As days get shorter and the nights get longer, a chill in the air welcomes the season of ghosts and what comes beyond death. Call it the spirit of Halloween — a time to relish in mysterious things.

At St. Paul's O'Shaughnessy, movements will provide that allure when James Sewell Ballet presents "In the Shadows," featuring works inspired by Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and Edgar Allan Poe's poetry and short stories, with a piece about zombies thrown in for good measure.

"That's one of those parts of the human spirit that is really kind of fun to play with," said artistic director James Sewell, who has two works in the show and performs in the choral ballet "Unfashioned Creature," choreographed by Penelope Freeh.

Sewell created the zombie-themed "Grave Matters" in 2011, working with dancers to develop their own characters through improvisation. In revisiting the work, Sewell went back to an improvisational approach, with a new cast of dancers discovering their own personal zombies.

In "Takes on Poe," first presented in 2012, Sewell draws on works by the Boston-born poet and author, like "The Cask of Amontillado."

"I just reread it again, when I was resetting it with the dancers, and realized how sparse it is," Sewell said. "The actual writing leaves so much to your imagination. And yet that's kind of what makes it terrifying."

For the work, Sewell sometimes mixes Poe's works together. For instance, a duet featuring the lovers from the poem "Annabel Lee" becomes a pas de trois when the titular creature from Poe's "The Raven" enters.

The supernatural-themed works in the show are part of a shift for the company, one that takes a more curated approach to presenting works, making a unique experience for each show, rather than a more general seasonal concert approach.

"There's been a shift with audiences and what they want and what they look for when there's picking and choosing," says executive director Eve Schulte. "We're just getting more and more specific with what each concert is."

In another shift, JSB is trying out a new model for pulling a show together, one that is particularly artist-driven. Rather than composer Timothy C. Takach and choreographer Penelope Freeh receiving commissioning funds from JSB, they sought funding as individual artists. The dance company is then producing the work and paying the dancers' wages and paying MPLS (imPulse) choral ensemble to perform live.

"This was something that I just knew I wanted to make," Takach said. His wife, who is also a composer, encouraged him to do what he wanted to do as an artist and figure out the rest later.

Initially, Takach received two grants through the Central Minnesota Arts Board, which paid for two sets of workshops used to initially develop the work with the JSB dancers. Takach and Freeh also received additional funding through a family fund from the Minneapolis Foundation, using JSB as their fiscal sponsor.

"We're feeling very supported, yet we're upending the model at the same time," said Freeh, who danced with the company for 17 years and served as artistic associate between 2007 and 2011.

Twelve singers from the Minneapolis-based chamber chorus MPLS (imPulse) will perform a fractured libretto for "Shadows," acting as a Greek chorus, singing dialogue from both Frankenstein and the creature. They will be accompanied by percussion and cello.

While Takach is a big fan of horror, he found that diving into the creature's monologues in the book made him realize the piece he and Freeh were creating wasn't really about blood or revenge.

"This story is not a horror story, this is something different," he said.

Three dancers portray the creature, and each take on a different aspect of his character. "They really function as a unified whole, but they each have a little personality," Freeh said.

She found much inspiration from the 1931 film, especially in key moments like when the creature first takes a breath of life. She also drew from a scene in the film when the creature comes upon a family living in a cottage.

"It's quite heartbreaking because they [the three dancers playing the creature] recognize the love that they are not experiencing from their creator," Freeh said. "So, we're interpreting that, and we've created our own end, which feels like a redemption."

Costume designer Kristen McCoy has created up-cycled designs for the three dancers playing the creature. "It seemed very clear that these creatures are children and born into this world anew," McCoy said. "I was inspired thinking of kids that put their shoes on the wrong feet or putting their shirt on backwards or things like that."

Among the materials she used in the design is a skirt Freeh wore for a solo that James Sewell choreographed back when Freeh danced with the company. "That was really cool that the choreographer had actually worn this piece," McCoy said. "I brought that piece back to life by repairing all of the holes on the waistband. So now it can keep going in the costume shop for some time."

'In the Shadows'

When: 2 & 7:30 p.m. Sat.

Where: The O'Shaughnessy, 2004 Randolph Av., St. Paul.

Tickets: $34, 651-690-6700,