As I've said many times in the past, Zombie Joe's Underground Theater never ceases to amaze me. Every few months, a new show is presented that shocks the audience with it's powerful performances and social commentary. In Zombie Joe's latest show, "Tortured Souls", guests are enveloped within the performances from the actors as their stories of personal hell begin to unfold. The show itself is very immersive and of course horror-themed, where we are taken on a wild journey through the depths of our darkest nightmares.
Come away, o human child…
Over the weekend, I ventured into LA to experience Shine On Collective’s newest immersive show, TO THE WILD. Being of Irish descent and knowing that the show centered around Irish folklore, I was pretty excited for what laid ahead. When I arrived at the designated location at MacLeod Ale Brewery in Van Nuys, CA, I was asked by one of the actors if I believed in fairies. Having been familiar with legends that surround fairies, I knew that whatever I was about to experience was going to have a much darker tone that what most people would expect with fairies.
The first thing that comes to mind when I think of the film "The Wizard of Oz", is a fantastical story filled with lovable characters, an evil witch, an all-knowing wizard, and a yellow brick road. Granted, it's been a long LONG time since I've seen the movie and I don't know much about the other stories that belong in that world, but I can appreciate what the film means to the many people who love and adore it. I'm sure you are wondering why I'm even talking about this movie in regards to an immersive experience but it's because the fine folks over at The Speakeasy Society, an LA based Immersive Theater Company, have put together a unique adventure based around the stories of Frank L. Baum's "Land of Oz" novels. As I already mentioned, I was familiar with "The Wizard of Oz", I mean who isn't, but not so much the "Land of Oz" novels. I wasn't sure what to expect when I was to attend Chapter 1 of the Speakeasy Society's newest event, The Key, but I found for myself, it was much better going in blind as I was able to see everything unfold around me with fresh new eyes.
The first show that I ever went to at Zombie Joe's Underground was "Blood Alley" back in March 2016 and I was left feeling speechless and amazed. Since then, I have attended every horror show that Zombie Joe's has offered and each time I walk away learning something more while having a deeper appreciation for performance art. When I found out that ZJU was going to be putting on a Christmas special of "Blood Alley", I couldn't get my hands on tickets fast enough. Not only was I incredibly intrigued with how they were going to put together such a shocking show set to the tune of one of the happiest holidays, but I also wanted to feel the emotions I felt upon seeing Blood Alley that first time. I knew going in that nothing could beat my experience the first time I went to the show, but I can confirm upon leaving that it was just as good as I expected it to be.
On my never-ending quest to do all things immersive this Halloween season, I found my next stop at Screenshot Production's newest show THE ROPE. You may remember that one of my first forays into immersive theater was through Screenshot Production's "What We Learned Here: Parturition", in which I had a very emotional journey through an abstract experience of the birth canal. I consider that to be one of my gateway drugs into immersive theater and ever since I've been throwing myself headlong into everything and anything that will take me out of my comfort zone. When I heard that Screenshot Productions would be putting on another show for the Halloween season titled THE ROPE, my interest peaked as I found myself wanting to experience that same type of emotional destruction and uneasiness that I felt during PARTURITION. Though their latest show didn't offer that same feeling, mostly due to the fact that it wasn't as big of an emotional catalyst for me, I still found myself in wonder with what they had created.
There is something special about experiencing someone's first haunt. When done for the right reasons, the passion and devotion can be seen throughout the creation of their experience, and it's really a sight to behold. This is one of the reasons I loved my experience during Force of Nature's Halloween Haunt, FALLEN SAINTS. Though they were in the throes of some growing pains, they were still able to put together an immersive experience that was both enjoyable and intriguing. At the end of the event I found myself leaving with a smile on my face and a deep appreciation for all that went into this production. Plus, anything that has traces of Jack the Ripper is a-okay by me!
There are many shows and events to attend in Los Angeles, and if there is one thing I've learned this Halloween season is that LA is a mecca for all things horror and Halloween related. This past year I've had the honor of attending many of Zombie Joe's Urban Death show, but the one I kept hearing about, the one I was looking forward to the most, was there Halloween show - Tour of Terror. Not only would this show have Zombie Joe's signature "Urban Death" touch to it, but there would also be an added surprise - their own "haunted maze" which led 2-3 people down a dark and winding hallway into the performance space. This element was not only fun, but downright creepy, as it allowed the viewer to come face to face with individuals performing acts from the deepest recesses of our nightmares. In all honesty, this set up, this maze, was more effective at scaring me than most well-known haunts that I go to. For that, I applaud the team behind this because the whole experience was chilling and unsettling, and what more do you want to feel than that during the spookiest time of the year?
I think it's important to address a few things before I go into my review. First of all, I have been to about ten immersive experiences since mid-September which have allowed me to see many different versions of immersive haunts and performances while becoming well acquainted with many of the story beats. Which brings me to my second point which is, when I heard Darren Lynn Bousman (a director whose work I love) was doing an immersive experience I was very interested to see what he would produce. Seeing two things I love come together like this seemed like a dream come true, so what did I end up thinking?
For the longest time, I felt like my only reaction to a haunt would be one of fear or laughter; however, this year I found myself testing the limits of emotions when I started engaging in immersive theater. My first foray into immersive theater this Halloween season was with Shine On Collective, a Los Angeles-based theater group that produces original performance installations with a focus on exploring the human condition. When I first went to Shine On Collective's performance of FOREVER in mid-September, I had my guard up since I knew going in it would be dealing with subject matter that was extremely personal to me. Going through that experience was eye-opening and intense but it couldn’t have prepared me for what was to come during their final show, DEVOTED. Though this review is going to be extremely personal and sad, know this, this was one of the best immersive performances I’ve ever experienced.
