Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre Group will soon launch its sixth year of the production, URBAN DEATH TOUR OF TERROR: Haunted Theatre Attraction. For those who may be unfamiliar, what can you tell us about this Halloween-themed show?
Zombie Joe: It’s pure underground and it’s pure Halloween in LA. On top of just doing the haunt it celebrates the theatre company and it caps an intense year of URBAN DEATH. I feel it’s also like a gift to the community in a lot of ways. At $15 bucks online/ $20 at the door it’s affordable. We’re putting our hearts on the line.
Jana Wimer: URBAN DEATH is a series of vignettes. The lights go off, the lights go on, you see something scary. The lights go off, the lights go on, etc., etc. For the haunted house, we transform the lobby of Zombie Joe’s Underground into a walk-thru maze. We give audiences flashlights that we mute so there’s only a small beam of light coming out of them. They go through the maze two or three at a time, encountering monsters within. Once they survive the maze they’re ushered into the theater to see an abbreviated version of URBAN DEATH, and then we bring them back through the maze but with different monsters waiting to be discovered.
ZJ: TOUR OF TERROR is a hybrid theatrical haunt utilizing the kinetic energy and style of URBAN DEATH. This is the foundation of what URBAN DEATH is all about and expanding it into a maze, haunt and theatrical roving experience.
BD: With many horror-related theme park attractions and interactive performances taking place during this festive time of year, what do you feel makes the URBAN DEATH TOUR OF TERROR truly stand out?
ZJ: It’s very up close, personal, and frightening in nature. We are super scary without being grabby and shovey and touchy. It’s a show that takes you right up to the performance edge without being entirely interactive. I feel that the show plays to both the timid and the more thrill seeking type of personalities of our audiences.
And I think that our ticket price makes us stand out as well. We’re able to offer the low ticket price so that everybody can come and see it, which makes us different and the people involved in the show are the very finest artists in the city.
JW: We’re unlike anything else out there. For being such a small, scrappy theater, we consistently make the top lists of haunted houses in the city. We have really brave, solid actors, and we run the gamut in the horrors we focus on.
We just feel different than any other haunted house where you kinda know what’s going to happen: you wait for a costumed teenager to jump out at you. That’s not us.
We can be really funny, and we can be really scary. We mess with your mind, man.
ZJ: But we don’t touch you.
JW: And we don’t use bad smells.
BD: What can you tell us about the creative process of the cast and crew in bringing the production to life?
ZJ: It’s a lot of collaboration and experimentation. We throw a lot of stuff against the wall and see if it sticks, and we’re always trying new things. We’re always trying to dig ever-deeper into our own personal fears and emotions to bring fourth and into the show.
JW: We write the show collaboratively, asking the actors to bring in any ideas that they have to workshop. We have a library of scenes that we draw from because we’ve been doing this show for thirteen years and we work with the individual physicalities of each actor we have. A lot of the rehearsal process involves us learning how to work together as a group. Building trust. Performing in our show is not for the weak or timid, so the actors need to trust each other implicitly for the show to work.
BD: Would you recommend the show for a certain age group, or are the scares “fun for the whole family?”
ZJ: We recommend ages 16 and up.
JW: We are definitely not fit for the whole family. Our show has nudity and sexual and violent situations. We do occasionally let in young people with their parents, but we make it clear to the parents that this show is not designed for children.
BD: The production will be appearing at Zombie Joe’s in North Hollywood, CA, throughout the month of October after its sell-out run at the 2018 Edinburgh Festival Fringe. What can you share with us about the audience response to the show, and what do you look forward to in bringing the production back to the States?
ZJ: It’s been a year of asking for a lot of support from our community and it’s been a year of receiving a lot of support. And it seems to have brought a lot of URBAN DEATH fun into the year. My hope would be that we can cap off the “Year of Urban Death” with a spectacular haunt experience for Halloween.
JW: We’d wanted to go to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe -- the world’s largest performing arts festival -- for many years. In 2015 I directed a version of URBAN DEATH in South Africa, so I knew it would find success with an international audience.
Edinburgh was a magical, exciting experience. People responded positively to the show: we had people travel from all across the UK to come see us, we had people come back multiple times and bring their friends, we got extremely positive reviews, several sold out shows, and sometimes were recognized in the streets.
Coming back to our home base after Edinburgh feels like a “Thank you” to our community for all of the support they gave us this year, and we hope that our audience continues to grow.
BD: Are there any other upcoming shows or projects that you would care to share with our readers?
ZJ: While URBAN DEATH is playing we’re also doing a play called “Possession”, a Ted Bundy story, on Sunday and Monday nights, directed by Denise Devin, and “Future Court”, our futuristic courtroom thriller on Wednesdays. “Santu Delirium” has four dates, but those are completely sold out. Our tickets can be found here.
Following Halloween we have a big Holiday Season with King Lear, Blood Alley (our sister show to URBAN DEATH), and The Black Hole. And we’re also doing a full-blown Thanksgiving musical about turkeys called Turkeys! The Musical.
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell fans who want to learn more about URBAN DEATH TOUR OF TERROR?
ZJ: Buy a ticket and come to the show. We encourage you to come and just experience it for yourselves. It’s the best thing you can do, just to come. That goes with all of URBAN DEATH: It’s a hard show to describe, and it’s never what you’d expect. If you’ve never experienced our TOUR OF TERROR you should just bite the bullet and go for it.
JW: Don’t come alone. We’re waiting for you.
*Photo Credit: Jana Wimer