Tuesday, November 29, 2011
The Experiment that we did during Fairy Tales was a fun little lark that did scare the bejeesus out of a select few people from the audience every night, but I know that more people wanted to be the guinea pig, and weren't given the opportunity. We are remounting the event as "Nightmare (Before Christmas) The Experiment" because we know this has the potential to be both wildly entertaining and terrifying at the same time. As well as funny, to be honest. we all enjoy watching someone freak out about something from the comforts of our seats.
So we have taken the experiments we did during Fairy Tales and fleshed them out a ton. There were only 4 of them, but they are now much more elaborate. For instance, we brought a live rat out in October. And that's all we did with it. Well, we are still going to use the rat, but this time someone has a choice to make based on an elaborate contraption they will be put in. Either have a rat jump on them or keep it from doing so by doing something very disgusting. Very Saw movies i know, but one of the many fun little bits we have lined up for you. Are you tough enough?
we also now have 10 experiments instead of 4. We are concentrating on fears that all human beings are programmed to respond to and feel for the sake of human preservation. Natural selection if you will. So we will be conducting experiments on pain, cruelty, dread (fight or flight), humiliation, powerlessness, underachievement, heart-break, the dark, repulsion, and being followed/ watched. Not in that order, and no way i am telling you anymore what each one involves. You will have to be intrepid enough to find out.
Want an adrenaline rush this holiday season? dare to weather The Experiment. You will be glad you did. It will jump start you for a marathon session of shopping for bullshit no one needs that they will discard within the week. These memories, however, will last forever!
Saturday, November 19, 2011
Thursday, November 17, 2011
But what made me truly enraged were people who had never been to Nightmare before and don't understand our ethos and just would say the most vitriolic things wherever they could completely without context. That hurt us. To be honest, how vocal detractors were truly hurt business and has made me rethink the future of the whole enterprise. I understand that a mistake i made might have been not being more clear about how this house was different than others both in the world and from our own; the level of theatricality and the highly stylized nature of the settings. Personally, this house suited my own tastes and proclivities, but i understand when you make a populist event you need to either be clear about how it is either not a populist event, or make it one. So i could have been more clear in the marketing i suppose, but it was not intentional. My process was the same as any year, trying to create New York's Most Horrifying Haunted House, and was hoping i had. Again, it is hard to know when you take some of the risks I took this year how they are going to translate once audiences start walking through. I learned a ton. There are many things that i will not be doing again. There will be a Nightmare next year, I hope, but your support is obviously the most important part.
And I am doing Killers next year not in response to people wanting things to be more terrifying, but because I have always wanted to, and the subject lends itself to the theatricality i hope to employ every year, as well as its innate fear factor. It is a naturally very scary subject. If anything is fool proof in this world, it's that i can make a house about Serial Killers terrifying. I will definitely be bringing the horror back. Don't you worry. For people who didn't think this year was scary enough, don't worry. I will do nothing but figure out countless ways to torment you relentlessly this coming year. You want it, You'll get it. It will be my pleasure.
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
For those of you who want the terrorizing back, the blood, the gore, the trauma... well next year we are doing this for you. Nightmare is Killer will be about Serial Killers. Despite numerous pleas to do so in the past (perhaps the most requested theme), I'm finally going to do it. Serial Killers. So, like every year, I am opening it up to you to tell me your favorite ones (ick, you have a favorite?) But there are some ground rules. First, i have mixed feelings about the theme because real people have lost real lives from these monsters, so no killer who is alive nor whose victim's families are still alive*. i know that cuts back on some of your favorites, but i don't want to glorify these people any more than they already have been while real people can still be hurt by it. Second, no child killers or pedophiles*. I have a kid, just can't do it. Third, let's cut down on the violence against women*. I know I will have to include a few. Some iconic ones include Jack the Ripper after all, but i want there to be an even distribution of killers. Fourth, let's find as many women sociopaths as there are men. So if you suggest a man, try and also suggest a woman. They kill people too! So have at it.
* Update as of 1/3/2012: so i have gotten tons of comments saying that my parameters are too limiting, and that i am wussing out by having any restrictions at all. And your right! I feel the same way, I was just trying to be sensitive to what i thought the large part of our audience felt. It seems like I am being told otherwise, so have at it. I would still like to have an even distribution of men and women, and I can't think of any child killers that anyone really wants to see reenacted, but I know i need to consider the Gacys, Dahmers and Bundys of the world, which my first tenet - no one whose victims families are alive - violates. I will certainly not be celebrating these awful people or glorifying them. they are horrific individuals who were scary as shit. If chosen, in no way will they be romanticized. They will be presented as the monsters they were.
