Entertainment » Culture

Halloween is Spooktacular in New York City

by Winnie McCroy
EDGE Editor
Wednesday Oct 19, 2011

No city does Halloween like New York City! From chilling haunted houses to thrilling plays to raging Halloween parties on the night itself, New York City serves up entertainment that you can really sink your fangs into!

Start the thrills off early with a visit to New York's most horrifying haunted house, "Nightmare: Fairy Tales", located on the Lower East Side's Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center. Creator and co-director Timothy Haskell goes straight to the core of the Grimm's Fairy Tales and extracts the frightening essence.

"The original purpose for virtually all fairy tales was to scare children straight, so they wouldn't do anything dangerous, bad, or amoral," said Haskell.  "We are going to teach those same lessons to our audiences! The narratives of the Fairy Tales chosen lend themselves to Nightmare's unique theatricality, while giving opportunities for fantastical scenarios and set pieces."

A core of actors dressed in garish fairy tale masks lead small groups of participants through cottages featuring an enraged Pinocchio, a demented Rumpelstiltskin, and other storybook characters intent upon scaring the wits out of participants. (Guests can indicate beforehand whether or not they are welcome to being touched by the actors.)

The group is eventually lead upstairs, to what may be the scariest part of the event. Under the guise of conducting "fear experiments," a lab-coated woman instructs the group to walk through a dark, tight-pressed tunnel to a makeshift laboratory, where rats, cockroaches, and other frightening elements are presented.

Although city dwellers are familiar with vermin, being trapped in a dark tunnel relying only on one's sense of touch hit upon some very real fears. And with a run time of about an hour as opposed to the 10-minute walk-through of other city haunted houses, "Nightmare: Fairy Tales" is certainly the best deal you'll find this Halloween.

"Nightmare: Fairy Tales" runs through Nov. 5 at 107 Suffolk St., btw Rivington and Delancey. Tickets $30/$35 at the door. For more information, visit the "Nightmare: Fairy Tales" website>

The Blood Hits the Boards With Halloween Performances

It may not be Balanchine, but fans of dance are sure to love "The Tragedy of Maria Macabre", a theatrical dance piece inspired by 19th Century European circus imagery, silent horror films, and Dia de los Muertos.

The tale begins with the death of the heroine, Maria Macabre. Denied her eternal slumber, Maria is taken through a morbid house of horrors, where humanity is stripped away in favor of a gruesome chorus line. The King and Queen of the Dead greet Maria, and she and the audience is treated to displays by a maniacal Ringmistress, a char-broiled Beauty Queen, a menacing French Clown, and three skeletal Mariachis in desperate need of a Grande Burrito combo. Think "Beetlejuice" meets "The Nutcracker Suite".

Whether you’re a lover of dance or simply of the absurd, this Halloween-themed evening of modern movement will definitely put you in the mood for All Hallow’s Eve.

"The Tragedy of Maria Macabre" plays through October 30 at The Wild Project, 195 E. 3rd St. Tickets are $20. For more information, visit this website

As part of their annual October tradition, The Horse Trade Theater Group stages their "Pumpkin Pie Show." The evening features four tales of romance gone wrong -- some ripped from the headlines. These all-new stories are written and performed by Clay McLeod Chapman, with Hanna Cheek and music by Kyle Jarrow and Sky-Pony.

Among them are "Ascending the Stairway", a how-to guide on middle-school tongue kissing to classic the Led Zeppelin hit. In "Daughter of C.H.U.D", Cheek takes a hard look at her damaged love life, and pays tribute to her father Douglas Cheek’s cult classic thriller, "C.H.U.D.: Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers."

A man recounts leading a search part for his next-door neighbor’s missing teenage daughter in "Michelle", and an outbreak of STDs ravages a Viagra-addled retirement community in "Condo Lothario".

Fans of vampires, zombies, and charismatic serial killers will get their fill in this annual presentation of lore and gore on the Lower East Side.

"The Pumpkin Pie Show" runs through October 29 at Under St. Marks, 94 St. Marks Place. Tickets are $15. For info or tickets call 212-868-4444 or visit the Horse Trade Theater Group website

And, in a loving send-up of films like "Dawn of the Dead" and "Shaun of the Dead", the Dysfunctional Theatre Company will stage a special Halloween preview of "Brew of the Dead 2: Oktoberflesh".

