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A happenin’ Halloween

By Courtney Powell

Oct. 29, 2007 9:04 p.m.

Being a college student during Halloween can be tough. Gone are the days of trick-or-treating, and finding an original costume and partying can become routine to many students.

“I think it’d be fun to add a little more sophistication and culture to Halloween this year,” said Stephen Mareka, a fourth-year biology student.

For a more mature spin on the classic holiday, Los Angeles offers a number of arts-related Halloween events for weary witches and pumpkins. From spooky vaudeville shows to philosophical vampire theater, students can continue to celebrate the holiday with class.

This year, the UCLA Hammer Museum is offering an exclusive series of film and arts events tonight.

“Night of the Living Dolls” will be an evening of vaudeville-inspired performances and film screenings. Named after the classic film “Night of the Living Dead,” the evening will consist of five performances and six films all showing in one night.

“It’s divided down the middle in terms of vaudeville and Halloween,” said Darin Klein, the Hammer Museum’s program coordinator. “It’s very unusual. There’s an element of kitsch or theatricality to it that you wouldn’t find at Knott’s Scary Farm, but the stuff here is all made by serious artists. It’s an artist showcase wrapped in the theme of vaudeville and Halloween.”

The Hammer Museum has appointed a drag werewolf named Darlin’ as their “hirsute hostess” for the event. A character who was first brought to life by performance artists in San Francisco in the early ’90s, Darlin’ will be opening the event with some fancy footwork and then assume the role of master of ceremonies for the evening. Musicians and dancers dress as dolls and play along with Darlin’s music.

“I love costumes, the energy of the night, that people are feeling mischievous and adventurous. … I love things that are scary but not too scary,” Klein said. “We’re really excited to bring back Halloween to the Hammer.”

The exhibits already housed within the Hammer Museum will also be on display. Artist Jamie Isenstein, whose installation “This Way to the Egress” was inspired by the famous Barnum & Bailey Circus, will be appearing inside her own exhibit.

“It offers a higher entertainment value versus a lecture or poetry meeting because it’s going to be more of a circus,” Klein said.

At the Bob Baker Marionette Theater, located on West First Street in Los Angeles, UCLA alumnus Bob Baker created the puppet show, “Bob Baker’s Fiesta: Halloween Edition” for those seeking alternative Halloween activities.

Baker, the show’s creator and puppeteer, insists that his puppet show will be better than anything found at Knott’s Scary Farm and that it will appeal to all age levels, including college students.

“It’s a whole different type of thing. It’s a fantasy that you can watch,” Baker said. “Usually people are at Halloween parties or they ring doorbells. But a lot of people aren’t trick-or-treating this year. They can come see the show and have some ice cream and then go home. The point is to have a little fun with Halloween.”

From skeletons to Dracula to the Purple People Eater, Baker offers an array of hauntingly memorable Halloween characters. “Mostly Ghostly” and Broadway’s “Fernando’s Hideaway” are only a two of the songs that Baker’s puppets will be dancing along to during the evening.

“The puppets come out and come into the audience. When we do the black light portion of the show, (the puppets) come close to where you’re seated. You’re sitting on the floor and the puppets are at eye-level with you, “ Baker said. “We even made a showgirl skeleton.”

For those looking for a more edgy theater experience, Ezra Buzzington’s “B4 I Wake” is a multi-sensory Halloween show. Based on Bram Stoker’s “Dracula,” “B4 I Wake” is a blend of mixed media, video projections, subtle stage directions and a hint of rock ‘n’ roll.

The hour-long show will be playing at the Theatre of NOTE in Hollywood through Nov. 17. Director Ezra Buzzington is confident that the complex world he has created on stage will draw a crowd.

“(Our composer’s) music is quite beautiful, and we tried to create more of a cinematic effect,” Buzzington said. “There’s a lot of spiritual magic and spirituality in the show.”

Blending a classic story with a modern execution, the play does not just stick to blood and gore; it also reflects on topics that will not only entertain but also leave students thinking well after the show is over.

“It approaches the concept of a spiritual apocalypse by examining the various ways in which a being can be destroyed: psychological, political, sexual, religious and emotional,” said Buzzington. “Every vampire who represents a piece of those characteristics has them torn apart.”

Not many horror productions can claim such a complexity, but many students welcome the chance at a departure from traditional Halloween activities.

“It’s encouraging to see Halloween becoming more cultural and artsy,” said Caitlyn Takahashi, a third-year art history and history student. “I think it’ll help us get farther away from the idea that Halloween is just an excuse to party and eat a lot of candy.”

With reports from Linda Chang, A&E contributor.

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