Monday, October 24, 2011
That said, every single day we are adding something new. sometimes it is something small, sometimes it is something that doesn't work and we get rid of it, but never does my team and I stop working on it. This past weekend we added several very successful scares. The Billy Goat in Billy Goats Gruff has a new friend and a new routine, as well as a new costume. He is pretty terrifying right now. There are more wolves and bears than before, and the final descent out of the forest has been more fleshed out to look like a forest and is now teeming with more animal attackers. why did it take me so long to do this stuff? Because our haunted house is a living, breathing organism. we need to see what happens and let it grow. We added things because we learned that we needed to add these things. We are never satisfied. Come Halloween, hell, come November 5th, the house will be a different creature from day one. We obviously hope for the better. Clearly it is our intention to nail it from day one, but when you create an entirely new experience every year, you can't know if you have until you do it.
My big question is, should I just do a house that i know works from year's past, or should i continue to do a different house every year? please chime in.
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Some of you love it. Some of you hate it. Some of you think it is not scary at all, while others are terrified. Some of you think it is cheap and everything is flat because we couldn't afford realistic props and set pieces and that we bought our masks from Ricky's while others see the artistry and understand we made a style choice and that many great artists painted the whole thing from top to bottom like it was there own twisted canvas and that our masks were actually hand sculpted and then set in plastic after each unique mask was crafted around the actors face. Some if you see this.
When you make a haunted house the way i do some people are gonna love it some are not. I don't make them with the sole idea of how can I scare them at every turn. I can make that house easy. In fact I have in the Bronx with Nightmare Z-Day. It's a complete scarefest with zombies everywhere. No question Fairy Tales has greater artistic aspirations. For better or worse. I get it. I do love it personally, but to appease our bloodthirsty audience we have added a bevy of new scares this week and will continue to do so through Halloween.
But one thing that I want everyone to "get" are the fairy tales that are portrayed. I don't believe they have actually been enunciated anywhere. Until now. Here are the Fairy Tales you will encounter the moment you walk through the door (in way or another. Some are just referenced or are installations in the lobby or are just represented by one of it's characters floating around):
The Little Match Girl
Little Miss Muffet
Hansel and Gretel
Little Red Riding Hood
The Boy Who Left Home to Learn About Fear
Billy Goats Gruff
The Boy Who Cried Wolf
There you have it. I actually got one email that said "how's this about Fairy Tales? I didn't see a single fairy tale?" um, okay, gonna be hard to appease that one. Pretty hard to escape realizing that, but just in case, now you know what they are.
Sunday, October 2, 2011
We just opened Fairy Tales on Friday. We have had better than expected crowds, and the thing is happening. We usually use this first weekend to work out the kinks and figure out the ideal flow of the event, but because we have been unusually inundated with crowds this first weekend, we haven't really had that opportunity. The result has been some serious line flow problems that has caused delays with people getting in at the time they bought tickets for. Each day we have gotten a little better, and hope to have it working perfectly after tonight. But it will never be perfect. we do the best we can. I apologize to those who have had to wait.
On another note, i want to use this opportunity to be completely blunt about what Nightmare is, and what people want it to be. Last year with Superstitions we got the closest we ever have to making "both" of our audiences happy. What do i mean by this? well, Nightmare has a large theatergoing audience. Lots of artistic types who appreciate the artistry of what we do. The fact that we have stories, recurring characters, a consistent theme, and a ton of theatricality. They come because they appreciate that kind of thing AND because they want that kind of thing to be scary. Especially this time of year. The other audience are those that just want it to be as terrifying as possible, and if it is anything short of heart attack inducing than there is no middle ground. That is why they are there. And it's tough to completely placate those people without stepping over an ethical line. Especially not this year. I don't have tons of monsters jumping out at you. I am not even sequestering people and isolating them, then terrifying them. Not this year. This year is very theatrical. Is it scary? Yes, definitely, but you have to understand what you are getting into.
Nightmare Fairy Tales is moody, creepy, eerie and ambient. It certainly has its share of startle scares (you know when something unsuspecting jumps out at you and surprises you), but it is very theatrical and interactive. the sets by Paul Smithyman are beautiful. the art direction by Justin Haskell and David Hinkle is inventive and innovative, the costumes by Candice Thompson are the best we have ever done by a million miles, the lighting design by Garin Marshall and David Roy is creative, creepy, twisted and distorted. We invested a ton into production this year. I saw one on line review that said "the sets are cheap, made out of cardboard and they have cheap fake fire". idiot. They truly did not get what we were trying to do.
