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Playwright Ike Holter Wants to Expand Horror Genre on Stage With World Premiere Play “Put Your House in Order”

Playwright Ike Holter opens up about his new romantic comedy horror thriller play "Put Your House In Order," diversity on the stage and how his upbringing inspired the play.

La Jolla Playhouse's new world premiere play, "Put Your House in Order," is quite the mystery. 

"I'm not sure I can answer that without spoiling it." 

"I'm trying to think without spoiling what the show is."

"That's hard to talk about."

Playwright Ike Holter wants to keep as much of his new horror play under wraps before audiences see it. 

That's just how he does it, Holter said in a recent phone interview with NBC 7 San Diego, in the midst of tech rehearsals for the play. 

Some people want to know all about the show they're going to see, and others don't want to know anything about the show, Holter said. 

By keeping the details a secret, he hopes audiences come in curious and ready to engage with a new experience. 

"Going in not knowing what you're expecting is a cool part of that process," Holter explained. 

So What Can You Expect?
Holter revealed a few details about his world premiere play ahead of curtain. 

"Put Your House in Order" is a romantic comedy horror thriller that takes place in Evanston, just outside Chicago. The play follow Caroline and Rolan as they go on their first date when suddenly, something goes terribly wrong. 

Even though it may be billed as "horror," Holter said, audiences shouldn't be intimidated -- it's also really [sic] funny. 

"I think that most people think of this genre as, 'Oh, God, I don't want to see something that's scary, because I think of Freddie Kruger,'" Holter said. "But I think horror has a vast depth to it, just as much as genres as drama, comedy and musical." 

"Put Your House in Order" was born out of Holter's desire to explore how humans deal with the possibility of things changing very quickly. He wanted to look at how people are forced to confront a situation that seems insurmountable -- without the ability to turn to technology as an escape. 

"I'm a person who is in their early 30s, a millennial, and I think we've kind of grown up in this world where we get turned off and turned onto things where it's like, these horrible things happen in the world but there's so many horrible things that we can't actually focus on them and they just seem kind of insurmountable and therefore not easy to take care of," Holter said. 

The playwright examined how far people can be pushed before they are willing to take action. 

"That's something i don't just think about writing a play, it's something i think about every day as a person in the world," Holter added. "I think about that a lot as an American."

When Holter talks with audiences after his plays, he's noticed that everyone takes away different messages.

There is no guidebook that explains to audience members the themes and opinions the show and its characters will touch on -- nor should there be, Holter said. 

"I think that all good plays are mysteries, even if they're not in the mystery genre," Holter said. 

Diversity on Stage and Behind the Stage
One of the most exciting parts about working on this play at La Jolla Playhouse: the people working on the show, Holter said. 

"We actually don't have many white males working on this show, and I think that's a first for a lot of places, where it's run by people of color and women in leading positions for a lot of these roles," Holter said. 

In past years, with movies like "Get Out" and "Hereditary," artists have begun chipping away at the breadth of the horror genre.

"Most of the horror we see, I think 95 to 98 percent of it, is conducted through a white male lens," Holter added. One of the unique parts about "Put Your House is Order" is that is tells a story about people of color being normal people, Holter said. 

Within the genre, everyone has different fears, Holter said: "What's scary to me as a millennial gay black person who lives in the Midwest, is much different than what is scary to someone else who lives in Ohio and is a white women in her 70s." 

Telling this story is a theater, as opposed to a movie or TV show, changes the experience for audiences. 

"When you have something that's funny and crazy and weird, you get to celebrate that fear," Holter said. "There's something about getting a thrill with a big group of 300 people that is really unique."  

"Put Your House in Order" runs at La Jolla Playhouse through June 30. You can get tickets for the rom-com meets apocalyptic thriller here

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