A Cold War nightmare

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October 24, 2011 // UPDATED 9:16 am - October 24, 2011
By: Jeremy Zoss
Jeremy Zoss

‘Haunted Theater: Fallout’ takes audience on a terrifying trip at the Loring Theater

It’s 1962, and you’re headed out to the theater for a movie. You settle into a seat next to your sweetie and the film flickers to life on the screen. No one in the audience seems to have a care in the world — until the movie abruptly stops. An emergency broadcast begins, confirming what you had feared. Negotiations between President Kennedy and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev have failed. The Russians have launched their missiles from Cuba and the US has retaliated. It’s all-out nuclear war.

Trying to keep calm, the theater’s employees shuttle you and the rest of the patrons down to a bomb shelter in the basement. Your heart is pounding as you try to contain your fear. Little do you know that the real terror is just about to begin.

This is the setup for “Haunted Theater: Fallout,” a new production at The Loring Theater, 1407 Nicollet Ave. Described as “half haunted house, half theater production,” the show requires a bit more from the audience than a typical Halloween event. You’re encouraged to dress in 1960s-style clothing to embrace your role as a terrified Cold War-era citizen.

After playing the role of the startled theater-goers in the scenario above, audience members will be treated to a series of scripted scares on their way down to the theater’s creepy basement — scares we will, of course, not spoil here. “It’ll be a little bit camp, but I think truly scary at times,” said Loring Theater’s Public Relations Director Paul Anderton.

Inspired by the actual fallout shelter in the basement, the show promises to be a “very visual and very visceral” experience that employs both a cast of local actors and the building itself for its frights. The Loring Theater held its first Halloween event last year, and the basement proved to be a particularly effective prop in setting the mood. “We were inspired by the fact that when we took people down into the basement, we got a really good reaction,” said Anderton.

The basement is filled with narrow corridors, heavy metal doors, dimly lit rooms and a strange sense of history. Notorious televangelist Jim Baker married his wife Tammy Faye Baker in a large, dusty room underneath the auditorium in 1960. On the 50th anniversary of the event, The Loring Theater held a recreation of the wedding, for which Tammy’ Faye’s brother attended and shared his remembrances of how the former “Evangelistic Auditorium” once looked. His thoughts further informed the creation of “Haunted Theater: Fallout” and helped the Fallout team accurately recreate the feel of the era. “I feel like we’ve opened a door to the building’s past,” said Anderton.

The show is an ambitious undertaking, but it is completely in keeping with the company’s vision for the space. “We consider ourselves a modern day variety house,” said Anderton. “We had 145 events here last year, including bands like the Bad Plus, theater pieces, lots of cinema and some very popular burlesque shows.”

It’s a very different tactic than that used by the theater’s previous tenant The Music Box Theater, which was home to the same show, “Triple Espresso,” for more than a decade. Now under Artistic Director Steve Barberio, the troupe at the Loring Theater are trying to focus on variety, creativity and community. Anderton hopes that “Haunted Theater: Fallout” will get people excited about the other events Loring Theater has to offer.

After all, if a group can transport audiences into an alternate world of Cold War terror five times a night, what else can
they do?

Go see it
When: Oct. 24–31
Where: The Loring Theater, 1407 Nicollet Ave. S.
Website: loringtheater.com
What to wear:  To truly get into the spirit of “Haunted Theater: Fallout,” you’ll need some 1960s style duds. Ragstock or Blacklist Vintage near the theater are recommended spots to find good retro outfits.