Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Bloody Mary

Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary. Not really a Superstition so much as a folklore or urban legend. But last year when i asked the question "what are you superstitious about?" the number one answer I received was Bloody Mary. So who am i to judge? She now has a prominent role in the house. Oh, yes, you'll have to say it...

In case you are completely clueless about this most famous of all urban legends, Bloody Mary is a popular game played by female tweeners at slumber parties trying to freak each other out. What you do is go into a bathroom with nothing but a single candle and say the name "Bloody Mary" into the mirror three times (or a hundred times, or 13...people play it different ways and have different rules). What is supposed to happen is that she appears and either tears your eyes out, claws you to death or sucks you into the mirror with her, never to be seen again. Pretty scary game for a twelve year-old girl with braces. But who is appearing before you in the aforementioned mirror?

There are several theories here as well, but all of them suggest that the story has been told for so long that it has become an amalgam of several. The most popular theory is that Mary is Mary Worth a made up witch from the Salem witch trials who was wrongly accused of murdering children, who was then burned at the stake and is now coming back to seek revenge. This name has been mixed up with Mary I, or Mary Tudor, Queen of England who was a murderous ruler, plagued with a series of miscarriages which is why one sometimes plays the game with the line "Bloody Mary I stole your baby." Oddly, if you believed this was potentially true, would be a pretty antagonistic thing to say. I would imagine that would piss her off pretty good.

Then they made Candyman, which is basically the urban version of Bloody Mary. You might not think Bloody Mary is real. Nor that she will appear in your mirror if you say her name. But I bet your bottom dollar you don't go into your bathroom right now and say it...just in case. do it. Do It. DO IT! see you won't. haha

Monday, September 27, 2010

It's 37 minutes Suckas

Yes, the house is averaging 37-42 minutes. You heard me correctly, that's a long time. I will hear no complaints about the length of the experience this year. If you do complain then you are an idiot and you don't know how this works. Haunted houses typically don't take very long to walk through. It's all thrills at usually a 20 minute clip at most. But New Yorkers being the toughest audiences out there, i have had this complaint levied upon Nightmare for 6 years. Until now. As far as length is concerned, I believe we have figured it out.

My guess is complaining about the length of a haunted house is one of the vagaries of being in this biz. You just have to deal. It is hard to make it as long as people want it (which is...what? who knows?) but i believe 37-42 minutes is absolutely ample. And that is not being done by drawing it out pointlessly. It is because it is much bigger this year, and it is so interactive it actually takes a little while to do certain things. I am very proud we were finally able to accomplish a lengthy haunted house while still making it a meaningful experience. I mean, if i just wanted to make it long for long's sake i could just tell people to sit in a chair for 5 minutes in the dark to make it longer. But that would be silly and obvious, wouldn't it?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Painting of Nightmare

I love this behind the scenes video. On top of the awesome Costuming video Rebeca Ramirez and John Lagosarimo did, this one is on the scenic charges of Nightmare. They turn our bare walls into whole environments and give the entire project its character and terror. check it out.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Gun In Your Face Ideas

I am writing this post at 2:40 am on thursday morning. Tonight is our Time Out preview. 500 tastemakers have been invited for this sneak peek. It is supposed to be a preview, like any other show, but this crowd will be rather unforgiving if they aren't into it. Although we largely use this night to work out some kinks, as well as discover things that are scary that we didn't predict, and vice versa. All in all i think this may be the best house ever. And John Harlacher's warm up event, Fun House, is creepy, odd, twisted and hilarious. Very happy that it leads into Superstitions.

Anyway, this is even an EARLY night for me since i have been working on this house at some points literally around the clock. Tonight we had the final dress rehearsal. I am so proud at all of the unique costumes and scare tactics we have employed this year. It is so much different than in year's past, and I believe you will appreciate how scary it is, but also how much ingenuity when into it from so many different artists. And this is so important to me. I don't always "nail it," but whether the audiences think I do or not, I believe all ideas for rooms contributed to me by my collaborators have to rise to this level. Meaning, I will never incorporate a "gun in your face" idea. These are ideas that take no brainstorming. obviously they would be scary because they just are scary things that happen to people. As if a bunch of creative folks were sitting around a table and someone was like, "you know what i think is scary? someone putting a real gun to you head!"

Uh, yeah. that would be scary. Guns against my head are scary and dangerous. No debate there. No creativity either. They are easy ways out and I won't let the scarers lie down, so they do need to spend a lot of time with each other and ourselves to continue to develop characters and scenarios. Yet people give me guns against my head ideas all of the time. I won't do them. Anytime you physically assault someone of course it is going to be scary. At least temporarily. As artist you want to do better than that. Do i think if i isolated, bound and gagged people, and threw a bag over their head that they would be scared? Yes they would. But that jut requires you to not mind doing shit like that. Try scaring someone by maintaining four foot egresses, emergency exit signs clearly visible all over the place, no one touching you, clearly marked ways to go, etc. Its actually easy to do, you just hve to be creative and thats when the best ideas come to you. No guns in the face needed.

