By JOE DURWIN
PITTSFIELD — Zombies. From the Emmy’s to bizarre news headlines to Skittles commercials, they seem to be everywhere we look.
Since 2010, downtown Pittsfield has seen increasingly large mobs of them assemble each October for a “Zombie Pub Crawl,” a new recreational fad which has spread like a virus in cities across the U.S., Europe and Australia since the mid 2000s.
This year, the group behind this event has partnered with some businesses in the community to expand into three days of varied zombie-themed festivities with a charitable purpose. Along with the annual pub crawl, Zombify Pittsfield (Oct. 11-13) will feature an art show, zombie movie showings and a prom, with several incentives for donating nonperishable foods.
“From the Silver Screen to the CDC’s publicity department, the zombie theme is huge,” said DA Chaney, a popular zombie fiction author who serves as a sort of celebrity spokesperson for the group. “ZAC (Zombie Action Committee) is tapping into that popular interest and trying to use it to do some good in the community, and incorporate some demographics that might not be as likely to be reached by more traditional charitable initiatives.”
The event begins with an art show in a barber shop, curated by Autumn Doyle, a local artist and the head of the local Zombie Action Committee. According to Doyle, the exhibit “aims to express and encompass themes of life, death and undeath in their various forms from folklore and religion to our more contemporary fascination with zombies and the apocalypse.” All ages are welcome at a reception at 441 North Street at 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 11.
A little something for all ages
Parents and grown-ups alike may enjoy Friday night’s feature event, the Zombie Pub Crawl, at restaurants and taverns throughout downtown, with makeup stations at Dottie’s Coffee Lounge and Beacon Cinema from 5-7 p.m. where volunteers supervised by theatrical makeup experts will zombify interested participants for a fee of $4. While many participants will enjoy libations until the last pub closes, families and teens are encouraged to get zombified to eat, shop or enjoy the downtown walking loop throughout Pittsfield’s Upstreet Art District. At 7:30 p.m., the Beacon Cinema will show the blockbuster zombie comedy “Shaun of the Dead” for $5, with free popcorn for those who donate items of quality canned foods or other nonperishables.
Saturday the Beacon will follow up with a screening of the family-friendly Tim Burton classic “Corpse Bride” (PG) at 3 p.m.
For parental guidelines, Roger Ebert cautions that “quite young or impressionable children may be scared by the skeletal characters. Everyone is relatively jolly, however, so maybe not.“
Later that evening, the upstairs ballroom of Spice Dragon will be transformed into what organizers describe as “your high school prom, gone terribly wrong.” Local favorite DJ BFG will be joined by special guest VJ B-17 Bomber, projecting classic zombie and prom video to dance grooves to create what they call “a party atmosphere not quite like anything seen before in the Berkshires.” Cost of admission is $8, or $5 with a contribution of two or more food items.
The food drive aspect of the event is in keeping with a common theme to many zombie-themed events taking place internationally as part of something called World Zombie Day, held on Oct. 13 this year. Donations collected at Pittsfield’s WZD events will be given to support the Christian Center’s high-volume food pantry. The ZAC asks that all food donations be quality nonperishables which are within their expiration dates.
“Sometimes in food drive situations, people just raid their cupboards and bring things they would never eat themselves,” said ZAC Communications Director Palmer Dietrich. “We’re asking that they not do this.”
Sponsors for the three-day undead extravaganza include Bespoke Costuming, Spice Dragon, Aldam Press, Beacon Cinema, Go Pittsfield, Phineas Gage’s Moral High Ground, Mad Jacks BBQ and Cultural Pittsfield. For more information about ZOMBIFY Pittsfield go online to SurviveBerkshires.wordpress.com.