Firstly, nothing is made out of cardboard for the record, but even if it was it would have been thematically supported. I was trying to create a two-dimensional pop-up book look. please understand that real artist with real ideas conceptualize things here. We make things that have design purpose behind it, not just "let's make this butcher shop look like a butcher shop to the letter." not in the least. We are abstract artist who deconstruct and distort things, if i make a river, i am going to do it theatrically and abstractly because it fits in with what we are doing. It is not hard to build a literal basin with water flowing in it, recycling the water to keep it moving. It's not even that expensive to do that. And it certainly isn't creative, it's obvious. That is how this year's house is made. that is how someone can make a forest indoors.
Someone asked me yesterday if this other haunted house that physically assaults you is scary i answered "yes. in fact it is likely scarier than mine. But it is almost literally asking me if putting a gun in your face is scarier than putting a hand in your face. Of course putting a gun in someone's face is scary. so is beating someone up and gagging them and putting fluids on them." No real revelation there. doing something that is actually scary in the real world to someone is always going to be scarier than something simulated. It also doesn't even take a great deal of imagination. You just do the thing. Instead of making one feel as if they just got tortured (with creativity and innovative thinking) let's just literally torture them instead. And I am not trying to even be that critical. I have done this and i do find it adrenaline rushing and fun. So if you are looking for this kind of aggressive, intense very direct and literal experience, there is a haunted house for you. It is not Nightmare.
You like Freddy Krueger and Michael Myers chasing you? I know that is scary. especially if they pop out of the dark. I don't need to take a class on this. I know having a monster pop out of holes is scary. i could create a whole haunted house called "Nightmare: Pop Scare" and it would probably make a trillion dollars. I would just create a maze where every time you turned a corner a monster would lunge at you. I'm a genius. Nightmare is not this at all. I don't judge this, although it may seem like i am. I know people love to be startled and chased. and there is a house in this city that does this very, very well. One of the best actually and i go to it every year and enjoy it myself, but this isn't Nightmare, either. (well, it is actually Nightmare Z-Day in the Bronx. all zombies all the time chasing and lunging at you. scream fest)
Nightmare Fairy Tales is not going to startle the shit out of you. It is not going to make you feel violated or unsafe. It might not terrify you at all in fact, but what it will do is make you go "that was friggin' cool" and "that was one twisted, dark and unique performance i just took part in" and you should say (because i say it every time i walk through and look at the amazing art the people who worked on this created) "that was one amazing, beautiful and inventive house." Nightmare will creep you out, will unnerve you, and there are even a few very solid pop scares that have gotten every single person that has walked through so far. Three sure fire ones that have not NOT worked on a single group, but 3 more that have nailed it pretty much every time as well. As an artist i have created the house that i wanted to create. i am very proud of it. if you want to be a part of a spooky and super cool immersive theatrical experience that will get your heart racing, then you do want to go to Nightmare. If you are looking for something else, please go somewhere else.
But you will leave having done something perfect for the holiday season and disturbed at the same time. And buy our new t-shirt for this year, they are my favorite ever :-)
Sunday, September 25, 2011
Friday, September 23, 2011
Thursday, September 15, 2011
Sunday, September 11, 2011
And that was not done to offset naysayers. That is because the origins of most classic fairy tales are some of the most gruesome, graphic, explicit and in-your-face stories there are. And that is why i decided to tackle the subject. Most fairy tales are these brutal stories to scare the crap out of children into not doing certain things - talk to strangers, wander off on your own, be covetous, jealous and proud, to invade other people's space. And the repercussions of betraying the morals of the stories was a wolf eating you, an old witch cooking you, parents disowning you, goats and owls and goblins tormenting you. And the characters are so rich and iconic you wouldn't have ever known that originally they were cannibalistic, incestuous, narcissistic lechers.
We are actually building the woods. You will be made to get lost in that forest. You will go from cabin to cabin seeing the original stories as they were intended to be told. It's gonna be a blast. You will see flesh being burned, giant goat units, abnormal dolls come to life, demented puppet shows, and someone do something quite tragic to themselves to keep from ever having children. There will be blood. there will be flesh (sure, yes, this haunted house will be a lot sexier than all of the other ones we have done. You know you have a Snow white fantasy you would like for us to fulfill), and there will be many screams. There are so many unique gimmicks we are employing in each story to get you involved. Oh, you will watch some horrible things happen to some well-known fairy tale character, and you will do some horrible things to fairy tale characters. But there will also be some horrible things that happen to YOU!
