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Monday, December 18

Night at the museum: Annual Muse Costume Ball haunts the LACMA


Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre Group

The ghosts of old Hollywoodland will haunt the red carpet Saturday night at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s 10th annual Muse Costume Ball.

The 10th annual Muse Costume Ball, hosted by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, combines the current exhibitions of the museum with a night of Halloween-themed horror installations and performances by Clairy Browne & the Bangin’ Rackettes and DJ Theophilus London.
Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre Group
The 10th annual Muse Costume Ball, hosted by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, combines the current exhibitions of the museum with a night of Halloween-themed horror installations and performances by Clairy Browne & the Bangin’ Rackettes and DJ Theophilus London.
The annual public event combines a special after-hours viewing of some of LACMA’s current exhibitions with a Halloween party complete with elaborate costumes and entertainment throughout the evening.

This year, the costume ball will start off with live performances by Australian musical group Clairy Browne & the Bangin’ Rackettes, followed by a set by DJ Theophilus London that runs until 1 a.m. Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre Group will end the evening by performing a live horror installation during the afterparty. There will also be a costume contest, with prizes awarded to the best black-and-white costume, classic movie monster and ghost of Hollywood past.

Meghan McCauley, the organizer of the event and new member manager at LACMA, said the performers were chosen based on their relevance to the event. While the theme changes every year, the costume ball always combines LACMA’s art exhibitions with music and an overarching Halloween theme, with this year’s theme being the ghosts of old Hollywoodland.

“One of the things that we looked for was an up-and-coming musician and performer – somebody with an established enough name that it would bring a little more attention to the event, but also somebody who could really benefit and really be excited about performing at LACMA,” McCauley said. “(Clairy Browne & the Bangin’ Rackettes) fit with that haunted Hollywood theme, this old, jazzy, bluesy, soul sound.”

McCauley said the second half of the event will take place in an empty gallery space at LACMA, making Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre Group an integral part of creating a haunted environment for the afterparty performance.

“There’s nothing up there, it’s just these big, beautiful empty galleries, so we knew that we would want to fill them with something that would create the correct mood,” McCauley said. “We came back to the haunted Hollywood theme and the idea of the afterparty in the galleries, being that this event was sort of haunted and that’s where Zombie Joe’s came into play.”

In addition to the musical and theatrical elements of the event, McCauley said the costume ball is also an opportunity for guests to experience some of the current LACMA exhibitions that will be on display. Three main areas will be on view, including modern art galleries, John Divola’s photography exhibition “As Far as I Could Get” and the Marjorie and Leonard Vernon collection “See the Light.” McCauley said this year’s old Hollywood theme was inspired by the current photography exhibitions.

Zombie Joe, who began his theater group over 20 years ago, said 15 actors will be involved in the horror installations at LACMA and he hopes guests at the event will choose to interact with the performers. His group will be putting together performance art pieces that fit with the Halloween motif as well as the ghosts of old Hollywoodland theme.

“It’s somewhere between performance and theater, if you were to categorize what we’re doing,” he said. “Our goal is to help create the atmosphere … You can completely ignore what we’re doing and just hang out with your friends, or you can stand there and look at one piece for the whole evening.”

Clairy Browne said she and her group are looking forward to experiencing a Halloween celebration in the U.S. and incorporating the haunted theme into their performance.

“We’ve never done anything Halloween before, and what you guys do in the States is on such a grander scale,” Browne said. “The element of costumes will be really exciting for us to explore because we like to express ourselves aesthetically rather strongly. We’re going to deck it out.”

As her first experience in planning the costume ball draws to a close, McCauley said she hopes the enthusiasm of the performers and organizers will translate into an event that will not only entertain guests, but will also allow them to experience LACMA in a new way.

“The amazing thing about this event is what people bring to it, just the costumes that they come in, the different performers that are there and people interacting with the artwork. That’s always my favorite thing to see,” McCauley said. “I want people to remember (the costume ball) as a celebration of many different things at LACMA and the idea of being able to engage in a cultural experience while also having a good time at a party.”

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