Woody Herron interview
Wednesday, October 27, 2021 – 10:15 p.m.
Woody Herron is the Assistant Stage Manager for the Yoknapatawpha Players.
Detectives Beckwith and Magee spoke to him at the Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department.
- Detective P. Beckwith
- Detective J. Magee
- Woody Herron
Detective Beckwith: Mr. Herron?
Woody Herron: Yes, that's me.
Detective Beckwith: We need to speak with you for a moment, please.
Woody Herron: Of course.
Detective Magee: Thank you. Would you please state your name and address for the record?
Woody Herron: Woodrow Wayne Herron, but please call me Woody. My address is 2219 Lee Loop, Oxford, Mississippi.
Detective Beckwith: Thank you. This is Detective Magee, and I'm Detective Beckwith. We'd like to ask you a few questions about what happened earlier this afternoon.
Woody Herron: Okay. Can I sit? I feel like I need to sit. I'm a little woozy.
Detective Magee: Please do. Do you need some water?
Woody Herron: No, I don't think that will help.
Detective Beckwith: We won't keep you long, but we do need to ask you some questions.
Woody Herron: I understand.
Detective Magee: What was your involvement in today's rehearsal?
Woody Herron: Crew. I'm the assistant stage manager.
Detective Beckwith: What does the assistant stage manager do?
Woody Herron: Well, the stage manager oversees the crew and the overall running of the show, so it's a lot of responsibility. This YP production is an enormous undertaking because of the immersive aspect, so the SM needed an ASM.
Detective Magee: Hold up. What's YP, what's SM, and what's ASM?
Woody Herron: Yoknapatawpha Players, stage manager, and assistant stage manager.
Detective Magee: Oh, okay. Got it. What time did you arrive at the theatre?
Woody Herron: I got there around 3:00 p.m. I made sure all the props and set pieces were in place and that the makeup was out and ready to use.
Detective Magee: Were you alone?
Woody Herron: No, Scott was there too. We went through the pre-show checklist, then he went to double-check something, and I went to get into costume and makeup before the others arrived.
Detective Magee: Then?
Woody Herron: Cast and crew started arriving around 4:00 p.m., and they were all there by 5:00 p.m. The so-called audience started arriving around 5:30 p.m. for a 6:00 p.m. start.
Detective Magee: "So-called audience"?
Woody Herron: It was the board members, not an audience of strangers, is all I mean.
Detective Beckwith: What was your role in the play?
Woody Herron: Just atmosphere, dressed as a zombie, but with my job as ASM, I was rushing around making sure everything was going right. It was a little crazy.
Detective Beckwith: How so?
Woody Herron: Well, the logistics of the audience being part of it is a nightmare, so the rehearsal had all this crazy energy. Wrangling cast, crew, and board members serving as the audience participants … it was intense. Scott and I lost some of the control we usually have.
Detective Magee: When did that happen?
Woody Herron: I don't think we ever completely had it. It's the nature of immersive. You plan and schedule and choreograph, but live theatre is unpredictable, and when you add unrehearsed people into the mix … things can go sideways, you know? And you just can't rehearse for every contingency.
Detective Magee: Where were you during the play?
Woody Herron: Everywhere. Normally, the crew is off stage on headsets, but headsets were scrapped so we could be anonyzombies. We had to physically run around to call the cues and/or make the technical aspects happen ourselves.
Detective Magee: Anonyzombies?
Woody Herron: Yeah, sorry. There were many discussions at the production meetings about headsets, making it impossible for us to be anonymous zombies. Scott and I started referring to ourselves as Anonyzombie 1 and Anonyzombie 2.
Detective Beckwith: So start from the top, and tell us as much as you can remember about where you were.
Woody Herron: Top of the show, Scott brought the lights up and blasted the fog machine in Checkpoint #1, which is the entrance area. I turned the sound on. It goes through speakers in Checkpoint #1. Then people are split up and sent to either the armory or the mortuary, and lights and sound move to those areas simultaneously.
Detective Magee: And this goes on throughout the play? Lights and sound moving with the action?
