Frankly, high school was scary enough without the serial killers. But one Albuquerque theatrical company felt the time was ripe to go full-on '80s horror flick flashback: students, slashers and all. For the ninth year (not in a row), Quarantine Productions has returned to craft yet another of their patented "interactive" Halloween horrors.
Over the years Quarantine has staged scary seasonal performances at a variety of spooky places—from corn mazes to the State Fair grounds. Since early this year, they've settled into a partnership with North Fourth Art Center, mounting an "immersive space horror" play and—incongruously—a kids' show as warm-up events. Their last Halloween outing was 2019's Phantasmagoria. After an extended break (thanks to that worldwide bugaboo, COVID), Quarantine co-founder Heather Yeocero says it's "joyous and fun to be back doing live stuff."
Quarantine's newest live event is Quarantine: Harvest Ball, an immersive theatrical experience that invites audience members to the return of Albuquerque's most infamous high school dance. Seems that, back in 2002, a killer crashed the Harvest Ball. Now, 20 years after that deadly night, the Harvest Ball is being re-staged. And if horror movies have taught us anything, it's that revisiting the site of a famous killing spree is guaranteed to end in death and dismemberment.
Yeocero decribes the 45-minute-or-so experience as a "live, choose-your-own-adventure." The story starts out in the high school gym, but the core group of 15 actors soon split off into their own "breakout" scenes in other parts of the theater. Viewers have "free reign to go where they want and see what they want." They can follow any actor, wandering in and out of storylines to get the overall picture of who's dying and who's doing the killing. "Critical information is revealed in all of the breakouts," says Shannon Flynn, who founded Quarantine with Yeocero and helped map out this show's splintered storyline. "But you still get the main story wherever you decide to go." Yeocero, who directed the mostly scripted, semi-improvisational show, hopes that, if you come, "you'll spit up with your friends and compare notes at the end of the night. You saw the football player get disemboweled? No way! I saw the bohemian artist get killed with a crossbow!"
While it's true the producers of Harvest Ball realized they could only stage one show a night because of all the "cleanup," squeamish viewers should not be put off by the show's "tons of blood." Although axes may be planted in a few backs, Quarantine: Harvest Ball definitely keeps its tongue planted firmly in its cheek. Flynn says it's their "strongest humor year in a long time," and Yeocero has taken to calling the show "Carrie meets Scooby-Doo." In the end, everybody in both the cast and the audience comes together again for that long-overdue Harvest celebration to enjoy a glass of punch and maybe a spin around the dance floor. Despite the bloody shenanigans at this year's Harvest Ball, Yeocero admits that, "We knew we wanted to end with a dance party. We started with that and wrote backwards."
So, having scared us with everything from aliens to zombies to high school slashers over the years, what's left for Quarantine and their 10th annual Halloween show? As far as what next year's innovative, interactive event might look like, Yeocero and Flynn say they are already thinking about it ... "a little bit."
Quarantine: Harvest Ball is happening now through Halloween at North Fourth Art Center (4904 Fourth St. NW), Thursdays to Sundays, starting at 8pm each night. There's a special bonus performance on Monday, Oct. 31, of course. Tickets are $20. To ensure you score an invite to this year's Harvest Ball (only 50 people get through the door each night), go to quarantineabq.com.
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