Productions by Arts After Hours and Corsara Artists spread Haunted Entertainment into Peabody and Lynn this October

by Joey Phoenix

Salem is known for its October events and Haunted Happenings, and in the last decade has become an international phenomenon, capturing the attention of Halloween loving tourists the world over. As a result, its popularity has caused a surge in crowd size, parking difficulty, and for many locals, a lot of hassle. 

While many look forward to tousling with crowds each year to attend the best events and attractions in Salem, businesses in other cities on the North Shore are introducing programming that will be a viable alternative to Salem’s October mayhem. This year, two production companies – Arts After Hours in Lynn and Corsara Artists in Peabody – are putting together shows and events guaranteed to entertain the Halloween crowd and theatre-lovers alike.  

In Lynn, Arts After Hours is producing two shows in what they’re calling their “Science Fiction Double Feature”: Carrie: The Musical (October 18 – November 2) at the Neal Rantoul Black Box in Lynn – directed by Samantha Gambaccini with music directed by Shane A. Stecher and choreography by Kathleen Mullins Tringale, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show LIVE! – directed by Wesley Toma-Lee and produced by Samantha Gambaccini and Catherine Bertrand,  with a live shadow cast for one night only at Lynn Auditorium at City Hall. 

In Peabody, Corsara Artists is producing an opera The Medium, conducted by Ismael Sandoval at Frank L. Wigginton Auditorium at Peabody City Hall. 

Science Fiction Double Feature Picture Show 

Arts After Hours is producing not one but two shows in Lynn this October for their Science Fiction Double Feature: Carrie: the Musical and The Rocky Horror Picture featuring a live shadow cast. It’s a massive endeavor, but due to a special opportunity with a rather important venue, it was something they couldn’t pass up. 

“Once working with Lynn Auditorium became an option for us, I couldn’t wait. I jumped at it,” said Samantha. “We have the opportunity to sell more tickets, try something on a much larger scale, and have Arts After Hours associated with this big, beautiful, historic theatre.” 

For this year’s production of Carrie: The Musical, Arts After Hours has hired blood specialist and special effects wizard Dan Mellitz. His role in the production will be to ensure that every instance of gore and blood will be not just believable, but allergen-free, keeping those in the Splatter Zone both sufficiently grossed out but also that they, and their clothes, will be quite safe. 

“Dan has been sending me messages featuring fake blood dripping on various parts of his body and showing me the different mixtures to illustrate that it’s going to fall the way we expect it to fall,” Samantha described. 

Arts After Hours is paying special attention to this detail for this production because this year there are bringing back their splatter zone, which audiences haven’t seen since the Texas Chainsaw Massacre in 2015. Brave audience members can pick up special tickets to be seated in the splatter zone, the first two rows of the theatre, to get up close and personal with what’s happening on stage. 

“It’s going to be unlike anything that’s ever been seen before in this black box theatre in particular, but also it will be really daring in the world of black box theatre productions,” Samantha said.  

In conjunction with Carrie as part of the Science Fiction Double Feature, audiences can check out The Rocky Horror Picture Show, at Lynn Auditorium for one night only on October 26. Carrie will be going dark that night, making it possible for those who want to go to both, to go to both shows. 

Rocky is a cult classic that has been played and performed in theatres around the world since the original stage production in 1973. Famously, the show has garnered a cult following mainly due to the longstanding tradition of midnight showings in local theatres featuring a live shadow cast. For those unfamiliar, a shadow cast is a troupe of performers who act alongside the film, miming what’s happening on stage, and lip-synching lines. 

For Rocky Horror “Virgins” – those who may have heard of the show or seen the film previously but haven’t yet been to a performance with a live shadow cast, Samantha strongly recommends that audience members read this first before attending, just so there aren’t any too unexpected surprises. Basically, the more prepared audience members are for the shenanigans that will be taking place in the theatre that night, the better experience they can expect to have. 

“It’s very different from what we normally do at Arts After Hours,” Samantha explained, “so the more audience members know about what the evening will be like, the more fun they will have.” 

Unlike other stage performers, Rocky performers are a special breed. Many of them have been doing these shows for a decade or more, and the troupes are more like families than theatre companies. Also, most of them don’t perform in other shows or venues, they only do Rocky, which, as a result, has made them experts. This particular production predominantly features members of the Boston troupe Full Body Cast, with a handful of other talented local performers coming in to perform alongside them. 

Audience members can also pick up VIP tickets that allow them access to the special on-stage after-party at Lynn Auditorium, featuring a live DJ, finger foods, dancing, and a costume contest. For most of its history, the only people allowed on-stage at the theatre have been the actors and performers themselves, but for this production, Arts After Hours is inviting guests to come party with them and the cast in their costumes on the historic stage. 

