“This is festival so cool! If I lived in this town, I would come down here and scare people all month long!”
– Pedestrian walking by an hidden performer, who is acting like a decorative scarecrow.
“I do live here. We are doing exactly that!”
– Performer, quickly breaking scarecrow pose to share their excitement with the startled pedestrian.
Last October 2016, during the Spirit of Halloweentown celebration, some town residents found themselves living in a dream come true nearly every weekend. Living in a whole town of Halloween fantasy, putting on fun costumes, walking around the decorated downtown, checking out all the scarecrows. Other residents volunteered to become part of the show, and created this Halloween land of dreams and nightmares! Being painted in terrifying makeup, donning haunting costumes, and sneaking around downtown St. Helens coordinating fright after fright. What an experience!
The targets of these haunts were groups of folks walking through our city’s streets and parks. No – this was not part of some rude, unsolicited pranks against innocent victims and unwary visitors to our little home. Well perhaps there were a FEW innocent victims… And no matter how wary the visitors were, the highly coordinated spooks still inspired more fear and fun screams than can be found during a typical weekend downtown any other time of the year.
Quiet main street in downtown St. Helens. Deserted and lonely? Or waiting with hushed breath for the ghoulish hauntings to begin?
Putting on these shows and coordinating all the different elements, including the scariest moments, cannot be done without committed participation from our volunteers and weeks of organizing ahead of time. The results are absolutely worth the investment! Volunteering for ShoeString Community Players last October was a significant highlight of 2016 for many of the participants. The performances of ‘St. Helens Haunted Tours’ and ‘Scarecrows: Tales in the Dark’ easily qualify in my personal Top Ten most fun experiences! Tremendous credit goes to the diverse group of volunteers who showed up for weeks, with minds & hearts full of the passion to perform in the various roles, acting and support crew. An extra helping of credit goes to the directors, writers, and organizers for each production – sometimes they were the same person! It can often be a challenge to create these shows, and then to channel all the different talents so they can come to life.
The creative and dedicated volunteers who made up the cast & crew of each production all shared in the same playful spirit. Connecting with them was a delight for any volunteer or show attendee. With the variety of talents brought to the table, and a solid team of directors to organize them, SSCP was able to deliver weekend after weekend of solid performances during 2016’s Spirit of Halloweentown celebration. ‘Scarecrows’ transformed McCormick Park into a darkened nightmare, where the very trees and bushes came to life, reaching for those who came to hear the tales of lost souls. The Haunted Tours through downtown kept the crowds uneasy in between scenes, never knowing which dark storefront or alley would spill out horrors from St. Helens’ history. Frightful fun for the guests, and a tremendous blast for the volunteers!
Preacher who presided over the Damned,
and a Soul who lost to his way to liquor and is lost in time.
After contributing to numerous performances throughout the years, it becomes apparent that the satisfaction from each show is largely determined by the players and personalities involved; more so than by the logistics alone. SSCP nailed every aspect of their Spirit of Halloweentown productions last year, including being adaptable when unexpected plot twists arose on performance night. After all, the show must go on! This focus on having fun, and balancing plans with spontaneity, is cultivated from the 30+ years of history behind the organization. St. Helens is fortunate to have ShoeString Community Players based in their city. An active theater culture brings many benefits to the town, and our residents have many opportunities to volunteer for SSCP and make memories which will last a lifetime.
To anyone with a flare for theatrics – whether a lifetime of experience in the performing arts, or even a passing interest in being someone else for a show – please take this volunteer’s encouragement to reach out and be a part of this group. You won’t regret the choice! Written at the start of this piece is an exchange between a pedestrian and a performer. It highlights something very special about our town. There are people who dream about having opportunities to play like the ones created by ShoeString Community Players. They are here in St. Helens, on you doorstep. Opportunity is knocking. Will you step forward boldly, and be part of making another dream come true? Will you attend a show, and get sucked into a story until the fear catches you off guard? Whether in the performance or in the audience, will you come add more memories to the splendor that is the Spirit of Halloweentown?
St. Helens Haunted Tours
Cast and Crew 2016
Voodoo Doughnuts for the guests who were celebrating downtown, whether they attended a show or not!
Children being bold and playing with the scary performers downtown. There is nothing to fear here. But watch out around the next corner…