Post-Spooky Season

Looking back fondly on Graveyard Swing 2017

By John Holdun on November 6th, 2017

An article about Graveyard Swing

Hi! I’ve been off the update train for a while again! I got really invested in just getting stuff done in the weeks leading up to Halloween, and also I was posting more regular updates during that time on Twitter (as me, @johnholdun) and Instagram (to my story as @johnholdun and to the feed as @variablestage). Anyway, Graveyard Swing happened and it was really great!

If you haven’t seen it yet, go watch the video of this year’s show. It’s a 360° video, which is a format I’ve wanted to embrace for a long time and finally decided to just do it. (For what it’s worth, I’ve been really enjoying my Ricoh Theta V. It literally just works.) Still figuring out the right way to document these projects, but I think this is a pretty good step.

I’m so pleased with what we accomplished this year. Here are a bunch of notes, good and bad, that hopefully encompass everything I learned this season:

  • We actually had moving figures this year! Shout out to Zander for dragging those animatronics over the 95 yard line. The ghosts kinda fell apart during load-in and it was a miracle that they stood up at all, but all the skeletons were animated and it added so much to the overall show.
  • The design this year was actually immersive, in the sense that there was a place all around the guest at all times. Last year’s show really only worked from one perspective at any given point along the path, and looking off in any other direction yielded inconsistent darkness. This year’s design embraced the darkness and accentuated it with detail—or the suggestion of detail—evently in all directions. Ditching scenic painting in favor of architectural elements was a really good move.
  • Flats were so helpful! Last year we made walls by taping plastic to the floor and ceiling, which worked okay but wasn’t sustainable. This year, we built 10 4'x8' flats and used the 6 that were in stock at the theater to create some complex paths through an otherwise-open space. I’ve never really done any woodworking before this and it was a revelation. Screwing pieces of wood together results in sturdier structures than hot glue on cardboard! Also, things that are screwed can be unscrewed, which makes moving and storage so much easier.
  • The ticket software was a total success. There was one reported bug and zero exceptions in production. There are a couple enhancements I’d like to add before the next production, but I’m so glad I spent the time on this!
  • Ticket sales were down from last year. We had about 30 people come through, including six strangers (up from one last year). No one has said this, but I’m honestly thinking that I turned a lot of people off last year after they saw the thing in person. It’s a shame, because even though this show was the same story, it was physically unrecognizable (because it was all re-built from scratch). Maybe I should have called it something else, to further differentiate it?
  • I put a little more effort into marketing this year, by submitting the event to more places that might have listed it, but I didn’t put in enough effort, because almost none of them actually listed it. I need to do a better job at explaining what these things are, and having more marketing materials ahead of time will help. If I could have shared photos or videos of some of the animated characters in situ, it might have been a more compelling sell. This is a problem that I plan to solve with the next project by re-arranging my production schedule. More on that in January.
  • Access Theater was great! The space and staff are wonderful and the location is ideal. I plan to mount many future productions there.

I’m gonna take a planned hiatus from the blog now for a couple weeks while I try to force myself to chill out. Bobby’s Birthday is still planned for this Spring, and I’m going to start working on it again in January, but actually I’m probably going to start working on it again in December. I have some really exciting new ideas for how to build this that solve a lot of the problems I’ve been running up against in trying to make this sort of thing sustainable. That is such a vague sentence! More later! Happy early Thanksgiving!