It’s the holiday season when the last three months of the year have holidays back to back. This creates a rush of much-needed side jobs for actors that offer everything from catering work to playing Santa’s elves to being a ghoul or goblin in a haunted house. Haunted houses are a particular favorite of mine. I did them while I was just starting out in my career. It was fun, paid a lot, and fit around my schedule. I highly suggest it.
To help you find this kind of seasonal work, I spoke with haunted house maven Timothy Haskell. Timothy has cast hundreds of actors over the past 15 years while helming haunted houses including “Nightmare,” “This is Real,” and “I Can’t See” in New York City. “I Can’t See” is a terrifying event where blindfolded participants experience a real-time story while interacting with characters played by actors, making decisions and trying to escape.
Here’s what Timothy told me you need to know to get cast at a haunted house.
How do you audition for a haunted house?
We usually put notices on Backstage. We are very clear about the quick turnaround and demands of the performance and encourage people to not audition if they can’t meet the required scheduled shifts. We don’t require preparing anything, but we do ask for headshots and résumés. We mostly do open calls over a few days and ask people to just show up.
What skills does it take?
We look for personalities we’d like to spend a lot of time with. We don’t need toxic people bringing everyone down. Performing in a haunted house is incredibly taxing. No one needs people constantly complaining about how hard it is. Outgoing and enthusiastic [performers] really resonate with us. Additionally, we like it when people have weird special skills (Contortionist? Amazing whistler? A terrifying scream? Double-jointed? Yes, please). Most importantly, we look for people willing to take some far-out direction without judgment. We may ask you to read a side as a baby who has lost their mother and if you just do it, you’re our kinda actor.
Who had the best audition ever?
We had someone who was missing an arm but came in with a prosthetic that was very convincing, and while they were performing the sides we gave them they ripped their arm off. That was pretty effective. But just to note, if you have both your arms, we still want you to audition. Just take risks and enjoy the process.
How do you blow a haunted house audition?
You have a ton of conflicts with the performance dates, you’re as boring as possible, and [you] act like you’re doing the directors a favor by being there and you would maybe, possibly consider participating if cast.
Why audition for a haunted house?
Fame, fortune, and gory, I mean glory. In our haunted houses, good acting is good acting. No one is going to get terrified by bad acting. We’re also looking for professionalism. Show up on time, memorize your lines, know the back story of your character, [and] be professional with your co-workers. It’s the same if you’re doing a horror movie or a haunted house. All directors are looking for good, professional actors. So be one. Haunted houses are great practice.
Looking for another side gig? Check out Backstage’s brand ambassador casting calls!
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and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.