The remainder of this essay will suggest what meanings are created by the site-specificity of the 2011 Toronto Zombie Walk. What follows is an analysis of the performance through an examination of its route and its environs. The aim is to discuss that, true to the event’s promotional material, the walk is “fun.” Through an exploration of the route, I will discuss how the Walk makes fun, street-by-street and turn-by-turn. This analysis will provide an example of how the environment of any performance–its physical and locational semiotics–serve as a foundation for the theatrical experience. The Toronto Zombie Walk transforms the city into a theatrical space, resulting in a meaningful and fun dialogue between the individual, the city, the performance, the public and private spaces as well as the space-turned-performance space. The result is a contemporary, urban, site-specific, zombie-themed, carnivalesque performance.
Zombies in the City
With a number of recent zombie films shot in Toronto, and official Zombie Walks dating back to 2003, Toronto has become familiar with zombie imagery. At the same time, the circumstances and imagery surrounding a fictional zombie uprising are becoming shockingly common and relate-able in urban existence. As Kyle Bishop (2010) suggests, “Scenes depicting deserted metropolitan streets, abandoned human corpses, and gangs of lawless vigilantes have become more common than ever, appearing on the nightly news as often as on the movie screen” (11). With images of the June 2010 anti-G20 riots still fresh in the minds of Torontonians, and recent Occupy Toronto movements garnering media attention, the poignancy of a hoard claiming the streets as their own stirs memories, as well as political and social viewpoints in the citizenry. In a post-SARS, post-H1N1 large urban centre like Toronto, the performance of a viral zombie epidemic recalls the horrors of rapidly-spreading maladies and resulting panic in congested cities. The image of a sick city is an image of terror. In zombie literature and film, a viral zombie uprising “encapsulates the elements of an epidemic that should arouse the greatest amount of dread and anxiety from individuals” (Drezner 100). This breed of fun is one which plays with mindsets and memories, prompting the audience to re-view the meanings attached to shared experiences, gatherings and energy exchange in common spaces, as well as how media covers urban events.