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Bringing the Fright Dome characters to life

Lauren Maule’s scream pierces through a back room of Circus Circus.

In a room filled with people demonstrating their most maniacal laughs or diabolical voices, her voice causes a brief moment of silence to usher a round of applause.

The other actors — both those auditioning and those doing the interviewing — are impressed at this 18-year-old junior scarer in training.

The last day of auditions for Fright Dome is going off without a hitch as the company seeks the best and scariest for another year of terror.

“I find when interviewing, it’s usually the plain clothes and unsuspecting people who give you the most mind-blowing amazing performances,” says Drew Beddow, one of the interviewers for Fright Dome. “It’s the actors you don’t suspect.”

This is the 13th anniversary of Fright Dome at Circus Circus. Each October, the Adventuredome attraction becomes a playground of spooks and scares.

Jason Egan, the owner and operator of Fright Dome, has been finding ways to increase the scare factor each year.

“We try to bring out all the stops,” he says. “I can’t believe it’s been 13 years. I have to pinch myself every time I hear that. Every year it’s getting bigger and bigger and expanding.”

Each year, Egan journeys through the land of horror movies and ghost stories to figure out how to make the upcoming Fright Dome scarier than the year before.

Part of the reason it is successful is the time and energy Fright Dome puts into selecting the right people for the right haunted houses.

“We look for the people who are dedicated to Halloween,” Egan says. “You have to love it.”

With the aid of the haunted house managers, actors audition for a chance to be a part of the monthlong attraction.

Egan adds they were in the process of hiring more than 400 people this year to man the six houses.

“I’m notorious for going beyond our budget for the sake of a good scare,” he says. “It’s all worth it to keep the customers happy.”

He says they look for a range of characters.

“We cast people who are 6-foot-10 to people who are 2-foot-5,” he says.

On the last day of auditions, Sept. 13, people lined up to give their best shot at being creepy. Sitting across from veteran Fright Dome actors, people are asked anything from “Give me your most psychotic voice,” to “Let’s hear you scream.”

Some take a few moments to show zombie walks or demonic possession impressions.

Even the most seemingly innocent personality, such as a guy in a suit and tie, can produce the most unlikely character.

Maule made her way through the last day of casting.

She has been acting for eight years, but has always wanted to work in a haunted house.

“I love halloween and haunted houses,” she says.

After being encouraged by her friends, she decided to audition to become a character in one of the themed houses. She hopes to creep customers out in the dollhouse attraction.

Each person has his or her own reason for seeking part-time work at Fright Dome. Some just want to earn extra cash while others just want to have fun.

“You can’t think of it as a job,” says one of the interviewers during the group session. “If you do, you’re not going to enjoy it.”

No matter the reason, most coming through get a thrill out of being scary.

On the other side of the table doing the interviewing is Beddow, who has been with Fright Dome since Day One — he has even worked with Egan for years beforehand.

Now, he makes sure the actors who come in seeking to interview fill the bill.

“A good scary character doesn’t have to be size or necessarily volume,” he says. “It’s about their confidence, charisma and personality.”

He has seen the tiniest people evoke the scariest responses.

“Last year, for example, I put a little girl — she was about 4-foot-10 — and I put her in the same scene as a guy who was about 6-foot-9,” Beddow says. “She terrified everyone. She was jumping on barrels. It’s not about size. Timing is very important. I try to train them about timing.”

BRINGING THE CHARACTERS TO LIFE 

In addition to hiring hundreds of actors to play various aspects of people’s worst nightmares, the makeup artists of Fright Dome help bring the characters to life.

Rebecca Morgan has been a makeup artist with Fright Dome for five years, the lead artist for three.

Each Halloween, she transforms the hundreds of actors from ordinary people into creepy characters, whether it is ghouls, goblins, clowns, zombies or decrepit psychopaths with mangled limbs.

Weeks before the new season begins, Morgan is tasked with coming up with new ways to transform the actors.

“I cannot wait to rev my engine,” she says.

By day, Morgan is a beauty artist. Five years ago, she saw an open casting call for makeup artists for Fright Dome.

“I auditioned and they hired me,” she says. “I’ve been here ever since.”

Being able to be creative with makeup has helped Morgan in her everyday life.

“I’ve always been obsessed with creative process,” she says. “It helps me grow as an artist.”

Once the concepts for the Fright Dome season are revealed to her about a month before they start constructing the houses, Morgan turns to online resources to see what techniques she can use to bring characters to life.

As the houses are built and the concepts are solidified, she makes tweaks to the designs preparing for opening night.

Over the past few years, she along with a handful of other makeup artists, have had upward of 250 actors to transform. They usually get about 15 to 20 minutes per person.

“It’s a lot of latex, a lot of blood and very little time,” Morgan says. “Our process is pretty pedestrian considering what we have to achieve by the end of the night.”

Starting Friday, she will have to replicate the looks a dozen more times each night for the month.

But, it’s worth it.

“My favorite part is walking out of my job covered in latex and blood with stuff under my fingernails,” Morgan says. “It makes me feel accomplished.”

As people line up to experience the attraction, their screams of terror are Morgan’s reward.

“I can hear the screams coming from the dome,” Morgan says. “I know I’ve done my job. I know I’ve evoked that reaction. I have a sense of pride walking away and that’s pretty cool.”

Contact reporter Michael Lyle at mlyle@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5201. Find him on T witter: @mjlyle 

 

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