A BSR round-up for an artful 2017 Philly Halloween

'Vampyre,' a classic exploration of evil screening at FringeArts, gets a custom live score on Halloween.

If you’re like me and you never outgrew Halloween, but also never caught the boat on partying with sexy killer dolls, sexy cats, sexy Hermione Grangers, etc., and you need more than a fall festival of day candy-eating and dribbling pumpkin paint, here are some Halloween-themed happenings with a dash of creativity and culture.

On Saturday, October 14, the DesignPhiladelphia Festival has a unique family-friendly activity at the Center for Architecture. There’ll be a reading of the acclaimed children’s book Leo, A Ghost Story, about a friendly specter who is invisible to most people, except Jane. Participating kiddos (ages five to eight) will make their own pop-up cards decorated with the ghost in their imaginations. The event is free, but registration is required.

Halloween comedy

The Adrienne is riffing on horror with October offerings, including a remount of Nick Gillette’s one-man Demon Magick Seminar. This PHIT Comedy veteran is also cofounder of Almanac Dance Circus Theatre. In 50 minutes, his course “helps you get out of debt, achieve your dream goals, and compact with demons summoned according to the exact instructions of the 17th-century grimoire Clavicula Salomonis Regis and/or the Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition Handbook.”

Expect caged cell phones, a salt circle, flaming trappings of the occult, and an interesting question for you. Demon Magick Seminar ($10) is happening October 26, 27, and 28 at 10pm.

Also at the Adrienne, PHIT remounts last year’s improvised horror comedy, Stay Dead! ($10). This hourlong show plunders horror-film tropes with a cast of 10. It’s coming up October 19 through 21 at 7:30pm and October 26 through 31 at the same time (with an extra 10pm showing on Halloween). Or catch spooky sketch comedy with The House on Decoy Hill ($12), running October 13 through 28.

Japan-inspired chills  

On the weekend of October 27 through 29, you can explore the monsters, ghosts, and mythology of Japanese culture with a special fest at Shofuso Japanese House and Garden in Fairmount Park. The Yokai Family Weekend is an all-ages celebration, with a Friday lecture on yokai lore by art historian Dr. Frank Chance, and traditional hyakumonogatari ghost stories by candlelight the next evening. Fun for kids includes a Tsukumogami Scavenger Hunt, ogres and goblins in the papertheater Kamishibai storytelling style, and seasonal games and crafts.

Family-friendly costumes are encouraged, and all activities are included with regular admission to Shofuso ($2 discount for everyone in a yokai-inspired costume).

Visiting the dead

Get out the sneakers, jackets, and flashlights if you’re heading to Laurel Hill Cemetery this month. The Soul Crawl Haunted History Halloween Tours ($25; advance registration is recommended) offer a nighttime visit to the famously, morbidly beautiful cemetery that will take you over the graves of many notable permanent residents. The two-hour-long tour ends with snacks and cocktails around the fire. The tours are happening Friday, October 20, and Saturday, October 21, at 7pm.

Dracula is also coming to Laurel Hill for three performances from the Mechanical Theater on October 26 through 28 at 7pm in the cemetery ($25; advance purchase required). It’s a “suspenseful retelling” of Bram Stoker’s novel, exploring “the insidious power of evil and the twisted ways in which we welcome it into our lives.” BYO blankets, folding chairs, and flashlights.

Where are the bodies?

Halloween is making a perhaps unexpected landing at one of Philly’s newer cultural institutions. On Saturday, October 28 and Sunday, October 29, kids dressed as their favorite revolutionary (“open to a wide range of interpretation”) will get $2 off admission at the Museum of the American Revolution. At 11am and 1pm on each day, a costumed educator will offer special presentations in the Patriots' Gallery, including ghost stories exploring the 18th-century folk customs that became our own Halloween traditions.

And for adults with a taste for the historical macabre, on Halloween, the museum welcomes historian Dr. Robert A. Selig for a lecture from 12:30 to 1:30pm titled Of Skulls, Severed Heads and Skeletons: What to Do with a Dead Hessian, Brit, Frenchman or American, As the Case May Be? If you ever wondered what happened to the bodies of the Revolutionary War, here are your answers. Bring lunch if you can manage it.


Trick-or-treat action slow on your block? On Tuesday, October 31, FringeArts gets into the spirit with a Not So Silent Cinema screening of Carl Theodor Dreyer’s 1932 Vampyr, a forerunner of Hitchcock and Lynch classics. This unusual, atmospheric film is “brimming with oddities, eccentricities and an unsettling sense of other-worldly horror.”

The live score, provided by Not So Silent Cinema, promises “a moody, surreal mix of acoustic and electronic elements,” where an Eastern European soundscape, courtesy of violin, clarinet, piano, and bass, meets analog electronic textures. The music is balanced between tightly timed composition and improvisation between the players. Tickets ($15) are available online

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