Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Fundraising takes on a frightful aura


On a heavily wooded roadway cutting back and forth across a hillside in Santa Barbara, deformed dolls hang from branches choked with cobwebs.
Gravestones dot the landscape and a bloody machete is embedded deep in the thick bark of a tree trunk. Even with sunlight filtering through the canopy, the drive is tinged with a macabre atmosphere.

It’s precisely the creepy mood that a group of Santa Barbara High School students are striving for as they add grisly and eerie touches to the Fright Walk, a quarter-mile scarefest that will serve as the sole fundraiser for the theatre department’s production of a musical revue early next year.
“This driveway is almost scary enough by itself,” said Michael Landecker, an SBHS senior and one of four directors of the musical production.
It’s the Landecker’s winding drive at 2101 Mountain Ave. that opens this Friday to thrill seekers willing to subject themselves to a twisted 20-minute hike.
In addition to the obvious props —spiders, swaying skeletons and so on — the Fright Walk also features 30 costumed characters, all members of the musical revue cast.
A doctor in a bloody lab coat and the quintessential creepy little kid are among the spooks they plan to portray, Landecker said.
“It’s a fun way to raise money,” he said, adding that while the walk isn’t recommended for children under 6, the actors will recognize younger visitors and act appropriately.
“They’re not going to attack a little kid or anything,” he said.
Many of the props are in place, or at least momentarily stored at the edge of the road to allow traffic to pass. Most of the work remaining involves installing fog machines and spectral lighting.
“Everything is basically done, it’s just the lighting and sound left,” said Kristian Sorensen, a junior at SBHS and another director of the production, which is coincidentally titled “Music of the Night.”
Although its only the second year that the Landecker clan has offered up the driveway for a Halloween fundraiser — having raised $1,500 last year for a theatre trip to Scotland — Landecker said his family has been putting together a Fright Walk of sorts for friends during the past decade.
“We’ve just collected them over the years,” he said, referring to the numerous bizarre and ghoulish objects littering the drive.
In fact, the group isn’t spending much money on the project. Kendra Costigan, another director and a senior at SBHS, said she’s only shelled out $150, mainly for fog machine fuel and makeup.
The crew has been working weekends and afternoons for several weeks to put the Fright Walk together. Costigan pointed out a set of wood panels that will form a freakish funhouse replete with evil clowns as her favorite project during the assembly process, although she admitted it won’t be too enjoyable for her when it’s complete.
“It would be the scariest part for me,” she said.
Along with the entrance fee, which is $5 for kids and $7 for adults, organizers are planning a bake sale toward the top of the driveway to raise additional funds.
After passing the backed goods, visitors will make one more hairpin cutback and spill out onto a public street, where adults will be waiting to chauffeur them back to their vehicles at the bottom of the hill.
The driveway will be open Friday through Sunday from 7 to 10 p.m. and its architects said if it’s anything similar to last year’s experience, Sorensen said people will not be disappointed.
“We even scared a lot of teachers who came last year,” he said.

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