The Twin Cities Horror Festival kicked off its tenth season of horrific, terrific performances on Thursday, October 21st. This years’ festival, aptly titled Season X, begins with a weekend (10/21 - 10/24) of virtual performances via YouTube Live. The following weekend (10/28 - 10/31) features five in-person shows that will take place at the Crane Theater. Between long-form improv to childrens’ shows to musicals, Duck Washington, the current executive director, and Ryan Lear, the former executive director, are confident you’ll find something you enjoy at the Twin Cities Horror Festival, even if you’re not a lover of the horror genre. I spoke to Duck and Ryan to learn more about the festivals’ history, and to try to get an idea of what to expect as I walk into (and maybe, run out of) the festival for the first time. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
BN: I imagine this has been a long time coming, but tell us: how long is the process to prepare for this festival, and what does the preparation process entail?
DW: Preparing for the Twin Cities Horror Festival is pretty much a year-round thing. We close the festival down and then immediately get into fundraising with Give to the Max Day in November, and then we start our planning for the year. We’ll figure out who our staff is and request submissions from artists. We have a team that reviews the submissions to figure out what shows are going to be at the festival.
BN: Can you share a bit about the history of this festival, and how it grew to be a notable part of the Twin Cities performing arts and horror community?
RL: In the early days, Four Humors had a horror show, and we were too small of a company to host our own event. We invited friends and people we knew to join us to host a festival that we believed would just be a one-year thing. After year two, we quickly realized that we wanted to keep this going, but it wasn’t going to be just Four Humors running this thing; we needed more voices in the group. In terms of how we grew our artist and performer community, we curate our shows based on submissions. In the past three or four years, we started to bring people in for interviews to learn more about their submissions. We now get to sit down and have a conversation about the art and ask them questions about what they’re hoping to accomplish by telling their story through the horror genre, and why it is important that they tell the story now and at the Twin Cities Horror Festival.
BN: I’m expecting lots of gorey, slasher-type content, but I really love the psychological thriller genre of horror. Can I find that at the Twin Cities Horror Festival?
DW: I’d say that our offerings actually tend to lean in that direction, more than the gore or slasher type of content. There’s a certain level of intimacy that comes with being in a live space, and the tools that you have in a theater to make people scared are much more psychological, whether that is by using sound or lighting to set a mood or place people in darkness.
RL: We’ve learned over the years that on stage, less is more when it comes to horror. The less you show, the more an audience member’s mind can fill in what is happening, and the more scared the audience is going to be.
BN: For someone who has never gone to the festival, what kind of performances can people expect?
DW: It varies from performance to performance, which is very exciting, and it has been that way ever since I started attending the festival. In previous years, there have been short films, there was been completely dance-based shows, there have been true plays, and even some absurd and bizarre shows, all of which can fit within the context of horror. Some shows might even be childrens’ shows. The first weekend of our festival is all online, so people are navigating the virtual setting in a really interesting way. For example, Reverend Matt’s show is more of a humorous lecture than it is a play or horror show.
RL: We always try to say that there is something for everyone. People have a very rigid idea of what encapsulates horror, but we try to push the boundaries of that with what you might see on stage. Theater, music, dance, and film are our big four, but every year we find something that we’ve never done before - and we say great, let’s get that in there. This year we’ll have an audio experience that people can sit and listen to. This year, we’ll feature shows that are more subgenres of horror rather than straight blood and guts. We’ve had psychological horror, campy shows, and musicals too.
Be not confused—if horror, gore, guts, and inducing sleeplessness is your thing, you can find that and more at the festival, particularly by viewing shows like Splinter. But if you’re a first-time festival-goer like me, if you’re slowly easing yourself into the world of horror, or if you’re a child (literally or figuratively), shows such as Reverend Matt’s Monster Science: The Root of All Evil, Blackout in a Blackout, or Noodle Pie Island: The Night the Lights Went Out might be more your speed. And if you don’t trust me, you can navigate to the Twin Cities Horror Festival website (tchorrorfestival.com) to read more about each show and how it ranks on a scale of 1-5 in the categories of language, violence, and blood.
The Twin Cities Horror Festival will run for two weekends, Thursday, October 21 through Sunday, October 24 online via YouTube Live, and Thursday, October 28 through Sunday, October 31 in-person at the Crane Theater. TCHF will also host a 10th Anniversary Cabaret on Wednesday, October 27 at 7:30pm at the Crane Theater. Purchase tickets to the online shows and live performances on tchorrorfestival.com.
Duck Washington (he/him) is the Executive Director of the Twin Cities Horror Festival. In addition to his passion for horror, he has been involved with the performing arts community in the Twin Cities area for nearly 20 years. Duck is a member of Blackout Improv and is an instructor at HUGE Improv Theater.
Ryan Lear (he/him) founded the Twin Cities Horror Festival in 2011 and served as the Executive Director of the Twin Cities Horror Festival in 2014 and 2015. Ryan is also a company member of Four Humors Theater in Minneapolis.