Watercolor Ghosts

Last time we talked about how the model was feeling a little tight, and I’ve been thinking about that all week. I was only using 800 square feet of my projected available space and it just wasn’t enough. More discouraging than the space issues was the lack of any kind of narrative arc. It was just two scenes and then…it’s over.

I was thinking about how to expand and, together with some input from you all (thanks, always, for replying to me), I put together some ideas for revealing the “backstory” for this graveyard in that first alley, which I could use as the queue. Maybe we’d put up faux-wheatpasted posters, or dioramas that look like posters, which depict this particular space in 1816, 1916, and 2016…except the 2016 poster is a doorway, because we can experience the present day ourselves. This gives us a little more of a progression: maybe the city rose around this graveyard, long after it filled up, and as the generations rolled on, the spirits grew bolder and started playing?

The best part, for me, of building physical artifacts in the concept phase of this project, is that they’re literally lingering around me. Every time I walk past that model (which is all the time, because it’s in the middle of my apartment), I think just a little about what’s going on in there. So I kept the past-to-present thing in mind, and on a parallel train of thought I was thinking about how I needed more space. At some point, this all converged, and those dioramas graduated to first-class scenes. Now there are four movements, separated by distinct jumps in time until the finale, where we stay in the present but move underground. (The ghost quartet was never going anywhere.)

Instead of tearing apart the model again, I tried another approach. We suddenly have a show that is higher-concept than “things happens in a place,” and I wanted to take advantage of this newfound sophistication by working on the mood. Doing my best to channel Marc Davis, I busted out the watercolors and came up with these:

A watercolor painting of a graveyard in 1816, with a small ghost and a skeleton hand emerging from a fresh grave
Scene 1: The graveyard, 1816
A watercolor paint of the previously-pictured graveyard 100 years later, with two larger ghosts and that same skeleton now halfway out of the ground
Scene 1: The graveyard, 1916

Here we see the first two scenes, 1816 and 1916. You can imagine what 2016 will look like: that skeleton has finally worked up the courage to get all the way out of the ground, or maybe two others were faster and stole that one’s head. The ghosts have mustered the initiative to become more corporeal and generally cause more of a ruckus. The tree has either gotten bigger or is just a stump. The newer, red-brick addition to the wall is as worn and cracked as the much older section below. And the door to the mausoleum is swinging wide open…so we head down there. I’m really happy with this.

Before you roll your eyes at yet another week where all I’ve done is change my mind: I started contacting theaters! I have real dimensions, real floor plans, and real budgets. I’m locking down a venue before the next update, and I’ve started assembling a team to help me get everything done in time for October. It’s happening.

Finally, a question for you: one of my top choices for a venue is available on Halloween and the week leading up to it, but no other time in October. I had been imagining the haunt being open for at least two weekends + Halloween (which is a Monday this year) but I’m not convinced this is actually required. It’s certainly cheaper and therefore less risky to only book four or five days, but what if it does really well and I want to expand? Should I just start small, potentially leaving ticket sales on the table, and then adapt for future productions? Am I overthinking this? Let me know what you think and I’ll see you next week!