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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Old Tucson’s ‘Nightfall’ offers thrills and chills with new additions and old traditions

    Rebecca Noble
    Michaela Ivey, right, playing Madame Desdemona, intimidates musical cast lead, director and playwright Tiffany Ann B, left, during the final night of rehearsal before the opening night of “The Last Dance of the Dead,” a musical showing in part with Nightfall at Old Tucson on Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2016. “The Last Dance of the Dead” features dancing, acrobatics, flips and an original film to accompany the performance.

    Held annually at Old Tucson, “Nightfall” is a scary celebration like no other. The old movie set transforms into much more than just a haunted house. It turns into an entire haunted town.

    Actors of all ages dress up in costumes and hide around Old Tucson to scare the living daylights out of scare-seekers. Meanwhile, Old Tucson puts on a variety of shows for the crowds to check out: a musical, a stunt show, a comedy show and more.

    This year, there’s a new addition to “Nightfall,” aptly named Doomtown. Musical cast lead and writer, director and star of this year’s musical, “Last Dance of the Dead,” Tiffany Ann B is excited to have guests come check out the new inclusion.

    “[Doomtown] is located on the high chaparral set, which is well known,” Ann B said. “It’s really cool that we turned it into a haunt [this year].”

    The new haunt is connected to this year’s musical, an original story about a lost love with an Old West/Victorian twist.

    It was made possible thanks to an extra addition to this year’s budget. The show is mostly made up of a walk-through with scatters—otherwise known as those scary monsters walking around—but there is an extra area for hanging out free of these ghouls. There’s a full bar area set aside from the rest of the town.

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    What is it really like to dress up in costume and scare people for money? The actors audition about a month in advance; they practice daily and have full run-throughs of every show in the week leading up to opening night.

    According to Christina Pflueger, who plays Madame Desdemona in the musical and appears in the stunt show, one of the more exciting parts of working at “Nightfall” is the aspect of live theater.

    “[We get] immediate feedback from the audience,” Pflueger said.

    The cast performed for friends and family a week before opening.

    “Preview night went really well. They did a really excellent job with the show this year,” Pflueger said.

    The cast will be in full makeup and plans to bring the energy to the stage of undead zombies and saloon girls. During rehearsals, the cast of nine young women go through a set of practices meant to get them in touch with one another and ready to perform. They practice acrobatics, voice exercises and run through their songs.

    On the scarier side of “Nightfall” lies the stunt show, titled “Fertile Ground II.” This year’s stunt show is a continuation of last year’s, in which five kids mysteriously went missing during a camping trip. In this year’s performance, two detectives set out to find answers to the disappearances.

    “College kids like it because it’s a lot of explosions, effects, blood, gore and humor that appeals more to a newer generation as opposed to an older one,” said Ty Anaya, an entertainer and stuntman starring in both the musical and the stunt show.

    Rehearsals for the stunt show are all about safety procedures and getting tricks down to an exact science. Everything has to be timed just right due to the nature of the show—pyrotechnics and the dangers of faking deaths abound.

    “What’s great about this year, with the stunt show, the deaths are super creative, [they’re] mind blowing,” Anaya said. “I’ve been here for four ‘Nightfalls’ and this is all new.”

    Anaya said that one part of the show that sticks out in particular is when the detective gets sliced in half with a scythe and her lower body flies up in the air.

    With so many stunts, danger seems to be just another factor of the stunt show that the actors have come to expect.

    “Five years ago, one of the actors kneed my brother in the face,” Anaya said. “He went with the wrong knee and my brother’s teeth went through his bottom lip. He had a bunch of stitches.”

    The team behind the stunt show spends months working on the art and the mechanics behind the show. Anaya worked in the art department to make the effects in the show.

    “It’s a blood fountain,” Anaya said.

    While the team practices enough to ensure mistakes are few and far between, things can always go wrong when putting on a performance of this magnitude.

    “We’re on stage and 100-feet away are the techs pushing buttons. So if something is not going to happen, [we can’t know until it doesn’t happen],” Anaya said. “We have a lot of safeties and we have a ton of practice that happens—a lot of prep. We know exact distances for things and where they’re placed.”

    The comedy show is a lighter element of this year’s “Nightfall.” With raunchier jokes than usual, Pflueger believes that the comedy show is a must-see for an older crowd.

    Anaya can also be seen in the comedy show, dressed in a leather bikini as professional wrestler, Chyna.

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    “It’ll be a first for me,” Anaya said. “I tried on the bikini top part in one rehearsal and so far it’s been awkward. It’s certainly a little weird, I feel a little exposed.”

    Through October 31, an abundance of hard-working actors and performers wait in Old Tucson, ready to give attendees the fright of their lives.

    For more information, visit the “Nightfall” website.

    Follow Briana Darling on Twitter 

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