Wednesday, August 31, 2011
I will eventually announce all 13 fairy tales in Nightmare Fairy Tales, but i will do that closer to the date we open. I will say this. I have chosen 8 out of the dozens suggested to me from the blog post i posted last year looking for suggestions. Only 8. But i picked the most popular ones for sure. And i picked 5 others that i thought should have been suggested. I wanted to span the gamut a little more and not just do all Grimm's tales or obscure German ones that no one would understand or get. I'll tell you 3 of the 5 others here. In a moment. But first i would like to tell you the ones that were in my original 20 that i was going to do, but they got cut because it was making the house too convoluted and not allowing me to really blow out any one of them in a big way. And i want to really explore the ones i am doing more than usual this year.
So, in my original storyline that i wrote i was going to do The Golem, Cinderella, The Snow Queen, Three Blind Mice, Humpty Dumpty, Sleeping Beauty and Alice in Wonderland. I think the last two were suggested more than anything else, so it is probably surprising I am not doing them. But there are reasons. Sleeping Beauty might be the most brutal fairy tale of all. It is about a young lady (very young) who falls under a spell and then is repeatedly raped by a prince and actually has twins with him all the while being asleep. when she awakens, in the original story, it is while she is breast feeding. Gruesome, awful story but i thought didn't have the moral platitude that the others did, and there weren't any moments that would make sense to stage in a haunted house (i mean, there are certainly images that are awful, but i am trying to create an event where you truly experience each fairy tale). And the other, Alice in Wonderland, certainly lends itself to all kinds of wonderful imagery and storytelling, but has been so overdone that i didn't think i could possibly bring anything new to the table and would thus make it anti-climactic. so i jettisoned them all.
Now for three of the 13 in the house. And i must admit, two of these three play the most minor role in the house (which is probably why they are two of the three I am revealing): Little Match Girl, The Boy Who Cried Wolf, and Billy Goats Gruff. They are minor characters in this house, but you will understand why they are in there.
I look forward to you all experiencing Nightmare this year. It is by far and away unlike anything we have ever done. I am giddy with excitement!
Monday, August 29, 2011
One of our brilliant actresses and long-time Nightmare employee as well as leader, Juliet Fitzgerald, is also a fantastic visual artist. I asked her to paint the haunting illustrated backdrop where our intrepid children find themselves in our logo artwork this year. She went above and beyond and made the choice as to which artwork to pick extremely difficult. I think the one we decided on was ultimately the right one, but as you can see she delivered the goods. Here were my other options. did we make the right decision?
So what does that have to do with the art? Well, I believe the experience starts with people's perception of the event. When they first see our art work or go to our website; the experience has begun. And although good art needs no explanation (and I would like to consider this good artwork)... wait a minute, good art work needs no explanation. I should leave it at that. Nevermind. thoughts? It's more than JUST Hansel and Gretel in the woods. Go!
Saturday, August 20, 2011
Just downloaded a blog app on my iPhone so I can blog more often. This blog is testing it. We are done with our first week of construction in the Bronx. We are pretty behind, but luckily we have until October 7th. It's gonna be hot by then. For those of you who went to nightmare ghost stories you might remember the scariest thing about it. We call it stretchy girl. Basically a girl stretched towards you from the other side of the room. Super effective and she will return in the Bronx.
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Saturday, August 13, 2011
Firstly, my show Sex You (I'm Gonna) is killing it in Edinburgh. Nathan Phillips is seducing all kinds of Scottish lasses and they are loving it. It was slow going at first, but it has picked up in a big way of late. I have returned from the beautiful city of Edinburgh (and it is beautiful. One of the most miraculous cities I have ever visited), but Nathan is still toiling away. But now that i am back i am in full haunted house mode.
we have actually started loading in my Bronx house. construction begins on Monday. We are starting so early because i want it built before we start Fairy Tales in Manhattan. the Bronx one is located at 1157 Commerce Avenue, just off Zerega Avenue. This is in Pelham Bay and a good neighborhood in Da Bronx. And even more exciting is that this is a permanent home. We have this space 365 days a year! So we actually don't have to tear down all of our hard work at the end of the season like we do every year in Manhattan. And what's more, because this is the Bronx, i have decided to do something very un-Nightmare like - MONSTERS! More specifically, ZOMBIES!!! Why do i say because it's in Da Bronx? because something tell's me that audience wants to see a bunch of monsters jumping out at them from all kinds of corners. That's what they'll get. the actual title is Nightmare: Z-Day - the Day the Zombie Apocalypse Begins.. I am doing this in partnership with this brilliant haunter and all around great guy, Bobby Ferrara. He is from the Bronx and found this awesome warehouse for us to do it in. We are a great team and I think you'll love it if you're in the area, or are in to trekking all the way up to the top of the boroughs. I, of course, hope you are.
