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

“Phantasmagoria” is back for more eerie Halloween tales of terror

Phantasmagoria

“Phantasmagoria VIII: Chain of Fire” opens on Oct. 13. (Photo by Chris Bridges)

ORLANDO — Phantasmagoria.

If you hear that word in Orlando, it’s likely to mean something special, something unique, to a whole lot of city residents. And the first thing they’re likely to note in their minds is that it must be Halloween season.

“Phantasmagoria” is the long-running series of theatrical shows that have been performed every October for nearly a decade. The show, created by writer, director and actor John DiDonna, features a troop of 40 performers who entertain audiences with circus-like tricks while also recreating eerie tales of terror from the vaults of classic literature. The shows offer a unique mix: dance, music, large-scale puppetry, and acrobatics. Classic authors like Charles Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe, H.P. Lovecraft and Mary Shelley have all been given their due by the Phantasmagoria troupe.

There is also a traditional VIP event after each show, where audiences who purchase the VIP tickets can see some extra neat tricks being done by the performers.

The series has become so successful that it’s also been performed at the Orlando International Fringe Theater Festival, and DiDonna has also taken it out on the road, with shows in Atlanta, Baltimore, and other cities.

And not surprisingly, now that it’s October, “Phantasmagoria VIII: The Chains of Fire” is arriving right on schedule. Continue reading

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