Twin Cities Horror Festival Fuses Theater and Fear

As leaves begin to change colors and the glow of jack-o-lantern smiles brighten the doorsteps of homes around the Twin Cities, one thing is for certain: Spooky season is upon us. Ghosts and goblins sneak their way into Halloween events at every brewery and bar, dog costume contests wag their way around the state, and the country’s longest running horror-themed theater festival rehearses for its two-week run of goosebump-raising, jump-scare-perfecting frights on The Crane’s Minneapolis stage.

Since 2012, the Twin Cities Horror Festival has brought horror to a new setting by introducing scary stories to theater stages around the Twin Cities. By putting on locally produced, original works by Twin Cities artists (and allowing 100 percent of proceeds from ticket sales to return to the artists involved), the festival welcomes horror-themed performances fit for all trick (and treat) lovers and performers. 

“Horror is for everyone,” says Nissa Nordland, the artistic director of the festival. “Horror allows us to have a safe space to explore the unsafe. There’s a connection that forms between everyone, audience and artists, involved. You form this little community, even in that audience that night.”

Nordland, who saw her first Twin Cities Horror Festival production back in 2015 and has been involved in the horror festivities ever since, has a deep love for all things creepy and crawly. For her, the festival allows visitors to have a visceral experience unlike any other theater performance they’ve seen in the past. Sure, seeing a horror movie in a movie theater can be scary. But when those events are happening in live-time, with bloody special effects and real-time fear filling a room full of people? The experience is a little more enhanced. 

“The festival felt like an Addams Family reunion, and everyone was so welcoming,” Nordland says about her first Twin Cities Horror Festival experience. “I needed to be involved.” 

Each year, the Twin Cities Horror Festival runs for the two weeks surrounding Halloween and offers multiple different shows to fit all thrill-seekers. This year, the festival will have performances through October 30, and include 11 productions that take over both The Crane’s main stage and a new, more intimate venue inside The Crane, called The Studio. The new venue will add a more personal, the-monster-is-next-to-you experience, and will allow the festival to gain an even deeper, more intimate level of terror for folks looking to be spooked.      

Audiences of all ages are welcomed to the festival, but Nordland recommends checking out the festival’s website for an online lineup of every show included in the festival, a short description of each show, ticket prices, and a 1-5 rating on the blood, language, and violence content of each performance. Although one of the focuses of the Twin Cities Horror Festival is to create a varied, curated selection of pieces that fits multiple audiences, some of the shows may be considered more family-friendly than others.

Each year the Twin Cities Horror Festival attracts performers from across the country to dive into the two-week spooky celebration. A couple to get you started? The Coldharts, two of the original co-creators of the festival, are returning to the Twin Cities from their home in Brooklyn, NY for the third and final installment of their Edgar Allen Poe trilogy, Edgar Perry. And hailing from a sunnier state, BC Theatricals is making their way from Florida to perform their original one-man cabaret-style performance, Spooky and Gay.   

“Horror is more than we give it credit for. It’s suspense, it’s fantasy, it’s supernatural. It can be suburban and it can be sci-fi. It can be grown in reality or it can be grown in an alien world,” Nordland explains. “It’s a genre that taps into our deeply rooted fears, it creeps into our nervous system, and it slithers into the work of our subconscious. There’s nothing else like it.”

Grab tickets for the Twin Cities Horror Festival online or at the door of each show, and come ready for a scare. After all, who can say no to a little horror during the season of all things spooky?

The Crane Theater, 2303 NE Kennedy St., Mpls., 612-548-1380, tchorrorfestival.com

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