Last year, I had the chance to attend Unbound Productions WICKED LIT and I was left breathless. It was hands down my favorite event of the Halloween season and something that I was anticipating for 2016. For those not familiar with Wicket Lit, it’s performances that showcase three plays from classic horror literature. This year, Unbound Productions took on three new stories featuring H.P. Lovecraft’s “From Beyond”, Anansi and the Demons, and Ellen Glasgow’s “The Shadowy Third.” Along with these three performances, Wicked Lit also has a theme that carried throughout the evening. This theme was a camp retreat for the living, dead, and undead and it lent itself to some much needed laughter in-between each of the plays performances. What really gives Wicked Lit that perfect Halloween feel is that all of these performances are done at the Mountain View Mausoleum and Cemetery in Altadena, CA. You couldn’t ask for a more appropriate setting than that.
When my boyfriend and I first moved to Cali and were getting acquainted with the haunt scene, we were told over and over again was that we HAD to go to DELUSION. At the time, I had no idea what it was but the excitement and passion that I would see from people who told me about it was contagious. Even though I wasn’t sure what I would expect or what I would be getting myself into, I knew that I had to experience whatever this theatrical event was. A few weeks ago I had the chance to attend DELUSION’S newest show, His Crimson Queen. I’m not even sure there are words to express what I experienced except that I truly fell in love with immersive horror theater. What I had just experienced in an hour’s time was unlike anything I had ever experienced before. DELUSION: HIS CRIMSON QUEEN is pure art with theatrical stunts and acting that left me breathless and wanting more. Combine all that with exquisite storytelling and unparalleled set design, DELUSION ends up being quite a force to be reckoned with.
CreepLA. I don’t even know if there are words to express the experience I went through last night. Interactive, intense, shocking, sexual, horrific, and satisfying. CreepLA is unlike anything I’ve ever done before, a whirlwind of visuals translated into meticulous set design with incredible detail to makeup and costumes. I was touched, I was man-handled, I was whispered to and I was propositioned and yet, I wanted more. CreepLA has awoken something within me and allowed me to push myself in a way that I had yet to experience.
Sometimes monsters aren’t the boogeyman hiding in your closet. Sometimes, these monsters are the people we love, the people who are supposed to protect us from harm, and when those people hurt us, it can have a devastating effect. Love has always been a tricky subject/feeling for me, and it wasn’t until almost 2 years ago that I had really felt what love truly meant. For the last few months, Shine On Collective has been putting on an immersive experience dedicated to the darker side of love called Devoted. Devoted follows the story of Cara who we learn about in the earlier Devoted shows. I had unfortunately missed these shows, which were performed at Midsummer Scream and ScareLA, but from the buzz I was hearing, their newest show was not to be missed.
Have you ever been to a party where you feel like there was tension in the air? Better yet, have you been to a gathering where you had an inclining that things were about to go terribly, terribly wrong? In the latest Zombie Joe show, TOGETHER, we the audience get to participate in a production where things don't go as planned and we lay witness to devastating consequences.
A few weeks ago I attended the latest show being offered at Zombie Joe’s Underground titled ONE OF US. As with most show at ZJU, I didn’t know too much about it except that it was centered around circus “freaks” and was being directed by the lovely Anna Mavromati and Marlee Delia of Shine On Collective. As someone who has always been fascinated with the creepy side of carnivals as well as the people that work them, I was interested in this show right from the get-go. As my group arrived, we were standing outside the door waiting to go in, when I noticed a gentleman standing off to the side leaning against a tree. Something about him seemed off, as he stared vacantly at the crowd with an old-school camera around his neck, but I didn’t think much of it. Once inside, I completely forgot about the strange man and proceeded to take a seat. It was at this point that that same man came up to me and explained that I was sitting in his seat and that I needed to move. Not wanting to start anything, I obliged, and moved one seat over and waited for the show to begin.
Something that I've always appreciate about Zombie Joe's shows is the use of light vs. dark. I've always been intrigued by his performers abilities to set up a scene in pitch black with very little guidance. In Zombie Joe's newest show, BRAVE THE DARK, the use of light vs. dark once again plays a pivotal role. BRAVE THE DARK is an immersive experience in which the participants are led throughout the building only by a faint lantern held by a ghostly woman. As we are shown around we encounter vignettes depicting modern day horrors and hidden secrets, and unlike Zombie Joe's other shows, where we sit and watch the action unfold, we are thrown into the pit to become part of the act.
URBAN DEATH: CLASSICS is the newest show from the infamous Zombie Joe and Jana Wimer. Best described as “a signature horror production that dives deep into the depths of inexplicable horrors, unfathomable monstrosities, and the disturbed spirits that walk among us” this show will leave you feeling confused, horrified, and maybe even changed for the better.
Have you ever wondered what it was like to be born? If so, I know of the perfect experience for you, it’s called Parturition and it’s brought to you by the folks over at Screenshot Productions “What We Learned Here” series. I attended Parturition a few weeks ago ad it’s taken me those few weeks to fully comprehend what I experienced. I’m excited to share my experience with you, just keep in mind, it may get personal, as this was not an experience I was prepared for. The best way to start this is from the beginning…