Theatre BSMT’s exploration of horror continues with The Confession of Jeffrey Dahmer

Setting yourself apart as a theatre is no mean task – finding a way to be different, yet still entertaining and provocative enough to draw audiences requires some creative thinking. Now into their second season under a new mandate, Theatre BSMT is doing just that – creating their own niche by bringing horror theatre to the stage. It’s something artistic director Ryan Reese had wanted to do for a while, now finding himself with the opportunity to offer a fresh perspective on the genre with Theatre BSMT.

“Kyle (Schulte, former Theatre BSMT AD) and I were both planning to maybe launch a horror series anyway on our own time, (but) we had this platform already with an established nonprofit and it was in need of a change and (thought), ‘Why don’t we try to present it on this already platform we have and just go for it?’ ”

If there was any doubt as to whether or not the shift to the genre of horror has worked, Theatre BSMT’s production of The Curing Room with Theatre Outre last year resulted in a sold-out run. And, this season, both theatre companies have once again teamed up to present The Confession of Jeffrey Dahmer – a production, and topic, that is strangely appealing to audiences right now.

“The Jeffrey Dahmer story is so interesting because there is a fascination with it,” says Reese. “I guess the comment I get a lot is that Jeffrey Dahmer is just so popular right now, I’ve been hearing it constantly so I guess it was a good choice. It makes sense because of the podcast Serial, Making a Murderer, and all of these true crime stories, it’s just a fascination for the abomination (of it),” he says, adding that for audiences a play is a pretty safe way to peer into the window of somebody’s psyche and to learn about such subjects.

There is also little room for misinterpretation of the script in Confession, which Reese explains is a verbatim play. “Almost the entirety of the script is taken from actual interviews and quotes of (Dahmer’s) so it is his words, just channeled through an actor. I have read the script a lot and it does give you quite a good look about how somebody (like Dahmer) is feeling mentally. There was a documentary called Child of Rage on HBO about a young girl who was basically like Jeffrey Dahmer; she was looking to mutilate things and then she received the proper help and she is a functioning member of society now. So it makes you wonder if Jeffrey Dahmer had found somebody who could have helped, where he would have gone? There’s a (look at) mental health in the play that I think is important.”

Even though Reese admits to not being an expert on all aspects of the horror genre, he does have a good sense for what works. “I know when horror is firing on all cylinders in live theatre, I think I have gained expertise in that field … I think I know what the optimal horror experience is for an audience.”

Reese doesn’t want the horror aspect to put anyone off for fear of what they might be in store for. “I think if anybody is a little bit hesitant or scared to come to the show I would say that horror is a new genre that considers it’s audience a lot more than other genres, so just know that there is a lot of thought put in to what you are going to see and how you are going to experience it.”

This one-man show, performed by Jay Whitehead, will also include detailed and interesting projections as a background, so, as Reese says, it’s not just you and Jeffrey Dahmer in a room. “(The show is) quite disturbing,” he admits, “but it’s accessible – horror is more accessible than people give it credit for I think, and we’re trying to show that.”

The Confession of Jeffrey Dahmer runs Feb. 20 – 24 at Birds & Stone Theatre, tickets and info available at

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Kari Watson is a writer and former Listings Editor of FFWD Weekly, and has continued to bring event listings to Calgary through theYYSCENE and her event listings page, The Culture Cycle. Contact her at