Big week for me at Morey’s Piers Mariner’s Landing as we unveil the 2nd edition of Morey’s FEARS, our big Halloween event.
Often before these big life events, I try to find a moment to reflect, and in doing so it dawned on me that, at age 42, for half of my life (ok, maybe 2/3’s), I’ve managed to get this far making my living as, in no particular order, an actor, a singer, a writer, a karaoke host, and now a haunted house manager. Which means I’ve been, in no particular order, overworked, underpaid, underappreciated, exhausted, stressed, broke, destitute, poor, penniless, and generally pretty happy. Oh, and my feet hurt.
I was all of these things, plus a few more, the last 2 weeks as we prepared the big haunt, the nuts and bolts; making sure everyone had a costume for their haunt (Ghost Ship, CarnEVIL, CornStalkers, Terror Trench, The Other Side, Zombie Roamers), and that those costumes were appropriately distressed (worked over with a box cutter or sanding wheel, drizzled with dirt, dusted with spray paint, topped with a layer of crunchy blood), that all the make-up was where it needed to be (there are 7 distinct make-up looks my teams are applying, requiring 7 different combinations of stuff; airbrush or crème make-up, tooth stain, “Thick Blood,” fake pus-myveryveryfavorite- and other assorted tools of grossness) and all the (100+) actors are trained on each haunt, and given a (theoretical) tool belt full of handy dandy acting tips… which they all promptly ignore or forget at first guest contact.
Here’s how my average FEARS day goes:
1pm: Head in to work to make sure I have my day together; show charts printed up, staffing changes noted, other boring bookkeeping.
2pm: The best part of my day; lunch. The company opens “Jumbo’s” and feeds everyone working the event each day, which is pretty cool, especially if you like really good Pizza and grilled cheeses (mmm… grilled cheeses).
2:30pm: First wave of artists arrive and get into their own costume and make-up (every artist acts in one of the haunts and are also made up of group sales reps, mechanics and social media directors, though most come from Ghost Ship).
3pm: We really get humming as actors arrive 2 at a time in half-hour blocks.
3pm-6:30pm: I spend this time overseeing and approving make-up looks, putting out little fires- this actor doesn’t like their make-up, this actor’s costume is missing, no one brings me coffee and I don’t have time for a cigarette. This is an energized time of day, giving me ample opportunity to interact with most of the actors, crack a few jokes, keep things loose… which is different for me because I’m usually deadly earnest…
6:30pm: FIRE DRILL!
6:45: I give the crew my best Knute Rockne, a variation on my “Idiot” speech, which goes something like this; “You are going to feel like a total idiot. I encourage you to embrace your inner idiot and rest easy with the knowledge that everyone around you also feels like an idiot, so come together in your fellowship of idiocy and just go for it.”
6:55: Duly inspired, we sneak behind enemy lines (below the pier) where we amass behind our unsuspecting guests and…
7pm: Storm the gates!
Last Friday night I had an Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen in Lord of the Rings) moment as our gaggle of ghouls prematurely stormed the pier and I screamed, “HOLD! There may be a day when zombies rush the gates too early but THIS IS NOT THAT DAY! There may be a day when scarecrows and mole mutants get a free pumpkin funnel cake but THIS IS NOT THAT DAY! They may take our lives, but they’ll never take… our lives! ‘Cause, you know, we’re zombies!”
Good fun. And God knows I love an audience. Even if they’re being paid to be there.
7:01pm: Morey’s FEARS is open!
7:01-11pm: I serve as roaming acting coach, focusing my laser-like intensity on each haunt, all of which, at some point or another, are in need of my innate ability to make stuff up on the spot (like I do in this space every week).
If you can’t tell, this is an exciting few weeks for me and, as I’d like to do it for, oh, the next 30 or so Octobers, I encourage you all to come check it out.