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Surreal Halloween: “Tim Burton meets Shel Silverstein meets a rave” at Meow Wolf

The Halloween dimension is opening, thinning the veil between worlds, allowing a spillover of numerous fantastical creatures that set up a battle between the forces of chaos and agents of order.

And since it’s happening 6-9 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays until the end of October at the Meow Wolf Arts Complex, transforming the House of Eternal Return into the House of Halloween, you can be assured the artistic imaginations will be running amok.

You’ll be able to meet a large yellow octopus named Mari, short for Calimari (sure, the name refers to squid, but we’ll allow some artistic license here) emitting a fluorescent glow under black light as it uses all of its tentacles to beat out percussion, thanks to clad-in-black Cole Wilson and his collaborators manipulating the legs. “It will look like Mari is playing all by himself,” Wilson said, adding that the performance will repeat three times each night.

The first time, agents for The Charter trying to maintain order will shut him down. The second time, Mari and the agents will struggle. “Then, the third time, chomp, he’ll have some dinner,” Wilson predicted of Mari.

That’s just one example of the goings-on throughout the venue that are designed not to be bloody and scary, as many haunted houses of the season are, but to be magical and kooky, according to director Alexandra Renzo and project manager Diane Stern.

Renzo described the experience as “Tim Burton meets Shel Silverstein meets a rave.”

Sandra Wang models one of the headpieces that will be donned by a creature in the House of Halloween. She was working in the Meow Wolf costume department. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Sandra Wang models one of the headpieces that will be donned by a creature in the House of Halloween. She was working in the Meow Wolf costume department. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Let’s backtrack a bit here.

The “House of Halloween,” which Renzo said will feature 45 performers (and that doesn’t count all the sound and light and tech people involved), will be an immersive theater experience. You can come and go at any time throughout the evening.

Each individual’s experience will be different, depending on what performances and creatures that person encounters while wandering through the exhibit. There will be a loose story line of the struggle between order and chaos, which you can choose to follow, or you can just take in the various activities without trying to make sense of them.

That’s pretty much the same choice you have been able to make in visiting the House of Eternal Return since it opened in March.

By the way, the family of the house, who so far have been seen only in photographs and videos, will be there in person, interacting with each other as if no one else were watching. Stern said she has heard from a fan who “is totally coming just to see the family,” she said.

The travel agent seen making announcements on screen in Portals Bermuda, the exhibit’s inter-dimensional travel agency, also will be there in person, she added.

But while the family will maintain the theatrical fourth wall, other creatures will interact with visitors, sometimes drawing them to new locations and activities.

In many cases, it’s the interaction of the audience and performers that will give life to the show, Renzo said. “I don’t think we even know what it’s going to be like before it opens,” she said.

For instance, on a recent visit by the Journal, Stephanie Kitts and Craig McAdams were rehearsing their parts as visitors passed through the House of Eternal Return. Kitts was a creature from the Halloween dimension, decked out in head-to-toe black-and-white graphics by artist Nico Salazar, and McAdams was the Charter agent in a black suit trying to keep her under control.

Stephanie Kitts portrays a creature from the “Halloween dimension,” while Craig McAdams is an agent for The Charter trying to keep the crossover chaos under control for Meow Wolf’s House of Halloween. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Stephanie Kitts portrays a creature from the “Halloween dimension,” while Craig McAdams is an agent for The Charter trying to keep the crossover chaos under control for Meow Wolf’s House of Halloween. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Playing their parts, he tossed her into a small, dark room, warning visitors that she was dangerous and to spend no more than 10 seconds with her. One visitor balked as he invited her to go in, saying she was terrified.

Assured of her safety, she ventured in, only to find visitors seated on benches along the walls as Kitts performed a slow dance close to the floor in the dim light, while a vocalist harmonized her voice to the singing bowls she stroked.

Later, a visitor on the second level of the exhibit, her gaze absorbed by the fanciful surroundings, cried out in surprise when she turned her head to see Kitts hovering just next to her.

In another location, Oliver Polzin and Jaco Foster worked out an acrobatic fight scene, while, over in the concert space, Emily Markwiese practiced a trapeze act.

Emily Markwiese rehearses her aerial act for Meow Wolf’s House of Halloween, an immersive theater experience running through October. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Emily Markwiese rehearses her aerial act for Meow Wolf’s House of Halloween, an immersive theater experience running through October. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

“There will be aerialists, opera singers, dancers and a lot of magic,” Renzo said. A DJ will be stationed in the concert space, while a band will rove through the exhibit. “And there might be a tea leaf reader,” she added.

The exhibit’s laser harp will be retuned and incorporated into a dance performance. The stalagmites will send out new tones and lighting throughout will be significantly altered, the organizers said.

The lobby will host free face-painting and tintype photographs for a fee. The Space Lady, with a history of busking in the ’80s and ’90s in San Francisco, will bring her ethereal tunes and winged helmet.

And the evening’s festivities will end with Sushi, a flirtatious dragon in shades of white, pink and red, engineered in the manner of many dragons seen at Chinese New Year festivities, leading visitors out to the parking lot, where she will pose with them for pictures and invite petting of her soft coat.

Oh, yes, there will be lots of photo ops, Renzo and Stern said. Don’t forget your selfie stick.

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