch.
“Except Delamont didn’t fit his War of the Worlds army costume so he ended up not being in it,” Peter recalled. However, Atomic Vaudeville’s creators Britt Small and Jacob Richmond also recruited Peter and Delamont from the 2004 Fringe, and both went on to create some of Atomic Vaudeville’s most popular characters.
Now Peter’s hoping This is Twisted Theatre can become equally accepted as Atomic on the Victoria theatre scene.
“The first show was an experiment. There were some dud (scenes), but we got a lot of positive feedback,” he said.
“We’re trying something different than Sin City Improv and Atomic Vaudeville. We’re not competing with Atomic. It’s a written show with a script, much different than it was four years ago.
“This is taking some of what Atomic used to be, with a little Sin City Improv, and doing something new. We saw Theatre Skam’s bike ride and thought, ‘Why not? Let’s push the envelope, so what if we fail?’”
In the castle
• The Fall of the House of Usher shows Oct. 21 to 31 at Craigdarroch Castle, 1050 Joan Cres.
• Showtime is 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 7 and 9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
• Tickets, $25 ($22 for Castle members), are available at www.ticketrocket.org or by phone at 250-590-6291.
• There is no seating; the performance moves between rooms and up and down stairs. There is no elevator in the building.