Early directors of the Théâtre du Grand Guignol might have understood the guilty pleasure of today's reality TV, but it is highly unlikely that Bunny Ranch escapades would have satisfied the Parisian thirst for perversity. Around the turn of the 20th century, Guignol audiences gathered within living memory of public executions; a good night out was measured by fainting spells; the Marquis de Sade was considered both hero and inspiration; and the word "cunt" was hurled from the stage as often as animal entrails. It was low-brow shock-theater at its most explicit and sadistic. Little wonder that it took a troupe from San Francisco to revive the graphic art form and give it a permanent home. For more than 15 years, Thrillpeddlers has been staging authentic and original Grand Guignol scripts, forging relationships with like-minded lunatics worldwide. The result is www.grandguignol.com, a thespian depot of scandal and scholarship, and the Hypnodrome, an appropriately seedy theater which features a working guillotine, a 16-foot tall funhouse devil, a ready-made Victorian funeral cortege, and a row of private "Shock Boxes," which have been known to elicit some moans long before the house-of-horrors climax. This year's Shocktoberfest!!: Maker of Monsters opens each night with Google: Fetish, a variety show of unusual sexual compulsions curated and directed by UC Berkeley professor, theatrical historian, and longtime Thrillpeddler confederate Mel Gordon. The program also features three one-acts: 1929's classic carnival nightmare The Maker of Monsters, a chilling Thrillpeddler original called The Colossus, and a new comedy titled The Bloody Con (according to Gordon, humor in the Grand Guignol always caused more trouble than sex or violence). This year's special guest performers include Mike Spiegelman, Harmon Leon, Eddie Muller, Paul Mercer, Jill Tracy, and Jello Biafra.
Oct. 12-Nov. 17, 8 p.m., 2007