3 + 1 = 4 More From the Twin Cities Horror Festival

This will likely be the last of my reviews from the TCHF. I’d love to catch the last three shows I need to see on Saturday, if my schedule will allow for it I will and be sure I’ll post reviews. This was my first experience with this festival and I strongly recommend that people get out and see the shows. Everyone of them still as at least one performance left, most two and some three. I have found something rewarding in each of the shows. As delighted as I was with the first five shows I reviewed I was blown away by this second batch. I expected more of the shows to be genuinely scary, most have not been, but they have been fascinating all the same. The one Play that actually delivered in spades on the scares was also my favorite of the Festival and the first up for this review and it is.

Frankenstein

Frankenstein by Dangerous Productions Photo by Dan Norman

Dangerous Productions’ Frankenstein by Tyler Olsen-Highness is not your father’s Frankenstein. This is a modern story told in a nonlinear fever dream, Mary Shelly’s book is referenced by the characters and they all have the names of characters from the book. Victor is still the creator of the horrors, but he is more of a sociopathic obsessive than a misguided genius. The cast is uniformly effective and intense. Much of the play is played in the dark with lighting effects and flashlights used to startle, misdirect and create uneasiness. The play progresses from creepy lighting effects to ever more startling moments. Our eyes temporary blinded by lights being pointed directly at us are not prepared for the movements of the characters. Frankenstein is also by far the bloodiest of the festival. There are some extremely effective moments of violence and gore. This is not the show to bring the tweens or younger too, but everyone else should be sure to make this the top of your “to see” list. Frankenstein puts the Horror in TCHF!

The Rule of Three

The Rule of Three by Four Humors Photo by Dan Norman

The Rule of Three is a trip-tech of an anthology of anthology shows. It’s not that scary but it’s still dead brilliant. Presented by Four Humors Theater and written by Matt Spring, who is also one of the three performers along with Ryan Lear and Brant Miller. The show presents three different stories each reminding me of a different anthology TV show. The first act plays like an episode of Black Mirror, it is set in the future and involves the evolution of Deepfake technology. The show makes extensive use of video footage is a very clever indication of the ways in which technology has become even more enmeshed in our society in the future. Smart and funny as it begins, it grows darker ending as a cautionary what if. The second act is entirely video, it is a pastiche of the 1990’s TV series Are you Afraid of the Dark? Even going so far as to replicate that series campfire set up. This Act is about as scary as one of those episodes but it makes up for a lack of frights by being hysterically funny. The final act is completely humorless and the darkest of the three. It tells the story of an group of settlers making the trek to the west coast who are stranded as winter sets in and have to do whatever they can to stay alive through the winter. It is told by jumping back and forth in time, revealing new pieces of information with each change in the timeline, slowly revealing what lengths they have resorted to. This act reminded me, as did the entire production in a way of a great British anthology show called Inside No. 9. For sheer entertainment The Rule of Three is the show to see.

AMP

Amp photo by Hunter Canning

Amp written and performed by Jody Christopherson is easily the most political and serious minded of the productions I’ve seen at the TCHF. Christopherson plays Mary Shelley and tells the story of the woman who created one of the most enduring mythologies of the last 200 (ok actually 201 years). The productions main thrust is not the story of Frankenstein’s creation but of the creator herself. We learn a tremendous amount about Shelley during the course of the play a woman very much ahead of her time, a feminist from a patriarchal era. Brought up to be a free thinker and follow her heart, she was let down by a society that did not give women the same rights as men or allow them the same humanity even. Throughout her story we see details that will work their way into her immortal story. The script and performance have been honed to a T. There does not seem to be any padding, every line of the script either contributes essential details or helps to convey the emotions of this fiery woman. The performance of Christopherson is passionate and intense, being the only performer she has a lot to carry a lot of information to convey while still informing us of Shelley’s emotional states as well. There are horrific elements on the production, but to my mind this is a “me too” story, timely and important as we look back all those years ago and see that many of those same shadows still hang over us today. More of an think piece than an entertainment, but that is what is so fascinating about this festival, the variety of what is presented.

