Terror Trail: A Freak Show in a Freak Year

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By NATHAN WITKOWSKI ‘21

The annual Terror Trail was a graveyard smash! The Edison High School Theatre Department put on another amazing show written, directed, and performed by the talented young actors and actresses of the department. Every year, these creative minds come up with a new theme for the trail. Previous themes were “Haunted Asylum” and “Twisted Fairy Tales.” This year’s theme, “Sir Baron Samedi’s Bizarre Freak Show,” was a grand tour of a mystical show full of freaks and fantasy that captivated audiences.

In the past, the Terror Trail was held at the Edison Light Tower where the Edison Recreational Center hosted their Halloween event—the Trail being the main attraction. The Light Tower’s wood-chip path weaves through the forest, making it the ideal location for a spooky performance. With open spaces for scenes to take place and a surplus amount of hiding places for jump scarers, guests were in for a frightful night.

However, like most events in 2020, the Terror Trail had to be modified. A major challenge for the creative team was finding a theme and concept that would translate well during a time when close contact and enclosed spaces are the real horrors. So they turned to video, and got creative.

The Terror Trail’s very own fortune teller, Paris White ’22, predicts the future of the viewers.
Photo Credit: Hannah Steinlauf ’22

The show included acts ranging from a talking lion to creepy conjoined twins to a human pretzel. The charming and cunning Sir Baron set the stage for a lighthearted and fun experience, but as the tour continued viewers learned more about the horrors of the freak show.

Questions arose. How did the cast members end up in this show? Why don’t they leave? Who is Baron Samedi? The mysteries of the show all come together at the end but one question remains:  Who are the masterminds behind this creation?

“From a talking lion to creepy conjoined twins to a human pretzel,” this show had it all.

The concept team for the Terror Trail was Hannah Martin ‘21 and Marcello Leone ‘22. The scriptwriters, who had to write fifteen unique yet connected monologues, were Nathan Witkowski ‘21, Melodi Wheeler ‘21, and Matteo Silvero ‘22. The trail was cast and directed by Olivia Chiarella ‘21, Matthew Sudnick ‘22, and Paris White ‘22.

When talking to the concept team about the inspiration for the theme, Leone explained, “…we needed to find ways to scare the audience without actually being able to jump scare them this year so we had to find stories in a miserable and twisted place.”

The writing team did just that.

Instead of “scary,” the team went with “creepy and unsettling” ideas for the script. Nothing will make someone’s skin crawl more than the wolfman who thinks he’s the ringleader’s pet, or the human pretzel who can never untie herself. Overall, this lively and freakish theme provided the actors a chance to continue the tradition in an innovative way.

Nathan Witkowski ’21, one of the Ring Leaders of the Freak Show, rounds out the performance with a surprising twist.
Photo Credit: HANNAH STEINLAUF ’22

Traditionally, Terror Trail rehearsals would take place in the auditorium after school with the whole cast and crew gathered in one place. This year, rehearsals were on Zoom—as most meetings these days are—but nonetheless, they were a success.

The biggest struggle for the cast and crew was creating a safe environment to tell the story without compromising the integrity of the show. Initially, the Trail was going to take place in the side parking lot at Edison High School. Cast members would be socially distanced in their own parking spaces while audience members drove to each scene masked in the safety of their vehicles.

While the Department was cleared to go through with this setup, COVID-19 had other plans. The trail easily has become one of the Department’s favorite events so Mrs. Maureen O’Connor, the head of the Theatre Department, believed it was important to come up with a way to still hold the event. To ensure safety of the performers, parent volunteers, and audience, the cast was asked to individually record their scenes.

Despite the cast never gathering in person, the show went on. Jana Elgebrawi ‘22, a newcomer to the department, said she loved “being able to step outside reality for a second, and getting into such a weird character was definitely awesome as well.”

Pictured here is Matthew Hofstra ’22, seen as The Oldest Person, with face makeup that took his family 15 minutes to complete.
Photo Credit: Hannah Steinlauf ’22

For newcomers, the Terror Trail has been a fun and easy way to get involved in the department. Actors have the opportunity to get their feet wet without making a longterm commitment. Those interested in future performances can reach out to Mrs. O’Connor directly or contact the Department’s President, Olivia Chiarella ‘21.

So sit back and enjoy the show…if you dare…

Cast (in order of appearance):

Matthew Sudnick ‘22 as Ringleader #1

Mackenzie Roe ‘21 as the Bearded Lady

Jessica ‘21 and Olivia Chiarella ‘21 as the Conjoined Twins

Paris White ‘22 as the Fortune Teller

Matteo Silvero ‘22 as the Wolf Man

Hannah Martin ‘21 as Ringleader #2

Kaeli Knott ‘22 as the Tattoo Lady

Matthew Hofstra ‘22 as the The Oldest Person

Landon Posner ‘22 as the Strongman

Nimisha Pant ‘21 as the Human Pretzel

Marcello Leone ‘22 as Ringleader #3

Jana Elgebrawi ‘22 as the Lion

Lauren Dick ‘22 as the Vendor

Sanjana Suresh ‘22 as the Lost Child

Nathan Witkowski ‘21 as Ringleader #4