Eerie Eyeful: Maelstrom Collaborative produces immersive, COVID-safe haunted house experience

As the proverb states, “Necessity is the mother of invention,” and as the world continues to adjust to a new normal in the wake of COVID-19, creatives are coming up with innovative ways to tell their stories and express their art.


Beginning this Thursday, Oct. 8 and running through Sunday, Nov. 1, Maelstrom Collaborative Arts (MCA), 5403 Detroit Avenue in Gordon Square, will present “The Wandering,” a production steeped in mystery, and designed in such a way that only one person can experience it at a time (or two, if from the same household).


“The Wandering” takes place after a catastrophic accident in what could be Anytown. The audience is thrust into a dream shared by the entire town, and they wander through the dream world as it unfolds.

Maelstrom Collaborative Arts Window Series“It’s similar to a guided haunted house experience,” says MCA connectivity director Marcia Custer. “Executive artistic director Jeremy Paul is devising the work—he’s got plans for each of the rooms, gallery, etcetera. There’s a story unfolding as you’re experiencing these different installations that we refer to as ‘Dream Shrines.’”


The set design is, in part, due to the state ban on mass gatherings because of COVID-19. Each of the more than 30 artists involved will bring their completed artwork to the space and Maelstrom staff will assemble everything to create a cohesive narrative. Live components and environmental changes are also part of the experience as individuals move through the space.


Custer says MCA has continued to produce exhibits and shows during the pandemic, while also keeping the safety of the artists, and the audiences, a priority. “The Wandering” physically separate artists and audiences, while still providing a venue for new artistic works.


“We just don’t know when going back to normal is actually going to happen” says Custer. “Fortunately, we’re a small enough, and nimble enough, company that works with so many flexible artists, that we were able to pivot.”


MCA’s show earlier this year was also in response to COVID-19. ACTIVATE, which ran during July and August, was a six-week long residency featuring 14 artists. Each weekend, two artists performed in the storefront windows of the Collaborative.


“We’re continuing to collaborate in inventive ways while staying safe, for the artist, too, because this isn’t only COVID-safe for audiences, it’s also COVID safe for performers because no one’s getting in a rehearsal room together; no one’s hot-gluing glitter together,” explains Custer. “Everyone’s really operating individually at their own safety level.”

Each The production lasts approximately one hour, with no seating. There will be a 30-minute break between performances, to allow for disinfecting and air recycling.


Patrons are required to wear masks while in the building. Masks will be provided to those who are without. Upon arrival, patrons will be asked to take a short COVID-19 questionnaire, and a surface temperature check will be conducted. Anyone exhibiting signs of illness will be offered a refund or the option to return at a rescheduled date.


Performance times for are Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays at 5:30 p.m., 7 p.m., and 8:30 p.m.; Saturdays and Sundays at 10 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1p.m., 2:30 p.m., 4 p.m., 5:30 p.m., and 7 p.m. There’s also a late show on Saturdays at 8:30 p.m.


Tickets are $25 and can be purchased online.

Read more articles by Nate Paige.

Nate Paige has worked in local journalism for more than 25 years, most of which was spent at as a copy editor, community editor, hyperlocal producer, entertainment reporter, and social media coordinator. He got his start in the business at the Cleveland Call & Post. He currently handles social media for the city of Shaker Heights.

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