Finally, Nightmare Fairy Tales is gonna be sick. One might think that being Fairy Tales it won't be as intense as some other haunted houses. You would be wrong. quite the opposite actually. Do you know how friggin' graphic some of these fairy tales are? graphic and vulgur and as violent as anything you have ever read. Some of the thing that are in this house make me blush. But i am telling these stories and they will shock it to you for sure. Our art direction is out of this world. We are basically creating an enormous pop-up book. and it isn't set in a house, but rather the woods. You will walk from one cottage to another. You're gonna be given a map and everything. Tons of fun and interactivity and plenty of scares to go around. I am beside myself with excitement for this house tbh. In future blogs i will announce the fairy tales that i will be staging in the house. But many of the ones people suggested will be represented.
images for both Z-Day and Fairy Tales coming soon. And i will keep you updated on all the super cool developments and fun stuff you will enjoy reading about. I am back in the swing of things and will probably start blogging two or three times a week if not more. look forward to your comments!
Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
My last post was about a show i am working on called "Sex You (I'm Gonna)" by Nathan Phillips. I am directing it. It is a solo show where one man cleverly seduces women in the audience in an attempt to have sex with them on stage. of course his unorthodox methods are turn-offs at best, and doesn't stand much of a chance (well, we at least hope so. in our workshops in NYC we have had a few crazies...). This is a comedy experience as Nathan is nothing short of a brilliant improvisationalist, quick witted and affable (and apparently ok to look at as well. But I'm more handsome). To bring our crew over to Edinburgh actually cost a pretty penny, and lots of money has been poured into it already (myself not the least of them), so we are trying to raise the final $10,000 through our supporters. I hope we can do it to be honest because it will be difficult to make it over there otherwise.
I know it is ugly to ask for money, but if you wanna support this venture you can do so here on our kickstarter page.. Anything helps (I'm serious, do $5 and i think you are the cat's meow). We will need to do this by volume of contributions i think. You know, Obama style. And there are some really fun prizes for the the different levels of contributions. So look at it like i am just trying to sell you these unique prizes that you can only get here at kickstarter! I'm kinda serious, they are pretty fun.
Friday, May 20, 2011
Thursday, March 17, 2011
So i spent last weekend perusing the new products for haunted houses in St. Louis at the biggest of the haunted house conventions, Transworld. The problem is "New" is not exactly what any of it ever is. It's usually the same old stuff every year. Typically there are 3 or 4 new vendors on the scene who have come up with something innovative and everyone goes crazy for it. At this point in Nightmare's life we create so many of our gimmicks that we should be taking some of them to this convention. Not to toot our own horn, but because we make all of our stuff and don't model ourselves off of a typical haunted house formula, most of our stuff would come off as very fresh, original and exciting i would imagine. perhaps next year. And i am not implying at all that ours is the best, coolest, scariest haunted house or any of that by saying that. Just the most different and original. For better or worse.
But there were a few new things that genuinely impressed. The new rage seems to be using video with interactivity/ physicality. I guess 4-D type of things. So not just scary videos, but videos where something happens, and then it takes on a tactile life for the audience. I have included some videos here. The first is from Dead House Designs, and it is this amazing cockroach wall. it works because they create the video to contour to the three-dimensional walls, giving the cockroaches themselves a greater realism. it appears that they are responding to the nooks and crannies of the panels, but it is just recorded that way. i love it. they also have a fantastic maggot one on poo in a toilet, but my video didn't come out so great for that one.
the next two are from Pale Night Productions, and these involve the audience more. They have a bunch of stuff like this, check out their website for more. But these two were my favorites, especially the photo in the frame. pretty brilliant actually. But kinda too expensive to take up such a small part of your house.
and i have included an image of one of the newest masks from my favorite mask makers over at CFX. All their stuff is made from silicone so it contours to your face and also feels real. They are true artists. I want this mask.
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
I will try and post something at least once a week until the summer when i will post more often, and then everyday or so in September and October.