Drama department hosts successful haunted house based on asylum

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Drama department hosts successful haunted house based on asylum

An asylum patient stands in her boarded-up stall, next to a wall covered in “bloody” writing. The Drama students practiced to immerse themselves in their insane characters’ roles. Photo by Rhonda Mak.

An asylum patient stands in her boarded-up stall, next to a wall covered in “bloody” writing. The Drama students practiced to immerse themselves in their insane characters’ roles. Photo by Rhonda Mak.

An asylum patient stands in her boarded-up stall, next to a wall covered in “bloody” writing. The Drama students practiced to immerse themselves in their insane characters’ roles. Photo by Rhonda Mak.

An asylum patient stands in her boarded-up stall, next to a wall covered in “bloody” writing. The Drama students practiced to immerse themselves in their insane characters’ roles. Photo by Rhonda Mak.

Rhonda Mak

A crowd of students waits outside the Blackbox, chatting excitedly amongst themselves. A piercing scream sounds from inside the building, and they exchange nervous glances. After a while, the garage-like door on the side lifts and pours out a stream of other students who blink at the bright sunlight. The front door swings open, and a mysterious guide ushers the next line of students inside. They enter a reception room and take in the bloodstained furniture and eerie dolls, warily eyeing the smiling patient playing checkers with herself. The guide introduces the asylum. As they prepare to head into the next room, a patient leaps out of what appeared to be an empty house and lets out a bloodcurdling scream, causing some students to stumble to the ground in alarm.

An asylum patient stands in her boarded-up stall, next to a wall covered in “bloody” writing. The Drama students practiced to immerse themselves in their insane characters’ roles. Photo by Rhonda Mak.

An asylum patient stands in her boarded-up stall, next to a wall covered in “bloody” writing. The Drama students practiced to immerse themselves in their insane characters’ roles. Photo by Rhonda Mak.

In the spirit of Halloween, the Drama Department held its haunted house event after school on Oct. 24, and during lunch on Oct. 27 and 28. The haunted house, organized by Drama to fundraise for future productions, was modeled after the popular television series “American Horror Story” in an effort to attract more people.

Students who paid $3 for a single admission or $5 for two people’s admission were ushered into a receptionist room and introduced to a nurse, who then guided the group to an experimentation room.

The experimentation room, eerily lit with red light, featured a doctor explaining the different treatments he uses to cure patients’ insanity. Patients, their gowns stained with streaks of blood, sit listlessly at the sides of the room, eyes distant. As the doctor explains the concept of lobotomy, patients suddenly have fits of insanity, screaming “make it stop” and “let me out.” All the while, the nurse eerily smiles as he transitions to the final room: the patients’ quarters.

The patients’ quarters houses four inmates trapped in wooden cells. Each patient has a monologue explaining their insanity, culminating with the idea that the insanity has spread even to the nurse, who is “just as cuckoo as we are,” leading to a cacophony of repeated lines, screeching laughter and howling screams as the lights flicker and suddenly shut off. Students huddle together, clutching one another as they feel themselves shoved out the door by the asylum’s inmates.

The nurse-guide, played by freshman Seena Ashtiani, had a critical role in not only providing context for the backstory of the asylum but also in delaying the group so that actors can move between the rooms without being seen.

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Sophomore Michelle Nguyen stands in her red makeup and blood-spattered costume. Nguyen, who plays psychopathic patient Erin Hunt, strode great lengths to get into character. “I try to get myself out of my own skin and into that skin,” Nguyen said. Photo by Rhonda Mak

The turnout of interested haunted-house-goers was larger than expected: rotations upwards of 15 people were sent inside the Blackbox back to back on Oct. 28, well over the expected turnout. Students waited in the sun outside the Blackbox to be let in, but seemed not to mind the harsh light or heat in anticipation to be let inside.

“We did not expect it to be that popular,” sophomore Nelson Niu, one of the students who helped coordinate the event, said. “We did not budget our time to acknowledge that. But I think under the circumstances it worked out.”

As a result of the production’s popularity within its limited time, the Drama department made efforts to shorten lines to make the rotations shorter by increasing the amount of people per rotation.

Freshman Anoop Kaur was part of the crowd of waiting people on Oct. 28. Although Kaur was slightly disappointed that the larger groups took away from the haunted atmosphere, she enjoyed the experience and felt that the drama promotion was effective.

“I think they had really good acting and a lot of suspense,” Kaur said. “It was entertaining … and I noticed a lot of [the actors] were freshmen.”

The haunted house was created largely during drama teacher Sara Capule’s seventh period class, where students worked in small groups to bring the haunted house idea to fruition the week before the event.

“A lot of the issues with the haunted house came from the miscommunication that was happening,” said junior Emaan Khan, another student involved in the haunted house’s production. “The majority of the [making of] this project was supposed to happen in class. Whenever there was something to be done outside of class it just didn’t get done as fast as we wanted it to.”

Despite all the frustration in the making of the haunted house, the popularity of the event proved the drama students’ efforts well worth it.

“I think it was excellent,” Khan said. “When it came together after school … I was really proud.” 

The Drama department will be performing The Great Gatsby on Nov. 7, 8, 14 and 15 in the auditorium at 7:00 pm. Tickets will be sold in the rally court for $10 and at the door for $12. 

This story was reported on by Rhonda Mak and Lydia Seo.