So I dragged Ben and Hao to the Pirates of Emerson, an annual haunted house in the wilds of Fremont. It was a last minute decision, goaded by the good folks at Haunted Bay and my sudden need to be a kid for a moment.
It was ok–clearly a ton of work and money had been poured into it and there was lots of animatronic spectacle. As I walked through it, though, I realized that a haunted house requires two different types of scary:
1. People jumping out saying “boo!” and making you yelp; and
2. The witnessing of horrifying, terrifying things.
Our theater department in high school held an annual Haunted House as a fundraiser–I seem to recall on year, there was a scene in which we walk into a couple’s intimate bedroom and watch one of the pair get sweet-talked, then horribly axed (strangled?) by the other. I mean, Hell House might be a bizarre Christian fundamentalist artifact, but at least they show souls suffering in hell, people committing suicide, others dying on the abortion table. Now that’s some scary shit. That’s theater right there.
Pirates was long on the “boos!”, short on the actual creepy darkness reaching into your soul performance.
It certainly was no Face Your Fears Haunted House, directed by Timothy Haskell, in which they polled New Yorkers about what they feared the most, and then created five distinct, borough specific houses. (Apparently, Manhattenites fear clowns, Bronxites fear homelessness).
Strange simultaneity–just the day before I saw HIGH SCHOOL, a production at Berkeley High created in collaboration with Antenna Theater, in which you walk through the school with audio tour headphones on, hearing the voices of the students. I think the live action could have been further integrated and elaborated upon, and I thought the physical design elements a bit weak (though a few of the puppets and masks were gorgeous)–sadly, just the simplicity of walking through the geography with that soundscape informing what you see, so precisely synced, and relinquishing your control and being commanded through–that was such a dreamlike, pleasurable experience–the live action seemed a bit superfluous.