Post by David Kuhn
To date I have been in three plays, all of them after losing my eyesight. The first play I had a leading role; the next play, three smaller parts; and for the third, Night of the Living Dead, I was only in a couple of pre-recorded video shoots. I guess I’m going downhill, and the next step will probably be – oh no, director!
For the Night of the Living Dead I was one of the zombies. A few days before my Ironman in Wisconsin, the director of the play, Tim, assembled all of us zombies for a little walking dead training. Tim gave a number of visual examples of how to “walk like a zombie.” Well, since they were visual, of course, they didn’t exactly work for me.
“Hey Tim,” I asked, “Do you have a couple of minutes to work with me so I understand what you just did?”
Before he could answer, a woman next to me who I had just been talking with, grabbed my arm and said, “I’ll be glad to help you,” and off we went a few feet from everyone else.
She gave me clear instructions, but still, there was a problem: me. Rather than focus on zombie-ing, I focused on enjoying a fun conversation with her. (Me? Enjoying a fun conversation with a woman? Hard to believe, I know.)
After a few minutes she told me “You’re in too good of shape. You’re going to have to work hard and really get into the part.” Apparently being out-of-shape worked well for being a zombie.
When we parted she thoughtfully indicated that I might not be right for that part. Ah, but little did she know that beneath that physically fit exterior was nothing but pure ham, spontaneously and involuntarily brought out by the click of a video camera or stage lights.
The night of the shoot, which was immediately after I had just completed a nice long run followed by a very quick shower (no time to eat), we met at the theater, got into costumes and make-up, and were whisked away to an old, dark, abandoned farm house in disrepair roughly fifteen miles away – ooooo scary!
The cameraman shot several videos of other cast members before finally coming to us zombies. He stood somewhere out in front of us (again, keep in mind: I can’t see!) when he gave a few quick instructions then said, “Okay, start walking toward the camera and DO NOT TALK. I need to pick up the shuffling sounds from your feet.”
Uh-oh, I thought. I didn’t work out how I was to be guided for this, so no one guided me. I was left on my own to quickly – and silently – figure something out. The woman on my left and the man on my right took turns guiding me around the grounds earlier, so I thought if I reached out and tapped them on the arm they would understand and guide me now. I could hear their shuffling feet, but how far away?
As I dragged my right foot I gingerly reached to my left… no contact. I gingerly reached to my right… no contact. Now what?
We seemed to be heading in the direction of the only thing I could see: a bright light. But, where was the cameraman in relation to that light? Oh no, I didn’t want to run into him and bang the camera up against his eye. So what‘s an undead guy to do?
With my arms, hand and fingers loose, I lightly reached out, alternating hands in sweeping motions, trying my best to lightly make contact with someone or something to give me a bearing. Since I can’t actually see, it didn’t matter in which direction I “looked,” so I rotated and swiveled my head loosely in every direction as I shuffled my feet – kind of what I thought I was supposed to be doing.
Finally I did make contact with someone: the cameraman, who exclaimed “DAMN! I wasn’t expecting it to be this good! Do that one more time, I want to make sure I got it.” Wonder who he was talking about?
“He means you, David,” said the woman on my left.
The guy on my right added, “Yeah. You even scared the hell out of us.”
The thing is, I was only doing what came naturally for someone who couldn’t see. I keep telling people there are perks to losing my sight, and I guess being a fantastic zombie is one of them!
After the shuffling, we were to be filmed eating. A “human” leg and other parts were made out of Jell-O, and portions of it were dumped into our open, cupped hands. We were told to eat as though we were extremely hungry.
Really? Roughly three hours ago I had completed a 16-mile run and hadn’t eaten yet – how hard could this be? The Jell-O body parts weren’t exactly filling and didn’t really taste that good, but my body was screaming “FEED ME! NOW!” When the video was done the cameraman remarked how convincing I was at being desperately hungry.
One of my fellow zombies remarked that she found the Jell-O to be disgusting and didn’t want to be recorded eating it, then said “I looked at the video man and noticed he was focused on you. I stopped eating that stuff and got caught up watching you too – you looked like you were really enjoying it!”
I was flattered, but all I could think of was: any chance there’s some real food around?
So, what have I learned? I might not be destined to be a director after all. All I have to do is audition for hungry zombie parts. Apparently I’m a natural!
David Kuhn is a 62-year-old father of two daughters and grandfather of four grandchildren, as well as a runner who has competed on Team With A Vision, a team of runners who are blind or visually impaired and their sighted guides who run for the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired.
Motivated by his 12-year-old granddaughter, Kylie, who has cystic fibrosis, David is currently running the perimeter states of the United States to raise awareness and funds for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Due to his blindness, he either runs on tracks or alongside a sighted guide. Learn more on the project’s Facebook page, called It’s All I Can Do.