Lair of spider woman nets visitors

by Martha I. Fernandez
Staff Writer

Despite problems in launching the Haunted House, it has proven to be a success, bringing a couple of minutes of fear to those who dare go through the one-way maze.

This year’s main attraction, the “Lair of the Spider Woman,” is an idea originated by Daniel Nyiri, an artist from Claremont. Nyiri was one of the original three who began the Haunted House three years ago along with Nathan Hamilton and Mark Pietrzak, who is presently in charge of the production.

Nyiri, however, left the production in September, “due to artistic differences to the way the Haunted House was going,” said Pietrzak, who is now the technical and artistic director.

The La Verne Fire Department, city planner and ULV safety committee inspected the Haunted House to make it comply with safety laws and to avoid hazards.

Pietrzak said the main changes were that the aisles had to be widened to 36 inches and a narrow staircase, originally meant for visitors to go through had to be removed from the performance.

About 30 to 35 performers are present throughout the Haunted House, 75 percent of which are ULV students from a variety of majors, and the rest are outside performers. All of them were chosen through auditions held earlier this year.

Sophomore Natalie Lehr, a history major, plays a doll in the Haunted House. She is one of the few non-theater arts majors attracted to the production.

“I always wanted to be in front of an audience,” said Lehr. “It’s a little difficult, you have to keep working at it and not get discouraged.”

As one goes through the maze, various performances take place. Due to this, performers only have about three minutes to act their parts.

“It is basically a whole lot of improvisation and it’s fun,” said freshman Chryseis Alexander, who is the demon dancer.

Pietrzak said it takes about 12 to 30 minutes to go through the entire maze, depending on how many people are in the maze. People go in groups of five or six to control the number of visitors inside and so those who dare go inside will get the full effect of the performance.

“If you come during a busier time you get a longer show, it just works out that way,” said Pietzrak.

The “Lair of the Spider Woman,” the featured attraction, is the last performance before leaving the Haunted House. The Spider Woman is played by freshman Nichole Mhoon.

“It has definitely been an experience but it is so tiring,” said Mhoon. “It’s hard to keep up and stay full of energy with the character after the third or fourth hour.”

Previews began on Oct. 18, with the actual performances starting on homecoming day.

There will be performances tonight from 7 p.m. to midnight, as well as this weekend from 4 p.m. to midnight. The Halloween hours are 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Pietrzak said these three days combined brought in about 400 visitors to the Haunted House. A much bigger crowd is expected to attend this weekend. An estimated 2,000 to 3,000 people are expected to roam through the maze of the “Lair of the Spider Woman.”

“I’m basing [this] off of the numbers we had last year. We had more people the second weekend,” said Pietrzak. “I’m anticipating a larger attendance because people are waiting for the week of Halloween.”

“I thought all of the effects were awesome and better that last year. The spider web freaked me out,” said junior Anna Ayvazian.

Pietzrak and his staff have publicized through local papers and through flyers posted at ULV and distributed to children in the Bonita Unified School District.

“It seems like we get a good turnout from the local community. [There are] a lot of children,” said Pietzrak.

Prices are $6 for adults and $4 for children. Revenues from this production will go to build better sets for plays and upgrade lighting and audio gear in the theater.

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