they brought as many of us new recruits as possible into the place back in august, giving us a quick workshop to see the behind the scenes of the dungeon, meet the owners and some of the veteran actors, and get a feel for what they were looking for at the audition. roughly three weeks later, we had the actual audition. going into audition day, i was super nervous as i've never worked in a haunted house before and began going through the whole workup on my audition; "am i too nice of a person to do something like this? can i bring the meanness of a scary person to get this job?" but ultimately i overcame my fears and resolved to give it my best shot, showing the owners my potential and hoping it would be enough for them to think they could train me to be a great haunt actor. they broke us up into groups and placed us in two different rooms of the maze, gave us a countdown, then walked through as if they were visiting the haunted house. no lights, no special effects, no makeup or costumes, just what scenery was up and what we were willing to show them raw. "the vines", our jungle/witch doctor area and mercy general hospital. i will admit, when the audition in the vines half happened, i was disappointed in myself. i could do better than that, and i felt i lacked energy completely. so i knew i had to bring it in the second half of the audition. they took us to mercy, and i freaked out. i let myself go completely crazy, and i got hired. i was so excited! i looked forward to learning some new things, adding some more experience to my acting profile, and making new friends along the way.
the time came to get into the haunt and spend the month of october scaring people. i was placed within the hospital area of the haunt. most of the time you could find me in the gas chamber, but there were a couple days they put me in a different area to stretch my ability to adapt to my surroundings. i will admit, there were a few times that i didn't do as well as i'd like, but my friends told me not to sweat it - for a first year who hadn't worked at any other kind of haunt before, i was doing pretty good. even the most experienced actors hit bumps in the road along the way. there were a few times that the pure physical exertion of working in the intense environment of the haunted house tried to bring me down, but i didn't want to give up. i am an actor, and this is what i want to do with my life, so i need to take as much as i can from this experience. there were people in my family who thought i was crazy for going on when i threw out my good hip and could barely walk. there were people in my family who didn't understand the setting of this workplace, and tried to convince me that i was being "abused" by the bosses. you see, working in this environment, i was hired on the same you would hire a private contractor, where you sign paperwork saying that any injury inflicted in the line of duty is just merely a casualty of the work and not the fault of the person running the show. i understood this going in, and have no problems with that. i walked in knowing that the acting would be the most intense experience of my life, and that it would be hard. we were warned at the beginning; if you don't think you can handle it, go home. i refused to go home; i fought for this and i wanted to prove that i could be counted among the best. sure, i hit bumps in the road, and i have plenty of room for growth, but that's the beauty of the people at this place. they work with you to become better, and by helping each other get better, we give a better product and in the end it'll show in the paycheck.
and that's where i will end my tale of DOD; the people. tony and pete put so much into the place, and their door is always open if you have anything you need to talk about. and even if the door isn't open, a quick knock and they'll be more than happy to let you in. they don't beat around the bush either; there was one night i was really struggling to meet the amount of energy i needed to get the best scares. i went to pete, and he told me what it was. i have been so traditional in my acting, that you have one set of skills for this production and you are the same no matter where you are on the stage. in the house, you are the same character, but that character is crazy; crazy people don't always do the same thing twice. i used to pride myself on my improv skills, my ability to adapt, but in this situation i had failed miserably. okay, maybe not miserably, but i was definitely being tested. pete didn't sugar coat anything, told me what i needed to do to get my act together. but he didn't just focus on that negative. yes, my act needed to get some extra strength to really get good. yes, i needed to loosen up some more. but he knew i could do it, and knows that i can bring it if i'm willing to try. yes, you screwed up. but i believe you can do better. i know you will. that's what it's like to work here. we're like a mini family....i say mini, but in reality there is nothing mini about the 100+ people that put this show on every year, and every year we're growing stronger.
this is what i enjoy about my annual job with The Legendary Dungeon of Doom. seeing these amazing people, all of us from different backgrounds, come together to get the job done. spending every weekend together for a month, doing crazy shit and having a blast while we're at it. i've already learned so much in my first year, and i can't wait for next season. only 264 more days until the first friday! ;)
*note; photos courtesy of various actors and make up artists at DOD*