Actors, designers, advertisers and faculty all gathered together in the basement of the MSU Auditorium before conducting their first test runs for the eighth annual Haunted Auditorium.
Amidst the black tarps lining the green walls, the group buzzed with excitement, theatre and journalism senior Megan Cochrane said.
“I would say the atmosphere is tense, but there’s also a lot of anticipation,” she said. “We can’t wait to get up and get started. We can’t wait to scare people and we’re excited to share what we’ve put together and worked so hard on.”
This year the MSU Department of Theatre students chose the theme urban legends for the Haunted Auditorium, which has given actors and designers a chance to put their skills to the test.
Theatre and apparel and textiles design senior Lucy Jane Wagenaar said she learned about the case of Black Dahlia to inspire her design work on one of the hallways in the Auditorium.
Black Dahlia’s story is about a grisly unsolved murder case, where a woman was mutilated with a joker smile carved on her face and then was cut in half, before thrown under a bridge, Wagenaar said.
Wagenaar’s plan for people coming down the hallways is for them to be greeted by an usher who then takes them to Black Dahlia. Black Dahlia wanted to be an actress before her death, Wagenaar said, so she is giving a performance post-mortem. However, it’s cut short when the audience discovers that the usher is in fact her killer. Terror then ensues, Wagenaar said.
“I want them to feel foreboding when they first enter because at first enter there’s no jump scare or great fear,” she said. “You’re going, and we want them to get that intense rise of panic where they’re like, ‘something's go to happen.’”
Theatre freshman Wade Kogler is another member of the Haunted Auditorium staff who did their homework. Kogler said she did some research into her character, Bloody Mary, and found she’s a scary figure with a religious background. Known for gouging out eyes and stealing souls, Kogler said she really wanted to play up the demented dark angel aspect and make it really terrifying.
Kogler said she was excited when she learned she would get to participate in the Haunted Auditorium, as she has always wanted to work in a horror film or haunted house sort of setting.
“I just like the reality of the human emotion that lies within it, especially within a jump scare,” she said. “You can’t control that, and I just think that’s so cool that we have the ability as actors to be able to evoke that with people.”
Theatre senior Grace Hinkley said this emotional stimulation is what keeps people coming back to the Haunted Auditorium year after year. Hinkley has participated in the Haunted Auditorium for the past four years and has been both performer and designer.
“It’s fun to be scared,” she said. “At least, I think it is. I love horror movies, I love haunted houses. I think it’s a really fun thing for the campus to put it on and scare the crap out of everybody every year.”
This same theatrical environment that makes the participants cheer when they hear they get to work with fake blood also brings them together, Hinkley said.
“There’s sort of a weird thing about theatre that creates kind of a family atmosphere, so you can really get close to a lot of people in the department,” she said.
It’s this community aspect that makes Cochrane passionate about working for the Haunted Auditorium, she said. Cochrane is a co-advertiser to the event and has worked on coordinating media interviews, creating promo videos and developing a Snapchat filter. She is also head of advertising for the Spartan Theatrical Artist Resource Team, which is a program that helps fund theatre students.
The Spartan Theatrical Artist Resource Team and the Haunted Auditorium have a reciprocal relationship, Cochrane said. To be eligible for the benefits of Spartan Theatrical Artist Resource Team, students have to do hours of service.
“They gain hours, which then are racked up and they can apply for grants at their junior and senior year,” Cochrane said. “Those funds come from Haunted Aud. So that’s what we’re fundraising for, for students in the theatre department to use their skills and then pursue their skills afterwards.”
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The Haunted Auditorium raised $30,000 for Spartan Theatrical Resource Team last year in three days, Cochrane said. This year because the MSU vs. University of Michigan football game is the same weekend, they added on a fourth day to the Haunted Auditorium schedule.
Haunted Auditorium tickets are $15 and it will be open Oct. 28 through Oct. 31.
Cochrane said although the final moments before a show can be challenging, the Haunted Auditorium workers pull it off.
“It feels like we plan the bigger picture for so long and then we finally get here and it’s down to the details, and so last minute details everyone needs to pull together,” she said. “I think that’s what I admire most about this community is we all come together the night or two before it actually opens to make this a success.”
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