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Gunnar Montana’s Basement
Photograph: Courtesy of the artistGunnar Montana’s Basement

The best Halloween theater events in 2020

Travel to dark places for Halloween in 2020 with these creepy theater shows

Adam Feldman
Written by
Adam Feldman
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Halloween is the most theatrical of American holidays. Each year, people of all ages put on costumes and makeup and bring the world of make-believe to the streets—and the theater world, for its part, is happy to join the fun with a range of Halloween shows to celebrate the season. Even amid the theater shutdown in 2020, that tradition goes on: Isn't everyone wearing masks the days anyhow? The usual array of haunted houses may be out of the question, but we’ve scared up this list of horror-themed theater events—some streaming online, others performed in person in New York City for socially distanced audiences—to help you get in the spirit.

RECOMMENDED: Our day-by-day roundup of the best theater, opera and dance to stream online

LIVE HALLOWEEN THEATER IN NYC 2020

  • Theater
  • Shakespeare

Fresh from its recent outdoor production of As You Like It, the newly formed Rogue Ensemble Theatre Company now takes a stab at Shakespeare's gory Titus Andronicus, a revenge tragedy in which cycles of violence leave no body part unhacked. Mounted on the steps of Grant's Tomb, the live production—adapted by Christine Reisig and directed by Joey Nasta—features a cast of eight actors, who wear masks and maintain a distance of six feet from each other and from the audience. Seating is limited, and spectators must also be masked.

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  • Things to do

Garish zombies, monsters and other ghoulish creatures await in this 5,000-square-foot labyrinth of horrors, deemed too scary for children under 14 to enter without supervision. Pass through themed rooms such as The Crypt (where no one rested in peace) and Hannibal’s Hell (with 1,000 ways to die). Audeinces enter in assigned shifts; this year, special COVID rules are in place, so be sure to read them carefully before you go.

  • Theater

The storyteller, mind reader and variety performer Mister Dusty Rose teams with director Monica Blaze Leavitt  and immersive-theater creator Anthony Logan Cole for a live, socially-distanced night of old-fashioned ghost stories, performed site-specifically at the current SoHo outpost of the traveling Museum of Interesting Things. Admission is capped at 35 masked spectators per performance; the $50 ticket price includes preshow access to the museum’s collections of spiritualist curios as well as a postshow reception. 

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  • Theater
  • Musicals

After runs of The Phantom of the Opera and Purple RainAstoria's drive-in movie/concert hybrid offers a week of Halloween programming: Beetlejuice on October 29, Hocus Pocus on October 30 and The Rocky Horror Picture Show on October 31. Tickets cost $100 per vehicle or $120 for a picnic table that seats six. The big-screen showings of each film will be augmented with live performances and other entertainments.

  • Theater

In addition to a panoply of virtual offerings (see below), TNC is offering an in-person element that it is calling “Chop Shop Theater.” Robert Gonzales emcees a collection of 10-minute plays in what is normally the building’s set shop, which spectators can watch through an accordion gate, from spots marked for social distancing. Audiences are encouraged to stay for only one playlet to allow more people to watch. (The entire thing will also be streamed live.)

VIRTUAL HALLOWEEN THEATER 2020

October 14–31 at various times (live only)
After successful virtual run of
The Tempest and other plays during the pandemic season, the U.K.’s Big Telly Theatre Company present another Shakespeare play sliced to fit the terms of digital theater: Shakespeare’s short, violent, witch-heavy tragedy Macbeth. Director Zoe Seaton has adapted the play to be performed live by a cast of five: Nicky Harley, Lucia McAnespie, Dennis Herdman, Aonghus Og McAnally and Dharmesh Patel. The show is performed 21 times in October: first as part of the Belfast International Arts Festival (Oct 14–17) and then in conjunction with Creation Theatre. Showtimes are usually 7pm and 9:30pm BST (2pm and 4:30pm EDT), with a midnight (7pm) show on October 30. Tickets are limited and cost £20 (about $25) per device.

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October 16–November 14, Friday and Saturday at 7pm
Chicago’s Hell in a Handbag, the company behind the Poseidon Adventure spoof Poseidon! An Upside Down Musical, returns to the disaster-movie well with a campy send-up of the Airport series. Nearly two dozen actors overdub scenes that feature (among many others), Gloria Swanson, Linda Blair, Myrna Loy and singing nun Helen Reddy. Adapted by David Cerda and edited by Peter Neville, the film-theater hybrid streams on Fridays and Saturdays for a month; tickets cost $15 and afford you a six-hour window to watch the comedy take flight.

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October 28 (available for three days)
San Jose Stage Company gets into the virtual Halloween action with an adaptation of George A. Romero and John Russo’s screenplay for the classic 1968 fright flick Night of the Living Dead, in which people in a Pennsylvania farmhouse try, without much luck, to avoid being eaten by zombies. Tickets cost $40.

