Why are so many horror stories set in graveyards at night? Because it’s darn scary, that’s why. Maybe that’s why not many people choose to go to cemeteries after dark. Rationality tells one that nothing changes when the sun goes down; but lurking in the shadows of thought, a tiny seed of fear begins to grow.
And that’s where Wicked Lit comes in, with frightening theatrical adaptations of ghostly tales and horror stories by well-known authors, set in the buildings and grounds at Mountain View Cemetery and Mausoleum in Altadena. The 2013 series is the fourth season at Mountain View and the fifth season for Co-Artistic Directors Jonathan Josephson, Paul Millet and Jeff G. Rack to scare the bejeebers out of their audience.
The series features three plays—The Lurking Fear (H.P. Lovecraft), The New Catacomb (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle), The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (Washington Irving)—which are performed three times simultaneously while the audience rotates among them.
We spoke with Millet about the upcoming season, and especially the unusual adaptation of an Edgar Allan Poe story into The Masque of the Red Death Experience, which unfolds in the intervals between plays.
“Intervals serve multiple purposes for the show and the cast and crew. It basically allows each show to reboot, if you will,” Millet said. “Last year was the first year we actually did something like that. It didn’t have a title. [It was] just sort of an environmental experience that involved characters moving around.”
While the three plays take people to different areas around the grounds of Mountain View, the interval experience is mounted in the courtyard, which also serves as a lobby, as the audience sits around the square.
Audiences enjoyed it, so this year, the artistic directors decided to expand on the experience. Several ideas were floated, including something to pay homage to the three plays, but Millet said it just didn’t gain traction. Finally, the self-avowed Poe fan decided that the Poe story would fit well.
It’s a “story of a gothic masquerade, people invited to an elaborate party, celebrating the fact they are alive and healthy and sequestered from the Red Death that’s going on in the country,” he said, likening it to the members of the audience coming to Mountain View to enjoy the theater. “Of course, ‘The Masque of the Red Death’ has a tragic end, and we do our best to unmask that.”
In some ways, the cemetery and mausoleum are also actors in the productions. The gothic architecture and antique tombstones—some from 130 years ago—offer many locations to tell the stories.
“It’s been a great relationship over the last few years. It’s a wonderful location, so versatile,” Millet said. “Jay Brown, the proprietor of the cemetery, has been very supportive of our work.
“Our patrons are coming to his property and many have not been there before,” he said. “Oftentimes, patrons have expressed an interest in coming back during the day to see the inside of the mausoleum.”
Of the three plays, only one has been performed before and has been re-adapted for Mountain View, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, which was done at Greystone Mansion in 2009. “It’s exciting to remount it,” Millet said. And speaking of remounting, is there going to be a horse?
“There’s going to be a horse in it, I’ll tell you that much, but I’m not going to tell you the nature of the horse,” he said.
Wicked Lit takes place at Mountain View Mausoleum & Cemetery, 2300 N. Marengo Ave., Altadena. Tickets range from $45-55 and are available at the online box office, or call (818) 242-7910 for more information. Preview performance is on Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013 ($30), and regular performances are on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, Oct. 4-Nov. 2, 2013
Plays begin at 7:30 p.m., but be sure to arrive by 7 p.m. for the Masque of the Red Death Experience. The ground is rough in places and there are many stairs to climb, so patrons should wear comfortable shoes and be prepared to walk at least 2,000 steps throughout the evening.
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