Rust Belt Theater Company Brings to Life, “Living Dead: The Musical”

By Nami Nagaoka 

The Rust Belt Theater Company performed “Living Dead: The Musical” each Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. from October 12 through 27, with a special midnight showing on closing night at the Calvin Center on Mahoning Avenue.

The show was written by Youngstown’s Robert Dennick Joki and Josh Taylor, as a musical parody of the classic horror films “Night of the Living Dead.”

The Rust Belt Theater Company has a tradition of doing “Living Dead: The Musical” each October near Halloween and this was their seventh year performing the show.

The show is a “gem” of Youngstown and the original show hasn’t been performed anywhere else.

Although playwright Joki has been directing the show since it hit the Rust Belt stage, Joshua Fleming, who usually performs in the show, tried his hand at directing it this fall. This was the first time someone other than Joki directed “Living Dead: The Musical.”

“I’m less nervous about letting other people direct now because [the show] turned out so well,” Joki said.

Fleming said most of the materials in the show were the same from previous shows, but he added some additional design elements and jokes to the script. He said his favorite part of the changes he made was a costume he designed.

“My cast was fantastic, my support was fantastic … everybody did so well,” Fleming said.

He described not being onstage as “weird,” but expressed his love for directing and making sure the show runs smoothly.

“I love Youngstown, I love working in Youngstown,” Fleming said.

Jacob Nash, a junior general studies major, portrayed Tom in “Living Dead: The Musical.”

Nash said he’s enjoyed performing on a stage for various local theaters such as The Youngstown Playhouse, Salem Community Theatre, Millennial Theatre Company, New Castle Playhouse, Victorian Players and Youngstown State University’s Department of Theatre and Dance.

“Living Dead: The Musical” was Nash’s third shows at the Rust Belt Theater Company.

“The Rust Belt typically produces original work and that’s very unique,” he said

In this show, Nash worked with castmates he worked with in previous projects in Youngstown and YSU theaters. Nash said working with people you know, in his opinion, is less intimidating because you can depend on and trust your friends more so than strangers.

“You aren’t judged for how well you do in rehearsals and it’s not as competitive as some other theaters,” he said.

Nash described the Rust Belt Theater Company as having a good sense of community and family and allows actors to have artistic freedom.

“They are so kind, welcoming and open. It’s a wonderful experience,” he said.