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Creature features on the riverwalk

Victor Frankenstein and his creature will mingle with ghosts of transportation systems past in Cayce this Halloween.

High Voltage Theatre's new adaptation of Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" will come to life at the cement slab loading area for the old Cayce locks. It's a most unusual pairing of a story and a venue that both date from the 1800s.

Shelley finished her book in 1817. Construction began on the locks in 1893 to enable cargo ships to get around shoals on the Congaree River.

River shipping died only a few years later, and the lock walls and the loading dock have served as little more than metaphoric tombstones since then.

The construction of the Cayce Riverwalk a few years ago regenerated interest in the riverfront locks. Mike Dawson, director of the River Alliance, felt the loading dock slab could be used for small concerts or theatrical productions. He mentioned that to Chris Cook, artistic director of High Voltage Theatre and the creator of the "Legend of Sleepy Hollow" production at the West Columbia amphitheater.

Dawson "said there was this space where we might be able to do something and I should go check it out," Cook said. "It was Spartan and rustic, but I thought, 'You know, we could make a little theater here.' "

Dawson refers to it grandly as "Granby Locks Outdoor Theater." But the operation is short on funds, so there won't be a raised stage this year. They will have sets, lighting and a sound system. Cayce is doing everything it can to help Cook start a new Halloween tradition, said city manager John Sharpe.

People will need to bring their own seats or spread blankets on a small berm. The nearest parking area is about a quarter mile away at Riverland Park subdivision. But the stroll along the paved riverwalk trail, either from Riverland Park or the farther hike to the closest parking area to the north, will be half the fun. There's just enough lighting along the trail to make it spooky but not really scary. (Police will patrol the riverwalk those nights.)

Cook adapted Shelley's book into a 75-minute production with a 10-minute intermission. He accentuated some of the scarier aspects, but he also tried to keep it more true to the book than the many Hollywood adaptations.

For Cook, dealing with the unknown in putting together a new production brings a sense of deja vu. Seven years ago, he expected maybe a dozen people to show up for his first production of "Sleepy Hollow" at Midlands Tech. With word of mouth, it drew 300 people.

Now "Sleepy Hollow" is a Midlands October tradition at the West Columbia amphitheater. Cook took a break from the production several years ago when his daughter was born.

"Sleepy Hollow" has continued, with shows slated for Friday and Saturday, Oct. 15-17, 22-24 and 29-31. The new "Frankenstein" has a much more limited run - Oct. 29-Nov. 1. The two shows will be competing for audiences at either end of the Cayce-West Columbia riverwalks for three nights.

Shortly after turning over "Sleepy Hollow" to others, Cook was champing at the bit and wrote the "Frankenstein" adaptation. A few years ago, he even printed up posters for a "Frankenstein" production, leaving the dates and specifics blank.

This year, his creature finally is coming to life.

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