…And What Alice Found There

…And What Alice Found There by The Winding Sheet Outfit Photo by Dan Norman

The Winding Sheet Outfit’s production of …And What Alice Found There explores the relationship between Charles Dodgson aka Lewis Carroll and Alice Pleasance Liddell, the basis for Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass? The question mark reflects the nature of the show which asks questions but doesn’t provide answers. Does that sound like a cheat? Well it isn’t, because there are no answers to the questions it raises. The production is seemingly a meeting between Dodgson and Alice when she is older, but the meeting seems to be taking place in Wonderland and Alice is accompanied by the denizens of that place…or other children who were friends of Dodgsons. While never actually scary in itself this show finds it’s horror in the possibilities it suggests, and they are much more disturbing than what my son used to refer to as poppy outies. There is a dreamlike quality to much of the proceedings with an edge of creepiness on two fronts. The relationship being examined has sinister overtones but is discussed with an almost whimsical tone. The children at times amusing can also be creepy such as when they parade about wearing masks of animals or when their silliness dips into mania. The production makes great use of silhouettes to create visuals illustrating ideas such as a poetic passage from a book. The sound design is also very effective in amplifying the discordant tones and suggestions. Creative use of various instruments for creating these sounds like using a violin bow on a metal bowl to create a sound that seems almost normal but not quite right, just as Dodgson’s relationship with Alice comes off. The point is to present this unknowable relationship and question it, while essentially admitting that we don’t know. It seems odd, and if it were happening today there would probably be an investigation…but we don’t really know.

you can find the schedule for all shows and purchase tickets at http://www.tchorrorfestival.com/ . The festival runs through Sunday Nov. 3rd. The wonderful thing about covering this festival has been to see the variety of work. Everything from truly scary stories to shadow puppets and science fiction. Also the creative ways in which the artists have found to share their ideas. This festival reminds us of all the talent and creativity out there and theaters ability to bring those things together to entertain, teach and yes, frighten us.

5 from the Twin Cities Horror Festival

As you may remember from my feature preview of the Twin Cities Horror Festival’s (TCHF) 8th season there are basically 13 one hourish shows rotating throughout the festival. I am scheduled at this point to take in 9 of the shows, after today I’m going to try and get to three of the others if I can. If that works out the only show I will not have been able to fit in is the Horror Show Hot Dog, which are showcases for horror short films. My first love was film, so it was hard to pass those up, but a man has to sleep, eat, and write. Rather than write 5 separate reviews for today’s shows and risk some of them not getting seen or lost in an avalanche of posts, I’ll be writing one review with all 5 shows and another review with the 3 scheduled for tomorrow and the 1 scheduled for Tuesday. Do not adjust your computer screens, the format below, while not the usual, is correct.

This was my first visit to the Southern Theater in Minneapolis and I have to say I really like this theater. It is perfect for TCHF, inside the performance space it has the look of a haunted castle. They have a nice selection of beverages (including Lemonade) and snacks for sale in the lobby. One word of warning before indulging into too many local brews or lemonades, the mens bathroom urinal is broken, so there is one stall available. As anyone who goes to the theater often knows Bathrooms are always in short supply, even more so here. If you need to go between shows, hustle out of the theater and get in line, or if you are having dinner at a nearby restaurant, go there before heading over. Two fun additional sidelines on the second level they have Living Embalming Sessions by Funerals for Life, where you get a death certificate and a Polaroid picture of yourself, after they have embalmed you of course. There is also a table selling merchandise such as Beanies, Hoodies, T-shirts, Leggings, purses and even soaps. There were some very tempting items and I shouldn’t be surprised if I head home one of these nights with a t-shirt or a Beanie.

