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Department Of Theatre And Media Arts

The Making of a Thriller: Behind the Scenes of Wait Until Dark

Actor Malin Glade and Assistant Director Elyna Mellen Explain their Experience Creating the Classic Hair-Raising Play

The sound of screams echoed through the West Campus Studio Theatre this October as BYU Theatre’s production of “Wait Until Dark” was a spine-chilling success, with sold-out shows a stand-by line every night.

For “Susy” actor Malin Glade and assistant student director Elyna Mellen, the show provided an opportunity to dive into complexities in characters and production — which pushed the audience to change their perspective. Glade and Mellen provided insights into the making of “Wait Until Dark.”

Malin Glade as Susy in “Wait Until Dark.” Photo by BYU Photo

Q: What do you hope audiences felt as they watched the show?

Glade: I think the impact of this show lives in its depiction of trust, independence and survival. This is the journey of a woman learning to trust her own capabilities and mind. I hope people left feeling empowered to trust themselves in a similar manner. Emotion isn’t weakness. Kindness isn’t weakness. Disability isn’t weakness. Susy’s greatest error is second guessing her own mind and that is something she overcomes as the play concludes.

Mellen: I hope that as the show progressed, audiences felt a rising sense of tension and maybe even fear along with the characters. I hope they became invested in Suzy's ability to figure out the truth and survive and were left with a sense of catharsis by the end.

The Cast and Crew of "Wait Until Dark" Answer Questions on Set. Photo Courtesy Elyna Mellen

Q: What was your favorite part of putting on Wait Until Dark?

Glade: I always love the opportunity to explore the emotional stakes of the characters I play. This project afforded me very high stakes to work against while also presenting me with a beautifully complex character. I find it incredibly cathartic to commit to those emotions completely — the deepest love and most devastating fear.

Mellen: My favorite aspect of working on Wait Until Dark was witnessing the evolution of the production from start to finish. By watching the performance daily in rehearsal for months, I became acutely aware of how hard work and trusting the process paid off for everyone. It was so gratifying seeing the intricate tech elements come together, feeling the actors get comfortable in their characters and confident in their choices and finally observing how the audience introduced their kinetic energy and visceral reactions to make the storytelling complete.

Q: What artistic choices did the directors and cast make to create the spooky atmosphere?

Glade: We worked hard to push the stakes as high as we could. There are many moments in this show that are life and death and we actors committed to that reality. The dramatic irony of the piece also helps to elevate the spookiness — the audience knows the danger my character’s in even when I don’t. The lighting! From high contrast red to complete darkness to fire. I had the complete freedom of staring blankly into audience members’ eyes. We also got to play with some brutal-looking fight choreography (thanks to “Carlino” actor Hunter Aro). The script gives us lots to work with but it takes connecting it to authentic humanity to really scare people. It’s only so scary to watch a stranger being chased by a monster. It’s a whole lot more thrilling and devastating to see someone you’ve spent two hours coming to care about facing a human being you’ve learned to fear.

Hunter Aro as Carlino with Malin Glade as Susy in “Wait Until Dark.” Photo by BYU Photo

Mellen: I think a large reason this show was so effective was that everyone was wholly committed to the reality of the world of the play, actors and technicians alike. Every light flicker and sound cue was carefully choreographed to enhance the realism of the story and contribute to the tension. Likewise, every choice the actors made was motivated and intentional. I think these elements culminated expertly in the climactic end scene to create an incredibly high-stakes, tension-filled and spooky finale of the show thanks to the intense commitment of all involved.

Q: Why is theatre important to you?

Glade: Theatre is my happy place. You wouldn’t know it watching me up there screaming and bawling my eyes out but there is nothing I’d rather be doing. There is something so connective about it — the opportunity to create and feel along with people you trust. The ultimate act of empathy is willingly engaging in the emotions and experiences of someone else. In this way, it reminds me of the Atonement.

Mellen: In my perspective, theatre is the greatest tool we have to expand, deepen and challenge our understanding of the world around us, particularly the lens through which we view others and ourselves. Even through a play such as this, we are urged to challenge our assumptions of who we view as trustworthy or who we perceive as capable. Hopefully, we can learn to trust our own capabilities in the process.