The Nebraska Repertory Theatre’s “ShakesFear at the Haunted Temple” returns Oct. 13-30 in the Studio Theatre for a scary immersive theatre experience.
Learn more about showtimes and ticket information. Shows run every 15 minutes.
“ShakesFear is Lincoln’s only haunted attraction, and Halloween is such a perfect time for the community to come together and have fun. Last year, we had a completely sold-out run,” said Andy Park, artistic director for the Nebraska Rep and who is also directing “ShakesFear” with Michael Cotey. “Above all, I love creating an experience centered on the greatest dramatist of the English language. In Shakespeare’s day, plays were produced for a mass, populist audience. Today, we’re often too precious with the Bard. A lot of people have only struggled to read his plays in English class. It’s exciting to present Shakespeare in an accessible way.”
To escape a spell cast by the Weird Sisters, visitors to “ShakesFear” will have to confront a murderous king, meddling fairies, ghastly ghosts and a bloody butcher with an appetite for blood.
This year’s attraction has been expanded.
“We’ve added new haunted characters, animatronics and scares,” Park said. “We’ve also enhanced our special effects, scenery, lighting and costumes. The production values are frightfully delightful. ‘ShakesFear’ is going to be fun and terrifying at the same time.”
Noah Groppe is a sophomore performance major from Lincoln, who plays Titus Andronicus.
“In this experience, he can be quite intimidating and quite the piemaker,” he said. “I would make sure when you meet him, make sure all of your friends are accounted for when you leave.”
He said people should come to “ShakesFear” if they enjoy getting scared and if they love Shakespeare.
“Expect an engaging experience and incredible set design and lighting,” he said. “Being a part of this production is definitely different than a play. One aspect that is different is getting to interact with the audience. And every night, every group is different than the last, which keeps those of us in this performance on our toes, too.”
Robbie Exstrom, a sophomore performance major from Kearney, Nebraska, plays The Friar (Friar Laurence), who will be seen in the Chapel.
“He is from Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ and in the original play, he is portrayed as a protector of Romeo,” he said. “However, in this attraction, the Friar goes beyond the source material and after Romeo chooses Juliet, Rosaline (Romeo’s other lover) becomes possessed, and the audience will see how it affects her and themselves. The Friar is very much a silent, but deadly, character.”
Exstrom said audiences will see an immense amount of talent displayed in the attraction.
“The poise and professionalism from our directors and upperclassmen to the raw, unfiltered passion that comes from the underclassmen is what is making this production stand out in so many ways,” he said. “Also, the technical elements will blow people’s minds. I think audiences should expect the unexpected, and even if they’re not Shakespeare experts, they can truly appreciate the scares and the storytelling features.”
Park went with a small group to the Midwest Haunters Convention in Chicago this year to get new ideas for this year’s production.
“It was awesome to take workshops and train with some of the legends in the industry,” he said. “We also had a chance to visit a haunt in Chicago. We came back very inspired and with a new scare that audience members may revisit when they close their eyes at night. I want it to be a surprise, but let’s just say that Macbeth will make a lasting impression on audiences this year.”
This year’s design team includes alumna Jill Hibbard (M.F.A. 2020) and Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film faculty designers Michelle Harvey (lighting design), J.D. Madsen (set design) and Jamie Bullins (costume design).
“Jill made some phenomenal new props and animatronics for this year’s experience. She made an incredible stove for Titus Andronicus to use. Titus has a couple of flesh-filled pies to cook,” Park said. “Each of the faculty designers are working with student designers. Students are getting an amazing opportunity to create an immersive world where bold choices really thrive.”
Park also said that this year’s cast is up for the challenge of creating a haunted experience for the audience.
“They manage to scare me, and I know what’s going to happen,” Park said. “The actors make it unpredictable, and this year, they are especially good. I’m blown away by their passion, creativity and the horrifying darkness they manage to summon from their souls.”
Park is eager to see community members again at this year’s “ShakesFear.”