Last week a friend at work mentioned that he was volunteering at Scare for a Cure, and they were generally short people on Halloween night (since it’s a school night), so he was looking for volunteers. I’ve been feeling a bit guilty lately about not volunteering much (especially since I’m probably not going to be doing the tax center stuff I’ve done in previous years), so I decided to go for it. The downside was that he said it would last until 1 AM or so, but it’s only one night so I figured I could deal. (I’m much more willing to do one-offs than things that tie me down for months on end…)
Anyway, I knew almost nothing about it (except that the money went to charity), so when we left work yesterday I tried to put myself in a “leaf on the wind”-type mood, to roll with the punches and other appropriate metaphors. Only issue was that I wasn’t feeling great and had a somewhat sore throat. He explained that the haunted house was right next to NI’s cofounder’s big house, on Richard Garriott‘s land which he generally lets them use. It was off of 360 in the very nice part of Austin, of course – scenery was beautiful!
We parked and walked down to the site, where I was introduced to Susan, who seemed to be in charge of checking people in and running things to some extent. It became clear that this was a pretty big operation – lots of people wandering around, a costume trailer and a makeup trailer, the whole works! I ate some quick food that was catered by Southern’s Fine Dining and reported back to Susan to figure out what I was going to be doing, and she ended up sending me to the Freak Lab, which sounded like fun. Got my costume (muscles bursting out of a shirt) and waited in line to get makeup (scars on my face!). By the time that was done it was getting late – I was done around 7:10 and group 0 was scheduled for 7:30. Of course I had no idea where to go or what to do, but Susan found someone to walk me down to the actual site. (it was pretty dark by this point…luckily I didn’t kill myself, as I have terrible night vision)
The whole environment really felt like a mix between backstage at a show and a carnival (owing to the large number of clowns that were wandering around), which was kind of neat. I mostly observed and tried to stay out of people’s ways.
It was dark, so this was the only good picture I got – unfortunately you can’t see much of the muscles down both arms…
The house itself is (I learned later) on a concrete slab that was going to be an addition to Richard Garriott’s house, but it got canceled or something and now the iron bars are rusted through so it’s not good for much. Except being spooky – there’s something unsettling about plain concrete walls and floors. I was pointed in the direction of Freak Lab, where I met up with the Freakmaster (who I had met before), and he explained how the scene worked. The gist was that some member of a group had already been kidnapped and was led to a cell in the Freak Lab – when the rest of the group got there, they’d let him/her out. But they wouldn’t let out another actor in a different cell, who would get angry and call for the Freakmaster, who led them into the lab. There…some stuff would happen (this was out of my sight), usually involving spraying them with blood and someone’s face being ripped off. At some point the Freakmaster would realize that they had let his captive out of the cage, and call for the guards. That was my cue to appear and scare them into the next room.
So really I had about 10 seconds of being visible, which was fine with me. I gotta say, the Freakmaster and company did a pretty good job of acting on their feet – he’d usually ask some questions and respond to answers in a creepy way. Groups started coming through around 8, and we got a 15 minute break around 10, then the last group came through our part around 12:20. Our scene lasted 3-4 minutes, and groups came through every 5 minutes or so, so there wasn’t a whole lot of downtime. (and sometime there was less than zero!) I decided to kinda growl/yell at the guests as they were on the way out – otherwise they wouldn’t see me at all, which seemed like a waste of a creepy costume. This meant my voice was not in good shape by the end of the night – luckily some kind soul had brought Ricola drops, which I downed every 30 minutes. I felt bad for the Freakmaster (who did a lot of talking) and the people that had to scream every single time. Is my voice just much weaker than everyone else’s?
I’ve been in a reasonable number of shows at this point in my life, and there’s a certain monotony in doing the same show three times in a day (for the summer musical, day). But that’s nothing compared to doing the same scene ~40 times in an evening – by the end it was fairly Groundhog Day-esque. It helped some that we were directly interacting with the audience, but still…yikes.
Anyway, afterwards I was tired and such, but there were some last night traditions to attend to – walking through the house (which was kinda cool since I hadn’t seen anything but our lab), a few speeches, a group picture, etc. I of course felt a bit out of place since these people had been doing this for quite a while together, and I was just a Johnny-come-lately. (also: I was tired) But it was fun and they seem like good people, if a little weirder than even other theater people I know 🙂
The sad aftermath is that I was exhausted today (of course – got home around 1:30 but was sufficiently wound up/sore throat-y and stayed up for another hour), and I realized that I am apparently allergic to the foam or whatever that the bulging muscles were made of. Nothing too serious, but my arms are blotchy and itchy today.
Summary: If you like haunted houses, you should really check out Scare for a Cure – it’s for a good cause and looked to be pretty scary, and they did a lot of work with costumes and scenery and such. (and get the red ticket so you can be covered with blood and such – way more fun that way!)