October 29 at 7pm (live only)
Gather ’round the digital campfire, campers, as Provincetown Theater’s artist director, David Drake (The Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me), shares a theatrical ghost story about a woman whose shade is said to haunt the venue’s lobby to this day. Drake narrates the production, which is the first the company has created explicitly for virtual theater; the cast includes Marco Calvani, Sandra Paredes and Julia Salinger. A donation of $25 is suggested if you can afford it.

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Oct 29 at 8pm 
The exceedingly charming Jay Armstrong Johnson has won audiences' hearts in shows including
On the Town, Hands on a Hardbody and The Most Happy Fella, and in recent years he has also created a string of Hocus Pocus-themed shows for Halloweens. For this virtual edition, he ups the ante with an elaborate filmed concert that finds the movie’s witchy Sanderson Sisters—Johnson as Winifred, flanked by Allison Robinson and Amanda Williams Ware—corralling other film baddies to join in a wicked scheme. Among the Broadway types joining the fun are Todrick Hall, Nick Rashad Burroughs, Drew Gehling, J. Harrison Ghee, Robyn Hurder, Julia Mattison, Eva Noblezada, Ahmad Simmons and Will Swenson. The stream is free, but proceeds from donations benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

  • Theater
  • Musicals

Oct 29 at 5pm and 9pm; Oct 30, 31 at midnight (live only)
The spooky, arty, controversial 
RuPaul's Drag Race winner Sharon Needles brings her signature acid wit and creepy aesthetic to NYC for a pair of virtual Halloween shows, courtesy of Club Cumming's new online series. Special guests include Amanda Lepore, Real Housewives star Countess Luann, and fellow Drag Race alumna Alaska, Peppermint, Aja and the Vivienne.

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October 29 at 8pm, October 30 at 7pm and 9pm (live only)
The virtual theater-game company Seize the Show returns an interactive adventure, this one set in the world of 1980s slasher pics. As always, the company uses its own technology (which it calls Gamiotics) to let audiences make collective choices that affect the direction and outcome of the story, which is written by Jacob Thompson, David Carpenter, Kevin Hammonds and Caroline Prugh. The show is performed live three times; you can watch one episode for $13 or all three for $15.

October 29 at 8pm (live only)
Best known for playing evil little Nellie Oleson on Little House on the Prairie, actor and activist Alison Arngrim spills the tea about her days as a child star in this 30-minute online Halloween edition of the popular solo show, Confessions of a Prairie Bitch, that she has been performing off and on for 15 years. Tickets cost $10, and virtual seating is limited.

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  • Theater
  • Musicals

October 30 at 7am
The Theatre Channel is a new half-hour musical-theater web series filmed in London at West End's Theatre Café. Its second episode, which premieres on October 30 in time for Halloween, features songs from horror-themed tuners such as Jekyll and Hyde and Dracula. The main attraction is Linzi Hateley, who played the title role in the infamous Broadway musical Carrie—from which she will perform the song "When There's No One." Also on the bill are Bradley Jaden, Sophie Isaacs, Josh Piterman and Aimie Atkinson.

October 30 at 7:30pm (through November 1)
The Hudson Valley theater company Phantasmagoria, which specializes in Victorian-style steampunk horror shows, goes online with a new show by writer-director John DiDonna. The anthology of storytelling frights—augmented with puppetry, dance, aerialism and fire dancing—ranges from classic yarns by Edgar Allan Poe and Robert Louis Stevenson to spooky folktales and legends. Tickets cost $22 per household; you can access it anytime on Halloween weekend from Friday night through the end of Sunday, but you can only watch it once.

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October 30–November 1 at 8pm (live only)
Shakespeare’s tragic tale of witches, ghosts and bloody murder streams for Halloween in a “3D audio event” intended to be listened to with headphones and by candlelight. Adapter Joseph Discher directs a wicked good cast that includes Tamara Tunie, Laila Robins, Derek Wilson, Joel de la Fuente and Robert Cuccioli. Tickets start at $13 and all proceeds benefit the Actors Fund.

October 30, 31 at 8pm and 10pm (live only)
Choreographer and performance artist Gunnar Montana evokes a descent into violent madness in this immersive nightmare show. An Off Broadway production is planned for when such things are possible again; meanwhile, audiences can dip their toes into the pool of blood with a virtual version on Halloween weekend through Broadway On Demand. Tickets cost $10; you can watch a trailer here.

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October 30, 31 at 8pm (live only)
Broadway’s beloved Norm Lewis (Porgy and Bess) sinks his teeth into the title role of this live audio-theater production of Dracula, inspired by Orson Welles’s 1938 radio version of Bram Stoker's batty gothic thriller.  Steve Wargo adapts and directs this hour-long show for his new company, Resounding; the cast also includes Lindsay Nicole Chambers, Siho Ellsmore, Chris Renfro, Dick Terhune, Stuart Williams and John Stimac. Tickets cost $20.

October 30, 31 at 7:30pm 
Stage vet Judith Ivey (Greater Clements) plays the title role in Mark St. German’s Typhoid Mary, a drama about the Irish-American cook who, though asymptomatic herself, transmitted a fatal disease to members of multiple households where she worked at the start of the 20th century. Rounding out the cast are T.R. Knight, Kate MacCluggage, Joe Morton and Frances, directed by Matthew Penn for the Berkshires’ Barrington Stage Company. The event is being broadcast twice; tickets cost $25.