“There are so many amazing artists in Lynn, and the work that Caroline Cole and City Hall are doing to support the artistry, just a chance to get to be physically in that world – because, of course, the auditorium is in City Hall,” Samantha explained. “We feel really lucky that Arts After Hours is getting that main stage time in the city. 

“James Marsh, the executive director of Lynn Auditorium, is just so generous and getting to know and work with him through this process has really connected us to the bigger arts culture in Lynn. It’s been really fun.” 

Carrie: The Musical runs from October 18 – November 2, 2019 with evening and matinee performances at the Neil Rantoul Black Box Theatre in Lynn. (Get Tickets). The Rocky Horror Picture Show LIVE! will be on October 26th at 7:30 pm (Get Tickets) at Lynn Auditorium. 

Haunting Peabody with The Medium 

Meanwhile, in Peabody, Corsara Artists is preparing for their production of Menotti’s The Medium, originally produced in 1946 before being adapted soon after into a live television special in 1948. What Corsara is doing, however, isn’t your typical night out at the opera. Instead, they’re crafting a different kind of entertainment that will entice lovers of opera, theatre, and the season of Halloween alike. 

“What Corsara is all about is finding ways to make the opera experience more engaging to the audience,” said Gene Sticco, chairman of the board. “We aim to deliver beyond just the great performance, we want to create a whole experience.” 

In addition to the opera itself, the evening will also feature a pre-show with Moonrise Fae as well as unique food and alcohol vendors. 

In The Medium, ​Madame Flora, with the help of her daughter Monica and Toby, a mute servant, cons grieving parents into believing that they are communicating with the spirits of their dead children. When she is touched herself by a hand during one of the seances, an occurrence she cannot explain, she is driven to insanity and murder.

“It was already known as a spooky opera, and as we got into the words and thought more about the characters, we came to the conclusion that this is actually capable of being a much more scary story than it was originally written to be,” Gene explained. 

Corsara Artists, formed this year, is made up a collective of seasoned opera performers and classics singers who had long dreamt of working together in an ensemble and to have more artistic control over the whole process. The Medium will be their first production as a collective and will follow that up with a production of The Consul in January of next year. 

What’s extra special about this production isn’t just that it’s Corsara Artists inaugural production, or that it will be staged on both the eve of and the night of Halloween, but also that this marks a historic return of Opera to the Wiggin Auditorium. Peabody City Hall’s Frank L. Wiggin Auditorium, built in 1883, was known in its early years as the opera house. After a quarter-million-dollar ceiling restoration project and modern audio system in 2018, it has returned to its former glory as the rightful home to opera in Peabody. 

“What [Corsara] is doing in this production is much more than just this one night. We are really trying to make a viable performance company here on the North Shore that not only the local community can enjoy but will attract business to the area where new people will come in and eat and drink and be a part of what’s happening in Peabody,” Gene said. 

Because the opera’s runtime is only an hour, or an hour and a half if you count the pre-show, it’s also entirely possible to start the evening with the performance and still have time to go out after. 

“Where we are in Peabody gives you close proximity to the action in Salem without some of the headaches that come along with it. This is for the people who want to enjoy all that this time of year has to offer without all the crowds and traffic.” 

The Medium opens on Wednesday, October 30th at 7:30 pm with a second showing on Halloween night at 8:00 pm. Click here for tickets.

The Community Building Feedback Loop Provided by the Arts

What these two productions have in common, apart from their deliberately spooky nature, is that they each have the bigger picture of how arts programming impacts the cultural and economic landscape of their respective cities in mind. Supporting locally produced arts and theatre, especially those being produced by these two companies, ensures that what you put in is distributed directly back into the community.

“Our mission at Arts After Hours,” Samantha Gambaccini, the Producing Artistic Director of Arts After Hours, begins, “is to invigorate the economy of downtown Lynn and to bring life to the restaurants, the visual art culture, the artists that we share our building with, the schools that are teaching performing art, School of Rock and Cultural Latina Dance Academy – this is our world.” 

“What [Corsara] is doing in this production is much more than just this one night. We are really trying to make a viable performance company here on the North Shore that not only the local community can enjoy but will attract business to the area where new people will come in and eat and drink and be a part of what’s happening in Peabody,” said Gene Sticco, chairman of the board at Corsara Artists. 

To find out more about these productions and stay abreast of what they’re planning for the 2020 theatre season, make sure to follow Arts After Hours and Corsara Artists. 

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Joey Phoenix is a performance artist and the Managing Editor of Creative North Shore. If you have an idea for a story, feature, or pictures of adorable llamas, feel free to send them a message at joeyphoenix@creativecollectivema.com


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