Finding Minnesota-based ghost stories to tell wasn’t a problem for Kevin Kling. “I have one or two too many, so I may have to murder a darling. That’s appropriate for this time of year,” he says.
Kling is making his annual foray to Open Eye Figure Theatre to collaborate with director Michael Sommers, and musicians Simone Perrin, Eric Jensen, and Jacqueline Ultan for The Thin Veil, a collection of stories and music about the borderlands between life and death.
As a storyteller, Kling has been to many festivals and heard plenty of ghost stories. It wasn’t something he was necessarily interested in at the time. “I’ve told them before, but not very often. You need a reason to tell a ghost story. I think ghost stories are so powerful. They are our response to death and the unknown. There is a bit of reverence and sacred quality to them. As a teller, one of the unique challenges in them is to immerse yourself in the suspension of disbelief,” he says.
While Kling takes tales from a number of traditions, he has stayed away from Native American stories. “The Native stories are largely their own stories and are medicine. Culturally, their ghost stories are dealing with their ancestors,” he says.
The stories he has selected are drawn from around the state, from chilling tales set in logging camps to ones on trains and farms. “A lot of them come from the Influenza Epidemic of 1918, and how it changed cities along the Mississippi River. There were so many kids brought here on the Orphan Trains,” Kilng says. “I have stayed in so many hotels and worked in so many theaters, and a lot of them are haunted.”
Kling sees two ways to look at ghosts. “It is a haunting from within and without. Ghosts are things that are looking for homes. They go bump in our hearts and minds. They are searching for a home. It is not on this side and not on that side,” he says.
“They go into a place that is forbidden. They allow you to go places you are afraid of so you can find out why you are afraid. You are in a safe place but you are still going into a dangerous area. I think people just love to be scared,” Kling says.
The various members of the ensemble work independently of each other before gathering at Open Eye to put the show together. “We get together in the room and all bring this toolkit of ideas. I come in with the stories. Michael has the set. Simone has found some wonderful songs, and Erik and Jacqueline have composed a lot of music,” Kling says. “It’s a wonderful way to work, but it still leaves a bit of the risk element.
Once it is all put together, “it will have touching moments and frightening ones. It is a way to explore these things that haunt us. It is like Cajun cooking: It touches every bit of the tongue. I think that is what I hope happens,” Kling says.
One other thing Kling lost on the show’s journey to stage? It’s original title. “I wanted to call it Corn on the Macabre. It got ixnayed. I do have a serious element to the stories, and that was a bit loose,” Kling says.
IF YOU GO
The Thin Veil
Thursday through November 1
Open Eye Figure Theatre
506 E. 24th St., Minneapolis
For more information, call 612-874-6338 or visit online.