The Cecil Hotel stands tall, looming over a dark and dreary downtown Los Angeles. On the outside, the building seems like any other hotel. But for those who know the hotel’s grisly history, the “Cecil” is a character all on its own.
The hotel has been home to many gruesome deaths since its creation in 1924. For decades, its walls have been notorious for their mysterious and supernatural aura. And while the Cecil has always exuded this aura, the 2013 vanishing of Canadian student, Elisa Lam, has vaulted the hotel to unparalleled notoriety, inspiring countless conspiracy videos and a half-dozen documentaries. Now, in late-February 2021, it’ll be the focus of a new audio drama from the cast and crew of Theatre Erindale.
Written by award-winning playwright David Yee, and directed by multiple Dora Award winner, Nina Lee Aquino, the cecil hotel is a five-part audio series presented by fourth-year Theatre and Drama Studies students from UTM and Sheridan College. The Medium spoke with two cast members, Myles Botten and Tanisha Sinclair, to learn more about the upcoming audio series.
As Botten explains, the cecil hotel wasn’t always in the plans. “The crew had originally planned to perform a different David Yee piece.”
That’s because, initially, Yee tried writing a play that captured the emotions and conditions of the pandemic. Once it became clear that the pandemic wasn’t stopping anytime soon, Yee ditched his original project and set about writing five new pieces for an audio series, all set at the infamous Cecil Hotel.
While the directional change was unexpected, Sinclair cherished the chance to act in an audio drama. “I knew it’d be an incredible opportunity to work with David and Nina, so right from the season announcement, I hoped to be cast in the play,” says Sinclair.
“Once it got turned into an audio drama series, I became even more excited. I knew professional voiceover experience would help broaden my versatility. I’ve always wanted to get more voiceover experience before graduating—so it really worked out for the better!”
But as with everything Covid-19-related, various logistical issues arose when it came time to coordinate the production.
Botten explains how rehearsals were sometimes difficult to navigate with everything being virtual. “When dealing with technology to this extent, there’ll always be problems as anyone who’s attended a Zoom lecture can attest,” says Botten. “During production, there were near-constant problems with people’s Wi-Fi dropping out or losing lines because the microphone didn’t pick up what the actors were saying.”
Despite the technological issues facing the cast and crew, Sinclair expresses the team overcame them. “The technology caused a lot of setbacks, but we were all patient and had a sense of humour and lightheartedness. We dealt with it in ways that didn’t add any extra stress.”
Botten echoes this sentiment, saying, “Our fantastic director, Nina, was there for us at all times. Her generosity and magnificent mind helped us through any hurdles and made this the best production I’ve ever been a part of.”
And it was through this perseverance and collaboration that the cast and crew brought the cecil hotel to life. Botten and Sinclair both express their gratitude and excitement for the project.
“With the cecil hotel, you can expect laughter, heart, original music by the wonderful Michelle Bensimon, goosebumps, suspense, and some damn fine acting by our wonderful cast,” says Botten.
Meanwhile, Sinclair hopes audiences can come away appreciating the amount of effort and enthusiasm the cast and crew put into this show.
“I know people will enjoy all the incredible performances because every one of us gave it our all to make this audio drama series a special one,” says Sinclair. “This show is a wild ride with much to unpack, so I really hope people can listen again and pick up on the hidden gems in the writing as well.”A new 30-minute episode of the cecil hotel drops every day between February 16 and 20. You can find tickets to the audio series here. One ticket gives you all five episodes, which will be available online until April 9.