Recently I had the pleasure of teaching a three-day acting bootcamp to the core actors at Lexington, Kentucky’s Screampark. I wanted to share with you not only the experience, but wonder and joy that is those that work tirelessly to create haunted attractions.
The world of haunted attractions is very much like the world of theatre. It takes an incredibly eclectic, passionate, and talented group of people able to pull together in order to create something special — but to also live together as a highly functioning, dysfunctional family. Being around either collection of souls is a refreshing dive into welcome and warm water. That was my weekend between Friday, May 18-21. Me and twenty-some students of the haunting-type collected together, in the middle of the Screampark warehouse, with the singular purpose of taking the creative collection of characters to the next level. It was a high challenge with an even higher reward. Let me explain.
When you spend your weekdays knee deep in the funk of the real world, the idea that you can make a difference, an important difference, disappears in the muck and mire of business, bottom line, and things that (in the end) really don’t matter. What matters is the ability to touch souls, to make those that are often brushed aside by society understand that they too are special — that they matter as much as the next guy in line. Those hearts, those minds are constantly squashed and slapped down until the only recourse is getting lost among similar souls. When those misfits collect together and understand fully that they do matter — magic can happen.
I witnessed magic at the Screampark. While working to help the core cast grasp some fairly complex concepts, I watched as they let their every-day armor drop away and become open to art, to being vulnerable and celebrating their craft in depth and detail they weren’t accustomed to.
I witnessed the birth of artists. That is not to say they didn’t already come in contact with their inner artistry. Watching them apply their make up and speak of their character’s back-stories made it very clear I was dealing with artists that owned a deep-seeded passion for their creation. But with the slightest of prodding, those same artists began to dive deeper into the depths of their craft… to connect with their characters in ways they might not have known they were capable of.
Coming from extensive actor training, it’s easy to get caught up in the ideology that true art enjoys a hierarchy that cannot be challenged. Shakespeare > Ibsen > Chekhov > Strindberg > Mamet and Drama > Farce > Comedy > Improv > Musical Theatre. Truth be told, the second you step away from the stage, that hierarchy is tossed out the window. Acting is acting and it can happen anywhere. Even among a group creating absurdist-level characters whose sole intention is to scare. Even without the presence of dramaturgy and pedantry, art can (and does) happen.
The education, of course, was a two way street. Not only did I come away with an idea for an awesome horror novel, I got to learn some of the secrets of the haunt industry. That education offered up inspiration-a-plenty — not only for future books, but for life itself. Not only was I reminded how strong the human spirit is, I was reminded just how precious art is to life and life is to art.
I want to thank the Screampark family for having me dip my toes into the well of their family. They are some very special people who happen to have an amazing product on their hands. When they open this fall, make sure you visit them and be prepared to be scared like you’ve never been scared!