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May 12, 2011 | 12:00 a.m. CST
Adam J. McCall knows what it’s like to be murdered.
In November 2010, McCall, 28, played one of the main characters in Columbia Entertainment Company’s dark comedy whodunit Art of Murder. Although initially he was the one plotting the murder, his character, Jack Brooks, winds up six feet under.Related Articles
In Art of Murder, Brooks is an egocentric artist who plots to kill his art dealer, Vincent, if he doesn’t start bringing in the dough for Jack’s art. In the comedic murder mystery, the plans go awry when Jack lets his wife, Annie, in on the scheme and she takes control of the murder — with her own intentions. Annie drugs Jack and places him in an isolation tank to drown. McCall says performing in the scene created the sense of fear his character was feeling.
McCall used his training to imagine how his character felt before being murdered. He says actors have to reach in and bring out emotions they rarely trigger. “You can go to those places and be there for a little bit and then leave,” McCall says. Luckily for him, he can walk off stage with his ticker still beating.
The second time he was killed came with his role as Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar for Columbia Entertainment Company in February 2011. “It was one of my favorite things to do theatrically because there were no boundaries,” he says.
Dan Schultz, actor and theater professor at Stephens College, says many actors have difficulty grasping a killer’s instinct. “But a famous acting teacher has a quote, ‘If you’ve ever been bit by a mosquito and seen it on your arm and have the sudden urge to swat it, the instinct of a killer is inside you,’” he says. “You can then access that and bring it to the stage.”
The key is to make the audience riveted so it can’t turn away from the action onstage, even if a murder is underway, Schultz says.
McCall says fear is an element of the theater experience an audience craves. “Murder is popular because people are curious about it,” McCall says. “People want to know what ticks behind it. It’s exciting. It sounds horrible, but unless it happens to you, you’re far removed from that actual experience. You’re not as affected by the implications.”