Phantasmagoria meets Dickens in a new “A Christmas Carol”

Phantasmagoria “A Christmas Carol” opens this Friday.


ORLANDO — For years, theater director John DiDonna has been a familiar face to Orlando area audiences for his annual productions of Charles Dickens’ holiday classic “A Christmas Carol,” known as “Dickens By Candlelight” and featuring a three-member cast that played all the roles — by candlelight.

DiDonna is back this year with a new production of “A Christmas Carol” — but this time, he’s taking it in a new direction, by merging Dickens with Phantasmagoria, his long-running series about a circus-like troupe of performers who reenact chilling tales of terror.

Opening this Friday is “Phantasmagoria’s A Christ Carol: A Ghost Story of Christmas” at the Lowndes Shakespeare Center. This is an opportunity to celebrate the season as Phantasmagoria presents its own unique adaptation of the Dickens’ classic, featuring not just Tiny Tim and Scrooge, but also dance, puppetry, projections, music and the recreation of one of the most famous ghost stories of all time.

Freeline Media sat down with John to find out what his new production, which opens on Friday, is all about.

Freeline Media: You’ve had a long, successful run around Christmas time doing the production “Dickens By Candlelight.” How did “A Christmas Carol” get merged this year with the troop at Phantasmagoria? Continue reading

Review: Terrors of the mind grip you tightly in “Phantasmagoria VIII: The Chains of Fire”

Phantasmagoria VIII

“Phantasmagoria VIII: The Chains of Fire” makes effect use of some classic tales of madness.


ORLANDO – Classic horror literature, in the minds of many, probably means monsters – Bram Stoker giving us the bloody-sucking terror of his vampire Dracula, or Mary Shelley creating the lumbering hulk made of fresh corpses that becomes “Frankenstein.”

Still, not all writers of long-distant eras felt they needed to invent hideous creatures of the night to scare their readers.

One of the great pleasures of watching the continuing series known as “Phantasmagoria” is their exploration of classic horror literature – tales that this talented cast recreates for their Orlando audience, often with bone-chillingly effective scares.

And now with the eighth installment of the series by actor, director and playwright John DiDonna, “Phantasmagoria VIII: The Chains of Fire,” we have reminders that some of those writers of earlier centuries saw no need for monsters to be lurking in the shadows outside. Our own minds could be much scarier to confront.

Here are two examples: how much fear and anxiety can you generate from …. Teeth and wallpaper?

Quite a bit, you might be surprised to learn. Continue reading

Terror in the dark awaits you in A Petrified Forest

A Petrified Forest

A Petrified Forest has been scaring Central Florida audiences for years.

ALTAMONTE SPRINGS – There’s a place in Altamonte Springs where people have been known to scream in terror. No, it’s not the fight for a parking space or the long lines at the Altamonte Mall, but an open field on State Road 436.

For those who think the Halloween season is about getting your blood pumping as you nervously walk into the darkness, then quite a few very scary folks are waiting for you to take the terrifying stroll down a “Haunted Scare Trail” known as A Petrified Forest.

Located just before the intersection of U.S. 17/92, this attraction has been scaring people every Halloween season for years now as a highly popular Halloween Community Event. The main attraction is the two Scare Trails, which are both quite long and feature uniquely themed rooms and scares lurking everywhere.

Not surprisingly, as A Petrified Forest has built up a loyal following of folks in love with a good scare, this attractions has grown over the years. This month, it features not just the ghouls waiting to jump out at you, but also an entire night of entertainment with live bands on stage, food concessions, and even Backstage tours (and the chance for you to do some of the scaring as well).

Freeline Media reached out to Sylvia Katherine Viles, the director of A Petrified Forest, for her thoughts on why folks love getting scared, what she does to motivate her performers to be their scariest, and why this is truly a must-see event this month. Continue reading

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