Described as "’The Breakfast Club’ as directed by George Romero," the piece is a follow-up of sorts to their 2008 hit "Brew of the Dead," which asked, "When the apocalypse comes, will there be beer?" In this zombie-tastic sequel featuring Nicole Lee Aiossa, Rob Brown, Eric Chase, Tom O’Connor, Amy Overman, and Amy Beth Sherman," the players will ask, "Can the dead get high?" The answer is sure to be good for some laughs.

"Brew of the Dead 2: Oktoberflesh" runs November 3-19 at Under St. Marks, 94 St. Marks Place. Tickets are $15. For info or tickets call 212-868-4444 or visit the Horse Trade Theater Group website

Halloween Parties in the Big Apple

On the heels of this sneak peek of "Brew of the Dead 2: Oktoberflesh", The Horse Trade Theater, in association with Frigid New York, presents "The Frigid Lottery Halloween Party". This 4th annual Halloween event will feature music by The BTK Band, self-billed as "New York City’s hardest-drinking improvised storytelling rock band." The band will regale the audience with true stories from their lives, with music and lyrics improvised to turn these stories into songs.

This self-sustaining theater development group takes pride in bringing together talented independent artists and the community for affordable, innovative events. The event will also feature a lottery, in which 15 new shows will be drawn at random to perform in the February 2012 FRIGID New York Festival.

The event features stunning costumes, lots and lots of beer, and the promise that "you will have candy thrown at your face." With any luck, some of it will hit your mouth. At any rate, the event is free (or $15 with the play), a cost that even the biggest skinflint has to love.

"The Frigid Lottery Halloween Party" is held at 10 p.m. at Under St. Marks, 94 St. Marks Place. For info or tickets call 212-868-4444 or visit the Horse Trade Theater Group website

Those who take their Halloween Eve festivities seriously should head over to First Avenue for "Theater for the New City’s 32nd Annual Village Halloween Costume Ball". This storied fall tradition features events in all four of TNC’s theater spaces, as well as the entire block of E. 10th St. between First and Second Aves.

More than 1,400 costumed celebrants flock to the event every year for dancing, dining, theater, and the annual midnight costume contest -- and don’t try to opt out; costume or formal wear is required for admission. Winners in 12 categories will receive one-year passes to TNC and a bottle of Moët & Chandon Champagne.

Among the offerings are big-band dance orchestras in the Johnson Theater, a grand buffet in the Community Theater, and spine-tingling performances by artists, songwriters, players, and poets. In the lobby, paying guests can consult with a Wiccan psychic reader, and get astrology and numerology readings, astral portraits, aura readings, the throwing of the I Ching, and Hellsouls.

Outside the theater, neighbors will be treated to a free display of bluegrass and jazz bands, fire-eaters, jugglers, storytellers, and stilt walkers, capped off by "The Red and Black Masque", an annual medieval ritual show written by Arthur Sainer and performed by torchlight.

"Theater for the New City’s 32nd Annual Village Halloween Costume Ball" begins at 7:30 on October 31 (with outdoor activities from 3-7 p.m.) at TNC, 155 First Ave. Tickets are $20. For tickets or info call 212-254-1109 or visit the Theater for the New City website

The 39th Annual Village Halloween Parade

For nearly four decades, New York residents (and later, the world) came together in Greenwich Village on All Hallow’s Eve to march through the streets bedecked in their finest costumes. This year, the "Annual Village Halloween Parade", which at one time ended at the TNC’s costume ball, now moves from Sixth Ave. at Spring Street to 16th Street in Chelsea.

Organizers invite all costumed participants to join, and those numbers have grown in recent years to nearly 60,000. And that doesn’t even factor in the millions of spectators who line up six-deep along the route to marvel at the innovative costumes.

In addition to the artistic and often au courant costumes, the parade features hundreds of giant puppets, more than 50 marching bands representing music from around the world, and dancers of all styles.

What started as a small celebration for Village children has evolved into a clearinghouse for the nation’s oddest oddballs, and a free-for-all for New York’s gay community, who often sport some of the event’s best mummery.

The event is free to the public, and for the past several years, has been aired on WPIX Channel 11 and on NY1 News. If you are lucky enough to have a friend with a window overlooking the route along Sixth Ave., do your best to score a place above the fray. Otherwise, steel yourself for a shitshow of epic proportions, and leave the booze at home - the NYPD will be out in full force, and their costumes (and handcuffs) are real.

"The 39th Annual Village Halloween Parade" begins at 7 p.m. on October 31 on Sixth Ave. from Spring St. to 16th St. For more info the event’s website.

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.


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