For a child, time is stretched, a year can seem like a decade, and so this pandemic must feel like an eternity. COVID restrictions have quashed the intimate, rough-and-tumble flurry of playful antics that define childhood. And I’m sure the discouragement—low-key cancellation—of Hallowe’en festivities has been a disheartening blow to many eager youngsters.
To help keep the spirit of Hallowe’en alive this this year, Theatre Direct facilitated an outlet for young creative energies in a set of workshops and activities that resulted in a Haunted Castle installation. Hallowe’en Hullabaloo was unveiled on Saturday, October 31st and ran from morning to night. Both the creation and experience of the installation were achieved with social distancing.
Earlier in October, 50 children were given a craft box and supplies to decorate with a Hallowe’en theme. The finished boxes were then incorporated into a Haunted Castle that was displayed at the Earlscourt Park gazebo. During some opening remarks, Theatre Direct’s Creation Warehouse Director, Pragna Desai explained that she threw her original designs for the castle out the window after being inspired by the vibrant presentations.
Walking around the structure, there was the expected iconography—skeletons, pumpkins and spider webs—though there are charming little surprises to be found in each unique detail and quirky flourish. Desai has also woven into the installation some ghostly quotes from famous writers of the macabre.
The spooky atmosphere was enhanced by some lighting and fog effects as well as a soundscape designed by Creation Warehouse Associate Producer Madeleine Brown. This audio featured stories—read by the children who created them—that came out of the Ghostly Fables workshop. This collection of 2 to 5 sentence stories and the musical score intensified the immersion.
The haunted castle was unveiled by some key members of the Theatre Direct team (Desai, Brown and Artistic Director Lisa Marie DiLiberto). There were also introductory remarks by MP Julie Dzerowicz and Councillor Ana Bailão, both of whom paid tribute to the strength of the Earlscourt community during the pandemic and highlighted Theatre Direct’s active engagement of and contribution to it.
Though I’ve lived in the neighbourhood for over a decade, I had never actually been inside Earlscourt Park. I’m grateful this event has introduced me to it. On that chilly Hallowe’en morning, the autumn leaves made an appropriately picturesque backdrop for the installation. And I imagine it was a special treat for the kids who worked on this project to see their creativity on display.
Wintertide is an upcoming workshop and community event Theatre Direct has planned for the winter solstice. Check out the Portal Pop Ups page of the website for details on how to register to participate.