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If you're going to scream, scream with me
You're following Brandon Wright through the maze of walls that will become one of four attractions at the Fright Night Scream Park. It's just a plywood frame at this point, and the lights are on, but it's oddly quiet and you still get disoriented. You keep Wright within arms' reach, because if you turn around and he's gone ... You. Will. Freak. Out!
In the front lobby, a horde of teenagers slosh around like zombies, then fall to the ground in writhing agony. There's a kid with a camera snapping photos. He stops to chat and you notice vampire fangs.
Somewhere, someone screams.
So, yeah, the place is kind of creepy. But there's something more than mere creepiness crackling under the surface here. For all the fake skeletons and decapitated clown heads, the park has become its own creative community.
“These people just came out of nowhere,” says Maggie Courtis, the owner/operator and inspiration behind the park, which will open Oct. 10 in the old movie theater at Sierra Vista Mall.
Actually, they mostly came from MySpace — 100 or so of them, all volunteers, meeting each week to design sets, build props and work on improv acts that will become part of the nightly routine. To recruit a cast and crew for the haunt, Wright took up the “street team” approach, posting on social networking sites and creative community sites like MindHub, long before any actual work began.
He quickly found people who were eager to join the cause and become part of the Scream Team, as they were dubbed. Yes, the crew is busy working on the sets and props and lighting and sound, but they also get together for Saturday movie nights and barbecue parties. This Saturday, the park will hold a Zombie Prom dance for all the volunteers.
But this isn't amateur hour.
The idea for the Scream Park has been floating around in Courtis' head for 10 years. She's traveled the country to visit the nation's best haunts, and taken part in haunted-house seminars. She's even hired a consultant firm to make sure the haunt will be a success.
And the volunteers churn out professional-grade work. They even produced a zombie video to showcase the work.
Many of them, like Kevin Van Fossen, work in the industry. He does special effects makeup professionally, which is great work, but doesn't have the best opportunities here in town. He was happy for the chance to share his craft. Opportunities like this don't come along often, says his wife, Lea Adams who's in charge of the park's visual arts.
Laurie Phelps is a face and body artist by trade. She's been doing it since she was 18. But she'd never done something of this caliber and when the chance arose, she had to take it.
Being part of the team has allowed her to showcase her skills — she loves to teach — while picking up a few new ones. She recently spent three days taking a course with Pashur, a professional body artist from Las Vegas.
Tonight she's making Roxanne Soto into a monster.
“She going to be a self-mutilator,” Phelps says, brushing on the latex that will become scars and bite marks.
And the volunteers are given free reign to create, Wright says.
Down in the last theater on the left, a group of actors sits in a support-group circle and talks characters. Yes, these are zombies and ghouls and chainsaw-wielding crazies.
But they're chainsaw-wielding crazies with lives, backstories.
“The actors go home and think about it,” Wright says.
Final Auditions for the Fright Night Scream Park
2 p.m. Sept. 20
801 Santa Ana Ave., Clovis
Details: (559) 288-DARK or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org