Arcata Eye Scene

A-town art, music, theatre. Mostly music. Updated Wednesdays.

Get your group bloodletting fix

From the days of ritual sacrifice to the dominance of Stephen King on the New York Times bestseller list to Faces of Death to Saw V, a tradition of, as producer Tyler Olsen puts it, “group bloodletting,” carries on.

But why shell out your last dollar for a corporate gorefest when you can support your local horror franchise this weekend? Yes, after a successful run at Dell’Arte last year, The Horror Experiment returns this weekend. This time, it’s Olsen’s Rosemary’s baby – under his Red Raw Meat Productions company – and running at the Arcata Playhouse.

Why partake in a shared experience of terror and revulsion? Because, Olsen explained, it’s part of the theatre tradition, specifically, the grand guignol. Also, because a fundamental connection is forged when experiencing such powerful emotions together. (And because he’s hoping someone will faint. Or vomit!)

“This kind of stuff,” Olsen said, “…there’s a thrill. It’s visceral. Primal.” From a producer-director-writer standpoint, horror is hard to do well, to truly make scary. Plus, each of the three plays within The Horror Experiment only lasts 20 minutes, so everything moves at “100 miles per hour – it’s pure emotional engagement.” But the fast pace must also support a climate of suspense.

“Once the blood happens, it’s over,” Olsen said. He’s about the fear more than the gore – although audiences should be warned, the entire Playhouse is considered a “splash zone” and the shows are definitely not for the faint of heart. Along with the challenge of developing characters and telling a story in the brief amount of time allotted, working in the horror genre requires top-of-the-line special effects.

“You’re held to the film standard,” Olsen said. “People are spoiled – you can turn on the TV and see a breast implant put in.” In the theatre group’s favor, however, is the fact that real people are naturally more engaging – and the fact that Olsen’s connection to a performance has always resulted in pleasure for the audience. “Pleasure” may not be the right word for the intensity of this particular offering – although The Horror Experiment is billed as three nights of terror and laughter.

Olsen describes the first play, “Random Hook-Up,” as a trademark suspense piece “where nothing happens – then everything happens.” It’s erotic, violent and a very “right now” piece, he continued, in which the risks of Internet dating are driven home. “The Office of Doctor Mangel,” a liposuction-waste farce written by Olsen, allows the audience to “let off some steam,” relatively speaking, before the final “splatter” play, “The Acid Bath” in which an innocent woman has to figure out how to escape the clutches of a vicious gang intent on immersing her in an acid-filled bathtub.

The morality of such stories is clearly black-and-white, a rare clarity in today’s ambiguous world, Olsen said. “We live in such a safe world – I can wipe the germs off my shopping cart. It’s important to really witness and be part of things.” The Horror Experiment puts real people in front of real people, he continued. “It’s about as close as you can get without actually doing it.” The Horror Experiment plays Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m. in the Arcata Playhouse and is not recommended for those under 15 or the easily terrified. A certified physician is on hand for all performances.

Call (707) 668-4291 or visit

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