A Halloween treat: the scary tricks inside the Enzian Theater’s Haunted Swamp.

The skeletons outside the Enzian Theater's Haunted Swamp try to entertain the crowd before you head inside, but the bad one-liners are a bit scary. (Photo by Michael Freeman).

MAITLAND – From the view in the parking lot, the Enzian Theater doesn’t look like it’s going to be a particularly scary place.
Granted, the large outdoor screen in the open field near the theater’s Eden Bar was showing “Night of the Living Dead” on Saturday evening, director George Romero’s classic zombie thriller, with Barbara and Johnny walking through the graveyard at the very start, not quite aware of the terrifying zombie apocalypse they had stumbled into.
And there were a few people that night decked out in ghoulish costumes, enjoying a drink at the bar.
Overall, though, the crowd of party revelers hanging out at the bar, relaxing and enjoying time with their friends, is a good advertisement for why this popular spot in Maitland draws such a healthy number of visitors every weekend. But scary?
Except that this evening, the theater is selling tickets not just for movies, but also for the Haunted Swamp, which I nervously toured on Saturday.
And you might ask, is it a good place to go to tonight, on Halloween, when you’re craving some scream-out-loud scares?
My recommendation: oh, yes.
From the theater’s ticket booth, you follow the tiki lights around the corner to the spot where the line begins. To keep you entertained, the theater provides a little Jazz from the Grateful Dead …. only it’s not that Grateful Dead. There are two skeletons who play music and crack jokes for your waiting pleasure, and while the music was good, I think these two need to bone up on their one-liners.
The swamp is completely sealed off by a fence – so you can’t quite see what it is you’re walking into. When it’s your turn, you walk over to the entrance, where the gatekeeper allows parties of four to proceed together through the swamp. There are, of course, some rules to follow, including no taking photos in there – which makes sense, since, after all, it’s all supposed to be hush hush – and if you have any trash, toss it into a nearby trash can before you begin your journey into the swamp, not afterwards.
And then …. you’re told to proceed.
At your own risk, of course.
Without giving away any of the details of this horrific attraction, I can point out that haunted swamps/houses/graveyards, etc., rely on three things to be genuinely effective.
First, there’s the element of surprise. Everyone knows you go into a haunted whatever to scream as the expected unexpectedly appears. The Enzian’s Haunted Swamp has this one down pat.

What's inside the Haunted Swamp: Here's a hint: darkness and shadows .... (Photo by Michael Freeman).

Second, they rely on ambiance. It has to look, and feel, positively eerie, so that everything around you gives you that feeling of anxiety, even discomfort, because it all seems so …. ominous.
Again, the Haunted Swamp, which was more than six months in the making, fits the bill.
Finally, haunted whatevers should tap into our cultural understanding of the clichés that the horror genre has been promoting for decades – things that have made up scream on the big screen, or in novels, or on television. There’s that instant recognition of what it is – and why it scares me.
Again, that’s a clear “bingo” for the Haunted Swamp.
The real test, though, is when you’re done. Is your heart pounding? Do you feel a little bit dizzy? Are you suddenly relieved to be back among the folks at the Eden Bar?
For me, the answers were yes, yes, yes.
The Halloween eve Swamp Tours run tonight from 8-10 p.m., and tickets cost $15. That includes unlimited swamp tours — you can go back in as many times as you want — drink discounts and food specials at the theater at 1300 S. Orlando Ave. in Maitland.
Pay $25 for a VIP ticket, and you get the added bonus of front of the line access.
The Haunted Swamp is a fiendishly effective way to go trick or treating tonight, a scary tour through the macabre swamps behind a theater that has a bar filled with strong liquor awaiting you once you’ve survived the tour. I recommend you enter …
…. if you dare
Call 407-629-0054 for more details.

Contact us at FreelineOrlando@gmail.com.

It’s official: Orlando theater veteran Michael Marinaccio is taking over the Fringe.

Michael Marinaccio, the new executive director of the Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival, appears as the "Karate Guy" at Fringe 2009.

ORLANDO – Eighteen years ago, Michael Marinaccio came to Orlando to attend the University of Central Florida, and set out to become an actor in the local theater scene.
He’s done quite a bit of live performing ever since, including 17 shows over the past 15 years at the Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival, a program he loves being a part of.
“Without the Fringe, I would never have become the artist I am today,” Marinaccio said. “It’s a huge part of my soul. I came to Orlando when I was just barely 19 years old, I went to UCF, and I started doing work professionally outside of UCF that first year. My first Fringe was in 1997. In those 15 years I’ve done 17 shows. I doubled up a couple of years.”
Today, Marinaccio accepted a new, and very different, role with the Fringe, when the festival’s board of directors announced that it had hired Marinaccio as its new executive director.
“I am extremely excited to have Mike on board the Fringe team, and I look forward to working together to present the best Fringe Festival in the United States,” said George Wallace, the Fringe’s general manager. “He is well known in the arts community and an outstanding choice.”
Marinaccio replaces Beth Marshall, who is now the producing artistic director of Beth Marshall Presents. To find her replacement, the Orlando Fringe Board of Directors set up an advisory panel that included volunteers, staff, artists and audience members who were recruited to help develop the role of the next producer. A search committee comprised of six community arts leaders and two members of the board of directors then had the task of interviewing candidates.
Marinaccio said he decided to apply for the job because he’s been a part of Central Florida’s theater community, and the Fringe, for so very long.
“It was a long process, about two months, with lots of separate interviews — and finally it’s become a reality,” he said. “It’s a little surreal, still. I feel like it’s been 15 years in the making, because I’ve been an artist at Fringe for that long.”
And not just the Fringe. Marinaccio has been a veteran of some of Orlando’s best known centers for live shows.
“I’ve worked at Mad Cow Theatre since the very first season, almost as long as Fringe,” he said. “I started working at the Orlando Shakespeare Theatre since 1998. At the Orlando Repertory Theatre, their second year of existence I was working there. I’m actually still in runs for a show, ‘A Wrinkle in Time,’ at the Rep right now.“
That means Marinaccio has worked with just about everyone in Greater Orlando who has ever been an actor, director, writer, producer, stage manager or designer for years – not a bad resume for a Fringe director.
“I’ve got connections all over this community, and I think that’s a big part of what helped me to sell myself to the Fringe board and the search committee,” he said. “There are no secrets — everybody knows me.”
Fringe President David F. Baldree also praised the choice, saying “Michael is a wonderful addition to the Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival team. We are excited for him to get started.”

