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Old haunts: Burton Cummings Theatre brings ghost stories to life

The 110-year-old venue’s basement will be home to Stage Frights: A Haunted House Experience until Oct. 31.

Gwendolyn Collins is the creative lead for Stage Frights: A Haunted House Experience, which takes guests through a series of extra creepy rooms in the basement of the Burton Cummings Theatre in Winnipeg's Exchange District.

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Shannon VanRaes / For Metro

Gwendolyn Collins is the creative lead for Stage Frights: A Haunted House Experience, which takes guests through a series of extra creepy rooms in the basement of the Burton Cummings Theatre in Winnipeg's Exchange District.

When dressing up an old Winnipeg institution like the Burton Cummings Theatre for Halloween, you don’t do a cliché haunted house.

The 110-year-old venue’s basement will be home to Stage Frights: A Haunted House Experience until Oct. 31.

“We’re not interested in doing another zombie, skeleton, jump-out-at-you haunted house,” said Andraea Sartison, artistic producer at One Trunk Theatre, which took on the venture with True North Sports and Entertainment.

“We’re interested in story, we’re interested in theatricality, and we want this particular event to have a certain aesthetic and feel.”

The production tells the story of Mabel Hackney, who—rumour has it—has haunted the Burt since the 1900s.

Hackney, a theatre performer from England, was killed aboard the Empress of Ireland, which went down in the St. Lawrence River.

“She drowned that night, and so did her husband when he was trying to find her—and so we were like ‘that’s obviously the story we have to tell,’” Sartison said.

While the theatre doesn’t normally come off as threatening, this event is not for the faint of heart. A few people who had to leave the show on its first night.

“To me, that’s a win. Hopefully it wasn’t too scarring,” she said.

“But we definitely ensure everyone has a time, no one is going to be hurt,” said one of the production’s artistic leads, Gwendolyn Collins.

The show features professional actors from Winnipeg in two casts, totalling about 24 people.

“I think that definitely amps the scare factor, because we’ve got some really committed actors in these roles,” she said.

Other spooky things to do this weekend

Budget friendly
Animatronics, live actors and four rooms of horror converge this weekend at the Terror Garage Halloween Haunt. Happening on Friday from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m., admission is free, candy is free, but donations are being accepted for Cancer Care Manitoba. This one is located at 7 Bellavista Cres.

Historic sights and frights
Fort la Reine Museum in Portage la Prairie is creating a haunted village, complete with sweets, games and crafts, a ghost walk and a night alley market on Saturday from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. There will also be performances from Teakle Family Circus and Sacred Flames Fire Dancers.

Trick or treat
Assiniboine Park Zoo is having a trick-or-treat event from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. There will be seven stations set up for kids to collect treats. Visitors are encouraged to wear a costume and bring a reusable bag from home. Also at the zoo this weekend, creepy animal keeper talks, a hay bale maze and haunted house.

Dance your fears away
The Metropolitan Entertainment Centre is transforming into A Nightmare on Donald Street this Saturday from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. The 23 plus event is part nightclub, part gala, and part haunted house—with three floors of horror.

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