Feminine Inhuman

Feminine Inhuman by Erin Sheppard Presents/Monster Science Photo by Dan Norman

The first show of the day was Feminine Inhuman which takes the form of a lecture by Reverend Matt about female monsters in folktales and mythologies throughout the world. Reverend Matt’s lecture is about seven different creatures: the Acheri, Qalupalik, Encantado, Banshee. Kuchisake-Onna, Harpy, and the Nightmare. The lectures are humorous and well delivered if a bit rushed, likely due to time constraints, by the writer of the piece Matthew Kessen. Each monster’s story is then accompanied by a dance sequence. This seems like an odd marriage, a humorous fo-lecture combined with dance sequences but it really works well. The dancing is top-notch, only in the first sequence did it seem like the synchronization was a bit off between the Acheri and her Shadow at times. This was one of my favorite productions of the day.

Geminae

Geminae by Oncoming Productions. Photo by Alex Wohlhueter.

The second show of the day Geminae was a science fiction piece by Becky Wilkinson Hauser. It concerns an astronaut in orbit above earth who is losing oxygen and the mission control team who are trying to figure out how to save her. This shows highlights were the production design and performances. The astronaut Cassie played by Leslie Vincent is shown floating through space to check different areas of the ship from the outside. This is accomplished by the actress being supported and carried by Rob Ward who is listed in the program as The Void. This was a very creative and fun way to create the illusion of weightlessness. Dressed all in black so that he mostly blends into the background, I thought it a poor choice that he did not wear a black mask and gloves as that would have completed the illusion more effectively. But later The Void takes on another role, which perhaps explains that costume choice. On the other hand that other role, is also the weak point of the play. It’s unclear what that role is and the play ends without really explaining what The Void is. It would have been better to have Ward simply function as the tool for creating the illusion of weightlessness and find a more understandable resolution to the play. I wanted to give shout outs here to three actors that created very real feeling performances, Sean Dillon, Erik Nielsen and Gurayn Sylte. This play contained the best acting of the day, with those three being the standouts.

Charcoal Moon

Charcoal Moon by Rogues Gallery Arts Photo by Dan Norman

Third up was like the second show on a science fiction double feature. Charcoal Moon tells the story of two spaceships who have spent 6 years to reach a moon of a dwarf planet in our solar system to extract a mineral that can change the world. Something goes very wrong though and the ships crews find themselves at odds with each other. This is almost the reverse of Geminae. Whereas that show used a very low tech tool to create the illusion of zero gravity, this show relied heavily on video footage of messages between earth and the spaceships to illustrates it’s science, but both worked well with their stories. Their strengths and weaknesses were also swapped. Charcoal Moon had a much more satisfying script but the actors were not able to bring the same depth and realism to their roles. I think these contrasts reflect the differences in the plays themselves, whereas Geminae is more of a drama, Charcoal Moon is more of an action adventure piece. Charcoal Moon was written and directed by Duck Washington

Incarnate

Incarnate by Special When Lit Photo by Dan Norman

Incarnate by Nissa Nordland Morgan was the best show of the day. From the moment we were let into the theater the discomfort began. They asked us to write our names on a piece of paper and put it in the basket to be considered for a part in the harvest. Everyone knows this is code for pulling you up on stage to be a part of the show. After that while you sit in your seats waiting for the show to start, people come around and thank you for coming and being a part of the Oasis. You never really get to relax from that point on. When the show starts you realize you are at a somewhat christian, somewhat pagan service. This is the show that gives Geminae a run for it’s money in the acting category. The standout here is Lauren Anderson who plays Marigold, the charismatic Herald of The Oasis which is basically a cult led by her and Caretaker Dan. Adding to the discomfort for me personally was the fact that within the schedules handed out when the doors opened was a program for the Oasis service. I didn’t take one as I didn’t realize there was a program inside the Festival schedule, which I already had a copy of. So the entire service I had to stand there pretending I knew what to say when it came time for the congregation to join it. I don’t want to give anything away but trust me this is not a show for the wee ones. There is a scene of nudity that seems odd and unnecessary, but that is really the only misstep in a powerful play, and it’s a minor one.