Marinaccio said he knows he’s taken on an awesome task.
“I think the responsibility of the producer is the producer is always different than when Beth first took the job,” he said. “Before Beth, it was not only doing George’s job and Beth’s job, but having to find the venues, so I don’t think it’s going to be as time intensive or as insane as the position has been in the past. That being said, there are still lots of artists to coordinate and time slots to coordinate. “
The Fringe Festival will be held next May at the Orlando Shakespeare Theatre and the Orlando Rep at Loch Haven Park.
Marinaccio said he understands that selling the Fringe to general audiences will be one of his top priorities.
“One of the biggest things I want to achieve as producer of the Fringe is not so much making changes to the Fringe,” he said. “I’ve been involved in it for 15 years, I don’t want to change the Fringe, I love what makes it the Fringe. What I really want to do is not so much change the Fringe as change the perception of the Fringe. I still think there’s a perception of the Fringe that goes back to our beginnings, and people who go to the Orlando Shakespeare Theatre don’t go to Fringe because they think it’s amateurish. They think all we have is amateur theater, which is so not the case. We’re 21 years old.”
The 2012 Festival opens May 16 and ends May 28. For more information, log on to www.orlandofringe.org or call 407-648-007.

It has hosted between 75 and 80 shows in past years – quite a lot of productions to oversee, Marinaccio acknowledged.
“I’m just juggling a lot,” he said. “I think having kids has kind of prepared me for everything in life. I think that for the first couple of years after my second son was born, I was home with the kids all day while my wife was working a full time job. Having two kids in diapers prepared me for everything.”

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Enter, all who dare, the Haunted Swamp in Maitland.

The tombstones in front of the Enzian Theater are not nearly as creepy as what awaits patrons in the nearby Haunted Swamp. (Photo by Michael Freeman).

MAITLAND – If there’s one thing Florida is known for, it’s swamps, and plenty of them all over the state. And if they look quiet, keep in mind that there’s quite a bit moving around in those marsh lands.
According to the web site “Wildlife of Florida Swamps,” the state’s natural swamplands are “home to many microscopic life forms such as insect larvae and tiny snails. These critters form the base of the food chain and are eaten by larger animals like fish and frogs.”
One other thing the site noted: swamps are not always as peaceful as they might initially appear.
“These eerie-looking wetlands may seem still and quiet, but they are actually teeming with wildlife activity,” the site notes.
Which raises another question: in addition to that wildlife, what if one of those swamps was actually …. haunted?
The folks at the Enzian Theater in Maitland have a simple answer to that: come on over, and find out.
The theater is now hosting its 3rd annual Haunted Swamp: Walk of Terror, on Friday and Saturday from 8 p.m. until midnight — and, of course, there will be a final walk through on Halloween.

What it offers is 2,000 feet of swamp land to walk through on a dark night, with a few things along the way guaranteed to leave patrons … well, positively screaming.
So this weekend, the theater’s guests have been invited to stop by and check out the Haunted Swamp … if they dare.
So far, said the theater’s executive director, Elizabeth Tiedtke, quite a few people have already done just that.
“It’s definitely been well attended,” she said, adding that last year, it was held for just two weekends in October, but business was so good that this year, organizers started it even earlier.
“This is the first year that we’ve done it for three weekends,” she said.
And it’s quite elaborate, Tiedtke added, in those chilling efforts to put a genuine Halloween-style scare into the hearts of anyone brave enough to go through.
“They spend half a year putting it all together,” she said.
Patrons are encouraged to come in costume and bring along their friends, because as Tiedtke noted, there’s a lot of terror to be shared inside the swamp.
The theater’s Eden Bar stays open until 2 a.m., so there will be plenty of drink specials to calm the nerves of the folks who make it through the swamp, she added.
The swamp has already scared up a lot of good business in the first two weekends, said Matt Curtis, the theater’s program director, so the final weekend can’t be missed.
“We drew well last year, too,” he said. “We did it for just two weeks last year, and this year we added to that.”
The Halloween eve Swamp Tours run from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m., and tickets cost $10 in advance, or $15 the day of the event, which includes unlimited swamp tours, drink discounts and food specials at the theater at 1300 S. Orlando Ave. in Maitland. There’s also a $25 VIP ticket that provides front of the line access.
In addition to the Haunted Swamp, the theater has been getting Central Floridians into the mood for Halloween by showing classic horror films, including John Carpenter’s “Halloween” tonight at 8:30 as part of the Wednesday Movie Pitcher Night, and then “Friday the 13th” on Saturday at midnight.
Call 407-629-0054 for more details.

Contact us at FreelineOrlando@Gmail.com.

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