The schools of Design and Production and Music, in partnership with Mitchell County, North Carolina, are producing “Hilloween,” a multiday, interactive Halloween experience for the second year in a row. The project is part of a long-term, multiyear plan by organizers to boost tourism in the western part of the state while highlighting Blue Ridge history, mystery and culture.
In partnership with the Buladean Community Foundation, this year the event has expanded to include a new attraction, a haunted schoolhouse. More than a dozen UNCSA students, faculty and alumni are working hands-on with organizers to produce the eerie and festive event in several areas of the county including Bakersville, Buladean and Spruce Pine.
Hilloween events with UNCSA involvement run from Wednesday, Oct. 25, through Saturday, Oct. 28. Organizers have events that run all month long leading up to Hilloween weekend including a yard and home decorating contest, community trick-or-treating and trivia nights. All events are free and open to the public.
UNCSA’s participation in Hilloween is overseen by School of Design and Production Dean Michael Kelley. “This has been a phenomenal experience for our students and our faculty,” Kelley said. “Each year, our graduates go on to work with the biggest names in the business — in New York, Los Angeles and around the world. But it is so important to give them real-world experiences right here in North Carolina while they are still in school.”
The new haunted schoolhouse in Buladean will feature stories of Blue Ridge Mountains folklore. Lighting students include Justin Seithel who designed this project, Trevor Kirschenheiter who was the production electrician, Evie Nootenboom who was the shop supervisor and Harrison Reid who was the lighting programmer. Associate scenic designers include students Jennifer Kroon-Nelson, Maya Batshoun and Tierney Brennan. The scenic artists are students Jordan Taylor, Max Grenadier and Jasmine Hernandez. The production coordinator is graduate student Cameron Russell. The sound designer is student Kai Machuca. Additionally, the project paired students and advisers from UNCSA with Mitchell High and Mountain Heritage theater students.
A featured centerpiece of this year’s production is a two-story sound-and-light show that’s projected on to the historic courthouse in Bakersfield. This experience will tell the Mitchell County legend of Charlie and Frances “Frankie” Silver and Charlie’s mysterious murder in 1831. Overseeing this part of the event is Design and Production student Stephen Smart and Music student Noah Anderson with additional support from Kirschenheiter. Student Molly Mcgill is the sound designer. Music faculty advisers Lawrence Dillon and Jared Miller and Design and Production faculty advisers Eric Rimes and Clifton Taylor have provided support. The production will also include original music created by Music students, a new Halloween piece and artwork by Toe River artist Mary Ruth Webb and area children.
"Giving students in our community the opportunity to learn from cutting-edge student artists is truly a privilege," said Hilloween Founder and Executive Producer Gina Phillips. "This opportunity speaks to the level of education and training UNCSA offers and how those talents can support the arts in communities across the world and right here at home."
Hilloween Director Chandler Arnold said, “We are thrilled about the continued partnership this year and the expanded offerings for the community. This is truly a one-of-a-kind event that wouldn’t be possible without the exceptionally gifted students from UNCSA.”
In addition to those already cited, students working on the Hilloween project include Dominick Riches, Ashley Spear, Stephen Smart, Chris Mendell, Bill Nowlin, Cameron Toler and Jason Kinsey.
D&P lighting faculty member Yelena Babinskaya provided additional support and props faculty member Jessica Kammerud was the Scenic Elements Coordinator. Alumnus Brett Jarvis assisted with the haunted school house and historic courthouse projects.
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October 16, 2023