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October 30 at 9pm (live only)
Hardcore fans of immersive theater have united to create this free, live Halloween experience on Zoom to benefit creative artists whose livelihoods have been imperiled by the theater showdown. More than two dozen performers from NYC’s immersive-theater word will take part in a variety show that mixes songs, dance, monologues, burlesque, drag and more. Audiences can leave their own cameras off if they choose, but costumes are encouraged—as are donations. Visit the event’s Instagram account for information and updates about the lineup.

October 30 at 9:30pm (live only)
With their usual monthly headquarters, the Duplex, closed for live performance, the women of Guilty Pleasures Cabaret—founded in 2014—have been bringing their speakeasy-going blend of synchronized dancing, live singing, vaudeville and burlesque to the brave new world of Zoom. This episode has a “spooky circus” theme. (Are any circuses not spooky?) Registration is required and donations of $5 or more are requested.

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October 30, October 31 at 10pm (live only)
Chicago’s Annoyance Theatre goes online with three performances of the 34th (!) edition of its signature Halloween show, Splatter Theater, a very gory spoof of slasher movies and their parades of gruesome deaths. Joe McDaniel directs this version of the show, which was originally helmed by Mick Napier. (The cast includes a veteran of the original production.) The $20 ticket price is suggested on October 24 but fixed on Halloween night.

October 31 2pm–midnight (available for one week)
Theater for the New City’s annual Halloween festivities are New York tradition—the annual Halloween Parade was a spinoff from them—and the East Village cultural center isn’t going to let the real-life horrors of 2020 prevent that from continuing. Most of the many offerings become available starting at 2pm, except for the live-streamed “Chop Shop Theater” at 7:30pm (see above) and a "Late Night Naughty Halloween" at 8pm. Performers in the main “Cabaret” section include Everett Quinton, Austin Pendleton, Eduardo Machado, Phoebe Legere, Penny Arcade, Rome Neal, the Wycherly Sisters, Wise Guise, William Electric Black, Zero Boy and Bread and Puppet Theater. Other offerings include a “Womb Room” of novelty acts, a costume contest, ballroom music, radio plays, a kids’ section and a screaming competition hosted by Lissa Moira.

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October 31 at 7pm (live only)
A Tony winner for his dynamic turn as the Genie in Broadway's Aladdin, Iglehart has the kind of charisma that can't be bottled. In this one-night Halloween event, he gathers some of his talented Broadway pals for a creative remote concert version of Tim Burton’s macabre stop-motion animated musical The Nightmare Before Christmas. In addition to Iglehart, the pumpkin-spicy cast includes Rafael Casal, Adrienne Warren, Danny Burstein, Nik Walker, Lesli Margherita and Rob McClure. Tickets cost $5 and all proceeds benefit the Actors Fund and the Lymphoma Research Foundation.

October 31 at 8pm (live only)
Wells, Welles, well: In honor of Fright Night, the dramatic archaeologists of the Metropolitan Playhouse presents H.G. Wells’s 1897 space-invaders novella The War of the Worlds, as adapted by Howard Koch for an infamous 1938 episode of Orson Welles’s radio show The Mercury Theatre on the Air, which drove some credulous listeners to panic. Mark Harborth directs. Tickets cost $3.

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October 31 at 8pm (live only)
After more than a decade performing Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind, an ever-changing collection of 30 two-minute plays, New York Neo-Futurists had to change course when that piece's author pulled the rights abruptly in 2016. Now the troupe performs an entirely different ever-changing collection of two-minute plays called The Infinite Wrench. In the spirit of that show, the company is now writing and performing a monthly collection of virtual playlets. This episode is, of course, Halloween-themed. Tickets start at $5. 

October 31 at 9pm (live only)
Horror-drunk storytelling virtuoso Clay McLeod Chapman gave us a good scare in 2017 when he announced that his brilliant and hyperliterary thriller series, the Pumpkin Pie Show, would be ending after 20 years. Happily, he's had a change of heart—and what kind of horror figure stays dead anyhow? In this year's edition, Chapman and his frequent collaborator, the expert Hanna Cheek, spin spooky yarns from a safe social distance. Tickets cost $15.

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November 1 at 8pm EDT / 1am BST (live only)
With his wicked witticisms, ardent social activism and cultivated mid-Atlantic accent—he sounds like Lauren Bacall in a saucy mood—Justin Sayre is an avatar of retroqueer cultivation. Now he is keeping the camp fires burning with a monthly series of original pitch-black horror comedies; this sixth edition, Drowsenberg, is a send-up of Early Americana set in colonial New York. The cast, which includes some of America’s funniest actors, Drew Droege, Sam Pancake, Jenn Harris, Jeff Hiller, Ryan Garcia, Daniele Gaither, Michael Cyril Creighton, Angela Cristantelo and Randy Harrison. Tom DeTrinis directs. Tickets are $10–$15, and the video remains viewable to ticket holders for seven days afterward.

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