Bug Girl

Bug Girl by LIZ howls Photo by Dan Norman

Bug Girl was the final show and lasted about 30 minutes. This was the most unusual production as it was a shadow puppet performance. I am not very familiar with Shadow puppetry and there were some really interesting elements to the show. It is a performance style that incorporates puppets and drawings with live action movement creating in effect a cartoon that is performed live. There are illustrations projected in coordination with other elements using overhead projectors onto three panels. There is a live performer wearing a mask that appears on the screens in silhouette and handheld puppets that are moved across the overhead projectors. I liked the technique quite a bit, there were some very striking visuals. The one issue I had was that it seemed to rest on that too much. The show established it’s visuals and then didn’t do much to raise the bar. It was the shortest show of the day but also the one that felt a bit long. The visuals went from striking to repetitive, once the style had been established very few new elements were added. It seems like a style of story telling where you should be figuring out ways to keep wowing the viewer with new techniques. Bug Girl is the creation of Liz Howls.

Tickets for the TCHF which runs through Sunday November 3rd as well as synopsis and content ratings for the shows can be found at http://www.tchorrorfestival.com/ .

Plan ahead for Halloween Fun at the 8th season of the Twin Cities Horror Festival

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In my household everyone knows there is no such thing as the month of October. When listing months it goes August, September, Monster Month November, December. So being the theater fan I am and having an affection for celebrating bumpities and spookables during the month which must not be named, I was intrigued to discover the Twin Cities Horror Festival (TCHF). The TCHF is Eleven days of onstage horror and more. It’s eighth season runs from October 24th thru November 3rd at the Southern Theater in Minneapolis. The festival consists of 12 stage shows, The Horror Show Hot Dog Short Film Festival, and a Lobby sensory experience called Living Embalming Sessions that will send you home with a death certificate.

With basically 14 different shows to experience how can you possibly see everything? Well it’s even trickier than that because The Horror Show Hot Dog Short Film Festival shows a different selection of short films at each screening, of which there are 5. The good news is each of the shows runs just under an hour, so there are multiple shows on any given day, and you can easily catch 4 to 5 on a weeknight, don’t worry about getting too sleepy, remember these are horror shows. Up to 8 shows can be taken in on a weekend. Appointment’s to be embalmed can be made in the lobby, in case that is a service you need. With all but one show having 5 performances throughout the 11 days of the festival, there are many opportunities to see as many as you’d like. Be Warned as you make your schedule there is one show, Sara’s FUNeral: An Open Casket Cabaret that has a single performance on Saturday Nov.2nd at 11:30 AM, so if you are a completest plan accordingly.

The complete schedule and descriptions of each show can be found at www.tchorrorfestival.com. For families looking for some good clean scares read the full descriptions on the website Click on SHOWS –> LINEUP AND TICKETS scroll down to the individual show descriptions, when you click on More you will get a fuller description, scroll to the bottom of the page and each show has a rating, here is an example from Frankenstein

Ratings (1-5)
Language – 4
Violence – 5
Blood – 5

​Suggested Age 16+

Tickets can be purchased for individual shows or you can buy multi-show passes. There is the Four Horsemen Pass which gets you 4 tickets at a discount which you can use to see 4 different shows or to take a group of 4 to 1 show, you can purchase as many of those as you want. They also the Skeleton Key, which is basically unlimited access to all the shows. This is the route to go if you intend to see everything at least once and multiple sessions of The Horror Show Hot Dog Short Film Festival. I plan to take in as many as my schedule allows for. I would like to point out that the TCHF officially became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit this year. This ensures that they are able to pass on all money raised from individual tickets sales to the artists behind the shows.

I promise to post reviews of the shows I get to, the day of whenever possible. So if you are on the fence on which shows to check out, check back throughout the Festival I’ll post them as I see them. I’ll end with a selection of Photos from previous shows