Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Announcing 2012's theme: Nightmare is Killer

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

New stuff in da house

So Nightmare is a completely fluid art installation. We are not graced with any preview period before people start chiming in everywhere about how they feel about it. We do previews with small groups of people before we open, but nothing prepares us for what people think about it until we get a real crowd. You see, I used to think New Yorkers were too critical for me to just do the same house every year. They needed a new show to keep them coming back. So when i create a wholly new haunted house, it is an original piece every year. Without having been tested and trialed. The more I do this, though, it seems like i should just do what other haunted houses do and basically do the same thing every year with a few minor tweaks. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. I should just take the best moments in all of the houses i have created and just make one house that i do basically the same every year, right? One that takes no chances and I know works because i have already done it. I say this because if i ever read another comment that doesn't appreciate the fact that we rebuild this thing every year so that you have a completely new and different experience, then i am going to punch someone in the face. I build an entirely new haunted house EVERY YEAR with new props, new set pieces, new costumes, EVERY YEAR! I do not recycle much of anything at all, save a few set pieces. Does it matter?

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

The Fairy Tales

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
Snow White
Little Red Riding Hood
The Boy Who Left Home to Learn About Fear
Billy Goats Gruff
Blue Beard
Red Shoes
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

I'm an Artist Goddamnit!

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 :-)