Woody Herron: Yes. It's somewhat computerized and automatic, but speakers can be knocked over, or wires can get knocked loose, so I ran around to make sure none of that happened. Except for the floor getting slippery from all the fake blood, everything went pretty well until Janet messed up.
Detective Beckwith: Janet who?
Woody Herron: Sorry. Janet Weber
Detective Beckwith: How'd she mess up?
Woody Herron: She left Heath in quarantine. She was supposed to release him, but she left him in there.
Detective Magee: Okay, so tell us this part of the storyline, and we're going to need for you to use last names here.
Woody Herron: So, first of all, Heath Rushing was supposed to pair up with Ervin Cyr, but for some reason, at the last minute, he got paired up with Neal Caine.
Detective Magee: Do you know why?
Woody Herron: No idea. It's not a huge deal because they were unrehearsed audience members, but still.
Detective Beckwith: And then what happened?
Woody Herron: According to the script, two audience members get paired up with Anna Kessler and Janet Weber, who are the medical personnel actors. At rehearsal, the two audience members ended up being Heath and Neal. The team is scripted to collect a blood sample from a corpse to make a serum. Okay, actually, Heath messed up too.
Detective Magee: How so?
Woody Herron: He collected an entire arm in the mortuary.
Detective Magee: Any idea why?
Woody Herron: I guess he thought it would be funny. He was supposed to get infected, but I don't remember that he was supposed to take a body part.
Detective Beckwith: How does Janet play into this?
Woody Herron: According to the script, Anna, Janet, Neal, and Heath move from the mortuary to the mobile lab. Heath gets infected with the virus, and Janet puts him in the quarantine room. But she never took him out. She was supposed to release him when Anna ordered everyone out the back door of the lab.
Detective Magee: Were you there to let him out?
Woody Herron: No.
Detective Beckwith: Where were you when Heath was in the quarantine room?
Woody Herron: I made sure the alarm sounded to warn of Heath's infection, but then I had to move near to Checkpoint #2 on the battlefield to make sure the combatants were safely performing the choreographed fights.
Detective Beckwith: Where's Checkpoint #2?
Woody Herron: Near the entrance to the maze area leading to the exit point.
Detective Magee: Where was Scott supposed to be?
Woody Herron: At that point, Scott was supposed to be on the other side of the room, also making sure the fights were being safely performed.
Detective Beckwith: Did you see him there?
Woody Herron: Not that I could tell. Zombies and soldiers were fighting, and audience members were running through the checkpoint.
Detective Magee: At some point, did you realize Scott was missing?
Woody Herron: Yes. Once the last audience member went through the checkpoint and was followed by the soldiers and zombies, I could see he wasn't there, so I started calling for him. There was still a lot of noise as the show wound down.
Detective Magee: How did you happen to find him?
Woody Herron: I did a quick pass through the areas starting from the entrance. I went into the mobile lab and checked the quarantine room. That's when I saw that the wall had fallen down. I stepped into the backstage area and saw that something was underneath the wall.
Detective Beckwith: Was it dark back there?
Woody Herron: Yes, but I had a flashlight. I looked underneath and saw that it was Scott.
Detective Magee: And then?
Woody Herron: I ran through the backstage area to a hidden door in the east lobby screaming for help. A couple of people followed me back to where Scott was, and we lifted the wall off of him.
Detective Beckwith: Who followed you?
Woody Herron: Neal Caine, Ervin Cyr, Denis Goodman for sure, because they helped lift the wall. And I think maybe Cherie Atkinson started to follow us, but … I don't know.
Detective Magee: What happened then?
Woody Herron: Scott was face down, so Erv and I flipped him over, and Erv started CPR. Neal called 911.
Detective Magee: Are you aware of any previous issues with unstable set walls?
Woody Herron: No, it's unusual for the set walls to come apart.
Detective Magee: Was the set built any sturdier for the immersive aspect of involving non-actors?
Woody Herron: No, it wasn't. Listen, I'm really not feeling well at all, detectives. Can I go get some water, please?
Detective Beckwith: I think we can stop for now. We appreciate all of the detail you've provided, but we may need to talk to you again.
Woody Herron: Of course. I understand. Thank you.
Interview ended – 10:37 p.m.