Downtown Repertory Theater continues their tradition of bringing an immersive, location-based production to Southern California for the Halloween season. After last year’s sold-out run of “It’s Alive!” they’re now bringing “Witch!” to the Mountain View Mausoleum in Altadena, California. Before heading to the mausoleum, “Witch!” performed a run of shows at the Heritage Square Museum in Los Angeles, where I had the opportunity to take part. I was even accused of being a witch myself.
“Witch!” is based on the Pendle Witch Trials of 1612. Experience a sleepy town’s descent into madness, as the people of Pendle are led to see witches in every shadow and every stray dog as a familiar spirit.
In the case of “Witch!,” the story is well crafted and told by a truly gifted and committed ensemble of performers. The naturally beautiful backdrop of the Heritage Square Museum and all of its various buildings adds a true sense of exploration and surprise to the adventure. Whether it’s in large group settings with the entire audience and cast, or scenes with just you and a single actor, you’ll always feel part of the story as opposed to simply an onlooker.
One of the exciting pieces in this form of storytelling is that you have no control over your path. The performers will choose you and guide you from one location to the next. This could mean joining three other random audience members, or even a solo journey at some points. You most certainly will be separated from the friends or family you began the experience with.
One of the more impressive elements to this form of storytelling is that every audience member is having a different experience, yet they all need to be able to follow the same overall storyline. Naturally, you’ll wonder what it is that you missed when your friends were experiencing something different. But then comes the element of continued exploration after the performance ends while you and your fellow audience members begin comparing notes.
I really enjoyed how the audience truly became part of the story partway through the performance. After seeing innocent characters being accused of being witches, you then realize you are in danger of being accused of witchcraft yourself. Your guilt or innocence is revealed in a simple yet clever way that I won’t spoil here.
Having experienced last year’s production of “It’s Alive!” in the Mount View Mausoleum, I think it’s safe to say that the mausoleum will be just as interesting a backdrop for the latest run of “Witch!” Both locations are very different in design, but it seems the creatives behind these productions go into this knowing the story will need to adapt to both locations. It does require the audience to suspend their disbelief a bit more than I would personally like in location-based theatre in regard to spaces. Sometimes a scene will unfold in a dark living room that will stand in for a prison cell. The mood is always right, but the location is sometimes not ideal. It by no means ruins the production, but it is something I would like to see improved upon for future productions.
I have no idea what the rental deals or limitations are for both spaces, but some year I would like to see a Downtown Repertory Theater production that sits in one of the two locations for the full run of the show. This way the story could be truly adapted to one space without having to account for a later move. Don’t get me wrong, they adapt very well to their spaces. But I think it could benefit them from choosing one location and really investing story and location-wise into that particular space.
There are things to keep in mind if you decide to experience “Witch!” for yourself. Wear comfortable shoes, as this is not a passive experience. A complimentary themed alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverage is included in your ticket price. Although we’ve gotten used to not wearing masks in most places, this production does require audience members to wear masks throughout the experience. And finally, go into this ready for an adventure, to play your part, and be excited to separate from your group in order to have your own unique experience.
The latest run of “Witch!” opens at the Mountain View Mausoleum in Altadena, California on Friday, September 30, 2022. Due to the nature of this show, tickets are limited, so book yours now.
Jeff DePaoli is a producer and voiceover artist living in Los Angeles. He can be heard as the voice of Disney Trivia on Alexa as well as the host of “Dizney Coast to Coast,” the ultimate, unofficial Disney fan podcast. Get your FREE gifts of “America’s Hidden Mickeys,” “On the Rohde Again,” “Theme Park Comfort Kit,” and more at DizneyCoastToCoast.com. DePaoli’s opinions are his own and do not necessarily represent Attractions Magazine.