We love Halloween. It’s hands-down our favorite holiday and has been for years, ever since the old Team Everything raves at Peñasco Theater.
Drawing from our years of Halloween-related experience, we’ve launched a three-hour immersive theater production, Meow Wolf’s House of Halloween. From Thursday through Sunday every night in October, guests can take part in a family-friendly Halloween story that draws its inspiration from our narrative for The House of Eternal Return. Halloween gives us an excellent opportunity to explore the struggle between Chaos and Order in greater detail. The experimental Halloween event is directed by Alexandra Renzo and Diane Stern and is presented to you by more than 45 Meow Wolf performers.
Above image: Alva from Portals Bermuda comes to life, portrayed by Margaux Hale. All photographs by Brandon Soder.
Above image: Gaby is a giant creature built by Caity Kennedy. She is portrayed by actress Iris Maclean.
Our Halloween Story
If you’ve been to the exhibition before, you may have noticed docents wearing white lab coats with a black insignia on the lapel. These are Charter agents, members of an organization dedicated to preserving order in our story’s universe. They’ve put the house in the exhibition under quarantine after the Selig family, who are descended from a Chaotic force called The Anomaly, broke Time and Space in the house’s dining room. This disaster caused new dimensions to spiderweb off of the Seligs’ home. The Charter is determined to keep the Chaos the Selig family caused from bleeding into our reality and causing more destruction. It’s a thankless job and things are getting worse on Halloween, when the boundaries between Chaos and Order are weaker.
Halloween finds the Charter with all-hands-on-deck as they attempt to stop an invasion of Chaos into the Selig house. Portals have opened inside the Charter’s facility and strange creatures from across the multiverse are finding their way inside. Indeed, this may be an escape attempt from the Anomaly itself. An entity concerned with art and creation as well as all the blissful states one can find outside of Order, the Anomaly has sent dancers from the forest, mutant musicians and even a witch or two into the exhibition. The Charter has responded by beefing up security. Guests can witness and interact with this struggle in the form of a live, immersive theater performance. They can meet the invading creatures. They can interact with Charter agents who are doing their best to keep things under control as the levels of Chaos seeping through the portals steadily rise over the course of the evening.
Above image: Artist Benji A. Geary haunts Wiggy’s Plasma Plex Arcade as a Juvieganger.
Halloween and the Inversion of Order
How does this relate to Halloween? You need zombies and chainsaws to tell a Halloween story, right? We don’t think so.
Halloween is a time of transition. It forms the boundary between the warmth and light of summer and the darkness and cold of winter. In mythological traditions concerned with cycles of nature, there are usually holidays that focus on the inversion of Order. There are Saturnalias where peasants are elevated to the rank of king. There are feasts where the masters and mistresses of the house must serve the servants for one night. Halloween is one of the last and most popular of this type of holiday. It is steeped in Chaos. Cosmological order is thrown at the window as the dead are given license to walk the earth. Kids egg houses. Kids in Detroit burn houses. Decades ago the property damage was so awful that some cities started trick r’ treat as an appeasement, a way to give the would-be ghouls something wholesome to do. But even with a family-friendly activity like trick ‘r treat, Chaos reigns. This is why we have urban legends about sociopaths who tamper with Halloween candy.
Check out our 3-Hour Immersive Halloween Production, Discounts on Tickets Here.
Above image: Woodland spirits have found their way into the exhibition’s forest.
The message is clear: Chaos is lurking just under the surface of Order. It’s always looking for a way out and during Halloween there are just enough cracks to allow it to squeeze through.
As a transplant from Ohio, I find that there is a marked difference between Halloween in the Southwest and the Midwest. Back home it’s almost a contest to see who can come up with the most gruesome lawn display. A simple night of trick ‘r treating will bring you face to face with scenes right out of a homicide investigator’s worst nightmares.
Halloween is less lurid in New Mexico. Perhaps its the effect of austere, long-running legends such as La Llorona that puts people off the serial killers and zombies aesthetics used back east. Perhaps, as UFOs whiz over our heads nightly, weirdness is just a way of life in New Mexico and we don’t need gallons of fake blood to articulate it. Also, with Santa Fe’s tradition of art and inward-looking spirituality, Halloween is celebrated more for its theme of transition. In Halloween, people find a way to highlight some hidden, shadow piece of their character, which they bring to the surface for one night.
So even though I occasionally miss all the gore and chainsaws, I’ve grown to love the subtle finesse of Halloween in Santa Fe. When Diane and Alexandra asked me to write for House of Halloween I was surprised to find how well our existing narrative translated into a story that, without a doubt, is all-Halloween. The directors, performers and myself are thrilled to present Santa Fe with a new kind of Halloween story.
Above image: A Charter enforcer prepares to battle the creatures of Chaos.
An Experimental Halloween Story
As a writer I have a love/hate relationship with tropes and that’s certainly a challenge with a trope-heavy holiday like Halloween. Is it possible to do justice to the holiday without evoking skeletons, werewolves and monsters? Our performers buried this doubt. In effect, they’ve brought out one of the coolest features of Halloween. The night they created gives our guests the opportunity to join us in this inversion of Order. The guests (and, please, feel free to wear costumes to the shows) are valued participants in Chaos.
Immersion is used in service of the story. When the totality of a story is everything you see, hear, touch or speak to, it trivializes the suspension of disbelief. You are part of the narrative and, like the real world, it progresses either with or without you. Those who choose to join in will get the most out of the night.
Halloween gives one cover to act out in ways one can’t in the vanilla world. The little girls I saw practicing acrobatics with the nymphs of the forest probably know that. The teenager dressed in a steampunk costume affecting a Victorian accent as he chatted with a Charter agent probably knows that. This, in essence, is Halloween and it hits harder than a 50-pound bag of candy corn.
Above image: Wylla Aurora Skye is the monochrome host inside “The Cartoon Kitchen” room.
The meat of a good Halloween story is there. Even cooler: you discover it on your own as you push at the surface level narrative. One of the hardest effects to achieve in a Halloween story is ambiguity and doubt, the bedrock of fear. When I went to our first performance on October 7, I felt ambiguity running under the hood of everything I saw. The creatures made it so easy for me to let go and enjoy myself. Baba Yaga, contrary to popular opinion, was downright charming. The Selig family was there, too, getting ready to take Lex and Morgan out for a night of trick ‘r treating. It was a warm, wholesome scene you never get to see in their otherwise abandoned home.
But wait! Something feels off. Why won’t the Selig family respond when I talk to them? Why is Lucius skulking around the house, just out of earshot of the family? Why did Baba Yaga seem eerily insistent that I relay messages to the Charter agents? Why are the agents behaving more strangely than they were a half hour ago? What’s going on here?
Chaos, baby. Halloween. Join us. The portals are open…
— Billiam Rodgers
If you enjoyed this article please share it with the share buttons below.
You may also like:
Above image: The Charter Agents have their work cut out for them as they attempt to hold off a Halloween invasion of Chaos.
Above image: Liberty Yablon as a Charter agent.
Above image: Charter agent and cosmic librarian Aubrey Schwartz.