I have decided to keep all rambling, Spelling errors, run-ons, grammatical errors, etc to give you a sense of my mental state right now.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Superstition: Saying Macbeth in a theatre

As a theatre person myself I am very familiar with the superstition of saying the name Macbeth inside of a theatre. Almost all theatre artists I know adhere to this religiously. In fact, almost psychotically. If you do it as a joke, just to eff around with an actor or director or even the lighting board op, they will completely flip out. It's like talking about a bomb at an airport. No matter how much of a douche bag you are jokingly mocking other people's traditions, doing either one of those things will get you in a heap of trouble. This is serious business. I know because i was one such douche one time who got chewed out royally by every one involved. I challenged it because i think it is stupid and despite creating an entire haunted house about superstitions, i am not very superstitious myself.

You see, as the legend goes, you say the name Macbeth inside a theater it will bring bad luck to the play and anyone acting in it. The only exception is when the word is spoken as a line in the play. And if any of you are friends with an actor or are an actor yourselves, you know how delicate their careers are, hanging on a limb pretty much all of the time, so they don't need any extra roadblocks like 400 year old curses. But there is a way out in case you accidentally do say the name of the play. And everyone around you will make sure you do this. In order to reverse the bad luck, the person who uttered the word must exit the theater, spin around three times saying a profanity, and then ask for permission to return inside. Other variations include spitting over your shoulders or simply letting out a stream of cuss words. I have even heard by some (very few people actually) that you can also say "Thrice around the circle bound, Evil sink into the ground" to release the bad luck. The best way to avoid it altogether is to get comfortable with calling the play "The Scottish Play" instead of the proper title. You may have heard this before. This is what people are talking about when they do that. LAME, but completely real to any actor, with some serious consequences. You will embark on those consequences yourself in Nightmare: Superstitions.

So where does this superstition come from? Well, apparently the play was originally written for King James and his court. James was obsessed with the occult and had written several pamphlets about how to detect a witch. So as a nod to the King Shakespeare wrote in the three witches who foresee the fall of Macbeth, including a sacred black magic ritual. At the time it was supposed to be somewhat funny and an homage to the King's obsession. However, true followers of the religion took the reenactment of the ritual to be a complete affront drawing their ire and having them curse the play in perpetuity. To give you an example, it would be like, say, if some crazy Christian fundamentalist decided to do a Quran book burning, pissing off a whole section of the population. Of course no one would do something so stupid nowadays.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Auditions or sorry if i humiliated you

The last two days we had our auditions for the actors in Nightmare: Superstitions. I mostly let my co-director John Harlacher handle the duties, and he handled them like a champ. over 200 people came to audition and he knows how to find what he is looking for. But sometimes I miss those days where i sat there and made assholes out of people, so i will audition a few of the folks myself. And for those of you this year that had to endure my direction...I am very sorry. I know I make some very esoteric suggestions. I made some people get on the ground and cry like a baby and ask me to change their poopie diaper. I asked someone to explain that there house was on fire and that they needed me to help by only using the words "poopie caca." I asked many to bark like a cat and meow like a dog. I asked someone to make a scary fart sound. I know it may have seemed like i was effing with you, and i partly was, but i was also trying to see how big of a freak you truly are and how committed to being asked to do something insane you were. Most of you passed with flying colors! Thank you for your time and your patience. If you did not get in, stick around your phone; we have a list of people we will be calling when we need someone to take over or fill in, and we often do. It isn't because we didn't think you were an amazing scare artist, but Nightmare is unique in that each role is a specific character with its own costume, lines, story and plot points. That being the case, you may not have fit our description for any of the characters. No matter how scary of an SOB you are, if we couldn't find a place for you it was tough to cast you. But that doesn't mean we won't change or minds very soon.

And for those of you who we cast - congrats! You're going to have a blast scaring the poopie caca out of people.

Monday, September 13, 2010


For those of you who care, I am so sorry i have not been updating my blog about all the cool stuff that is going on with Nightmare: Superstitions. I could not be more excited about this thing opening, and for all of you to partake in this extremely original haunted house. This year we really went for breaking the mold. How is that you ask? well, I am happy you did, here's how....

Experiential, experiential, experiential (like a mother f*cker). We still are adhering to our unique brand of theatricality; we still have a story and a through line and recurring characters and a beginning, middle and an end...you know, all that shit. But i believe a mistake i made last year was being entirely too dependent on those devices, hoping that the empathy people felt for the characters would cause a fright when something bad happens to them. But what if your group misses something? you can't hear properly? Your group gets backed up and misses something altogether? then it kinda sucks. So what John Harlacher (my co-director) and I end up doing is finding the places that scares need to be added and get some more actors to hide in those spots and scare people. This happens every year. It is part of the process. And although those things do add startle scares, it pains me because there is nothing innovative or creative about implementing such things.

So, i decided instead of creating a story that is so theatrical it is destined to disappoint every third group, create a house where the scares themselves are what is theatrical so that i don't have to throw in a series of bullshit "boo-scares" at the last minute. Every scare in this house is unique, and in our trial and error sessions, they are all working like gangbusters. Optical Illusion is the name of the game. You will not know where the scare comes from. But i can give you some hints. If you don't want any (and honestly, i don't think you should), don't read any further. If you do, then watch out for the following:

Exits that aren't really exits
cracks that aren't really cracks
pennies that aren't really pennies
ceilings that become walls
animitronics that aren't animitronics
buttons that don't turn things off
Halls to nowhere
mirrors that don't work

want more? you'll just have to buy a ticket to Nightmare: Superstitions!