Stage Devoted to Frightening Tales

Photo: Sarai Nissan


The Pandemic Collective is a non-profit theater company devoted to performing horror theater. Their performances engage audiences and artists from all mediums. The company employs artists that are not necessarily within the theater realm, such as graphic designers, photographers, and sculptors, and blends all these elements into a compelling theatrical experience.

On the weekend of Oct. 29, the Pandemic Collective hosted an immersive horror performance inspired by the horror novel The Woman In Black by Susan Hill at The Bakery.

The plot of the play closely follows the novella. The Woman In Black tells the story of  a lawyer who employs a skeptical young actor to aid him in telling his harrowing tale. The elderly lawyer is haunted by his experiences and obsessed with a curse that he believes has been cast upon him by a ghost who haunts an eerie, unknown town in England. As the characters relive his darkest and not so fondest memories, they find themselves enmeshed in the fog, deathly marshes, superstitious town folk, and of course, the woman in black.

The Pandemic Collective adapts this classic story by immersing the audience in eerie and unique soundscapes. Reminiscent of the old horror radio shows popular in the 1930s, the Pandemic Collective’s adaption of this haunting tale forces the audience to reach to the darkest parts of their imaginations, making the experience much more frightening.

The Bakery is a small theater, not much bigger than a large living room, the play employs a black box theater approach to their performance. Using very minimal props and only two actors (not including the spectral woman in black) the performance leaves a lot to the interpretation of the audience, which can easily run wild.

Another component of the performance’s eerie delight is the immersive quality of the performance. Actors meander among the audience, ignoring them—as if the audience themselves were the true ghosts—as to not break the cinematic experience.

There are components of the play that truly feel like the audience is watching a horror movie, as if a character’s monologue will transition to a screen fade into the next scene, but no, that’s just the lights dimming. Or as if the fog that obscures the the marshes are a character themselves and that it will step into the theater at any moment, but no, that is just the power of human inventiveness.

Perhaps one of the most unsettling aspects of The Woman In Black is that there is no turning on the lights, turning down the volume, or pausing the performance for a quick breath of relief and a reminder that this is in fact not reality. The audience, trapped in this hypnotic trance much like a horrific accident, is too gruesome to turn away. 

The Bakery and the Pandemic Collective create a small, intimate and creative cumulation of atmosphere and individual. Both companies are unique and creative energies within Denver’s meager but thriving alternative theatre community.

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