It’s not often when we’re able to tell you about a single show coming to both coasts in short order. Yet that’s the case with Witchland, a new work from playwright Tim Mulligan that “combines elements of traditional theatrical storytelling with immersive haunted elements” to tell a story about a place that just might be cursed. Or it could be nuclear waste. Is there really a difference?
NO PROSCENIUM: Tell us a little bit about your experience! What’s it about? What makes it immersive?
Tim Mulligan: Witchland is a fun, scary, immersive play, about a true “modern family” who move to a town deemed “the most toxic place in the Western Hemisphere,” smack dab in the middle of the Hanford Nuclear Plant. And scares, terror and horror ensue — is it because of the leaking toxic waste, or is it the mysterious “witch” who lives across the street? Attendees will enter the theater as tourists of the nuclear plant, greeted by Hazmat suit workers, Geiger counters, and from that point on the thrills and chills start to pile up.
NP: What was the inspiration for your upcoming experience?
TM: As playwright, I felt that something missing in the live theater world is a really scary play. And in writing it, I tried to imagine not only a scary story, with jump scares, but also how we can use the entire theater space to create an immersive experience, one where attendees will be on edge from the second they hit the theater. And writing it based on my own mysterious hometown, with its history of death and illness due to the nuclear plant, along with the “witch” who terrorized us all through my high school days, seemed like the perfect way to go. So, welcome to Witchland!
NP: What do you think fans of immersive will find most interesting about this latest experience?
TM: I think this event will please everyone — for those who aren’t real theater-goers, it’s a fun, scary night out. For avid theater fans, this delivers a great story with relatable characters, but also an immersive event they aren’t used to. The immersive elements include the nuclear reactor theme played throughout, actors (and witches) popping up all over the theater, and in Palm Springs there is a full bar in the theater, where guests can enjoy “toxic” cocktails.
NP: Once you started designing and testing what did you discover about this experience that was unexpected?
TM: It’s been really fun to see how attendees react. There are lots of screams and gasps — but also lots of laughs, as it’s a funny story as well. I’ve had many attendees tell me it’s the most fun they’ve ever had going to a play.
NP: What can fans who are coming to this, or thinking about coming to this, do to get into the mood of the experience?
TM: I think you can come in blind, with no prep, and have a great time. However, to really come in prepared, some reading on Hanford, and its dark, deadly, and mysterious history, might help. Much of that can be found on the website: www.witchlandplay.com.