Arts & Entertainment

Halloween-themed theater shows now playing across Southland

William Joseph Hill and Brian David Pope in
William Joseph Hill and Brian David Pope in "The Cask of Amontillado." Mountan View Mausoleum and Cemetery, 2010 Wicked Lit production.
Daniel Kitayama

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When the Christmas season rolls around, theatergoers are accustomed to choosing among productions of “The Nutcracker,” “A Christmas Carol” and “The Miracle on 34th Street.” But some theater companies have chosen Halloween as the holiday to commemorate, and there are plenty of ghoulish shows to choose from in the Southland this week.

One of the options is the Halloween Spooktacular – a “slasher-improv show,” according to actor and co-producer Wendy Rosoff. “Well, you create something super spooky, Halloween-themed and infuse it with the idea that you never know when Jason from ‘Friday the 13th’ will come knocking at the door.”

Co-producer and fellow actor, Lani Shipman, explains how it works. “The premise is this: we will come out at the top of the show and we will get a very random suggestion from the audience. Whatever the audience throws at us, we will take. From that moment, we create a 100 percent completely improvised musical.”

That includes everything: the lines, the choreography, the characters – even the piano player improvises. The Halloween Spooktacular is one night only, Friday, October 29 at Second City Hollywood.

You can also take part in stories. Theatre Unleashed, for example, offers three nights of live action role playing in “The Search for Black Beard’s Gold.” Peg Leg Pete has stolen Black Beard’s treasure, and it’s up to kids as young as 7 to find it.

Artistic Director Gregory Crafts says the audience will move about the grounds at Saint Matthews Church in North Hollywood. “We’ve got all kinds of stations set up. Each station has got a different encounter, whether you’re fighting pirates – we’ve even got boats – you’re going to be sailing down a river at one point and having a canon fight with another group of pirates.”

Nom de Guerre Theatre Guild offers Wicked Lit, a walk-about theatrical experience. Last year, the company put on three shows simultaneously on the grounds of Greystone Manor in Beverly Hills. It’s unavailable this season, so the roughly hour-long adaptations of works by Edgar Allan Poe, HP Lovecraft and Charles Dickens are at Mountain View Cemetery and Mausoleum in Altadena.

Jonathan Josephson is one of the playwrights and producers. “'The Chimes' takes place in the mausoleum chapel, which is where the original Dickens story takes place, inside a small church, so it’s easy to turn that church into a secluded bell tower. And 'the Unnamable' takes place inside a cemetery.”

And "Cask of Amontillado" uses the mausoleum to substitute for the catacombs of Italy.

Also, Mutineer Theatre in Atwater Village will showcase "The Mill," a live performance of what began last year as a Halloween audio production.

And the L.A. Philharmonic opens Disney Hall on Halloween night with a showing of the 1920 silent film “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” Organist Clark Wilson will accompany the movie on an organ whose pipes range in size from a pencil to a telephone pole.

Some of these performances are one night only; others run through the week or longer.

If you have something to add to the list, feel free to comment.