Twin Cities Horror Fest adds new scares this year

<i>Epidemic </i>promises to scare the pants off you at the fourth Twin Cities Horror Festival.

Epidemic promises to scare the pants off you at the fourth Twin Cities Horror Festival.

The Twin Cities Horror Festival is still going strong as it heads into its fourth year. The fright-based performance festival haunts the Southern Theater in the week leading up to Halloween. We caught up with executive director Ryan Lear to see what’s up for 2015.

What lessons did you learn from the third version of the festival, and how did you apply them to this year?

Ryan Lear: Every year the biggest questions facing us have been, “How many performance groups next time around, and who are they?" The answers depend a lot on demand, both by the patrons who want to see new work and from the artists who want to be a part of the festival. What we learned last year is that the audience for the festival is continuing to grow, and that there are a lot of groups that would like to be part of the festival. We've looked closely at our schedule, and figured out how to squeeze a few more groups in. Last year we had nine groups, and this year we've expanded to 12.

Also, last year was our first year as an LLC as opposed to just a loose collection of artists, so we learned more than we'd ever care to know about the exceedingly tedious world of corporate taxes and insurance. We projected the known and unknown costs pretty well last year, but now with one year under our belt, we have a much better idea of where we need to focus our efforts in order to eventually get to a 100 percent ticket sale payout to our artists.

Also, earlier this year we signed a deal with the Southern to be at the space through 2017, which has allowed us to already start planning for TCHF V and VI.

What kind of balance of shows did you want? How did you go about doing that?

We want a new and surprising mix of content on the stage every year. One of this festival's greatest strengths is that we have the opportunity to draw from such a talented pool of local creative artists who are telling great stories in original ways across a multitude of performance mediums. A performing arts festival is nothing without its artists, and we're extremely grateful for ours. Each year, the six founding member groups of the festival get first right of refusal for performance slots, so we figure out what they are going to create, and then look for other groups who are offering something completely different.

This year, the festival publicly solicited show proposals for the first time, and we were blown away by the number and quality of the responses. It was hard for our jury to cut the field down to the limited number of slots that we had to offer. But in the end, I think we found a fantastic mix of content for TCHF IV. Not everything will be for everyone, but there should be something for almost anyone. 

Who are the newcomers this year?

We've got six fantastic new groups this year. Silver Slipper Productions is doing a musical review drag show, Oncoming Productions is exploring the dark depths of the sea, Green T Productions is telling Japanese ghost stories, Adam Levy of the Honeydogs is bringing a family-friendly costume dance party with The Bunnyclogs, Fearless Productions is doing a spooky live radio show, and Horrorshow Hotdog is bringing us a mini-festival within the festival of horror-film shorts.

You've expanded a bit more into film this year. Has that been a long term plan?

TCHF is first and foremost a live performance festival and our plan is to keep it that way, but film is such a fantastic and pervasive outlet for horror stories that you'll probably continue to see us incorporate it in some fashion into our lineups. We weren't planning on doing more film this year, but one of the proposals we received had a killer idea, and it was hard to pass it up.

Local film buffs Horrorshow Hotdog have been working with the festival since TCHF II, where they organized some fun, classic film showings and provided a live, Rifftrax-style commentary, but this year they told us that they wanted to expand their role, and help curate a mini, horror-shorts film festival within the larger festival. Much like TCHF itself, their 30 film lineup runs the gamut from campy to grotesque and everything in between. There are both local and non-local films represented, and a number of them will be premiering at TCHF, so this will be the first time people are seeing a lot of these shorts. 

In general, what kind of experience do you want audiences to have?

Hopefully, our patrons walk away from the festival with continued desire to support local art as well as engage and follow these artists throughout the year. We're presenting artists with a deep passion and commitment to their art form, and we think that all of them deserve to be performing to sold-out houses. The more people we get in the theater, the more money the artists make, and the more deeply they can afford to throw themselves into their craft. It's important for the local arts ecosystem that performing artists get paid, and paid well for their ephemeral creations, and we are proud to provide a platform for them to do just that. 


Twin Cities Horror Festival IV

Thursday through November 1

The Southern Theater

1420 Washington Ave., Minneapolis

$14-$15 individual tickets; multi-show passes available

For tickets and more information, call 612-900-8386 or visit online.