VERO BEACH — A virus has been unleashed within an ordinary high school, turning students and faculty into zombies. A fellow classmate who hasn’t contracted the “H1N2 virus” — yet — leads you and your friends through the school, trying to find a way out.
Will you survive?
The only way to find out is by attending Riverside Children’s Theatre “Horror High School” during its four-day Halloween run. “Things are way ahead of schedule,” said Riverside Children’s Theatre instructor-director Angelo Cerniglia of the theatre’s haunted house.
This year’s theme is “Horror High School” — as if high school isn’t scary enough, someone at the school has released a virus, turning everyone it touches into zombies.
The annual haunted house — now in its eighth year — is one of the biggest fund-raisers for the children’s theatre, attracting thousands of visitors over its 4-day run.
The haunted house this year consists of two separate areas – one for young children and one for the older crowd. While the theatre typically creates two scare arenas, this is the first time they’ve been joined in theme, according to Cerniglia.
The young children’s area is a prelude to the high school — set in a schoolyard, the smaller children can play haunt-themed games and win prizes. The older area is set inside the high school.
Cerniglia said that it was the students’ idea to nickname the virus that infects the haunted house “H1N2” – a play off the swine flu and the fears surrounding it.
“I would’ve never thought about that,” he said.
The kids are responsible for coming up with their own characters and their own scares.
“It lets them explore their own creativity,” Cerniglia said.
He added that several of the students get involved with the theatre because of the haunted house. They can perform with lights, sound, makeup and costume without having the restrictions the script creates for a stage production.
And while the haunted house could not be put together without the participation of the students and faculty, Cerniglia said that the authenticity of the “high school” sets would not have been as real if not for the assistance of Vero Beach High School.
The real school has loaned the theatre use of some lockers — to the surprise of some of the participating students.
“Are those our lockers?” Cerniglia said, repeating what he heard students who attend Vero Beach High say when they arrived on set.
Other groups and organizations, too, have helped with the production.
The haunted house runs Friday through Sunday Oct. 23 through Oct. 25 and Friday, Oct. 30. Hours for Friday and Saturday are 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. and Sunday from 5 to 8 p.m. The cost is $5 for a single trip through Horror High School or $8 for a double-trip.
Cerniglia recommends visitors take advantage of the double-trip, noting that each of the 10 tour guides that lead people through the haunted house play different characters and different escape routes through the school. Each time is different.
The haunted house has been set up to allow for wheelchairs – meaning that there are no too-tight spots. However, those who are sensitive to fog machines and strobes might want to pass on the haunted house, Cerniglia said.
For the even younger kids, those 3 to 5, there will be a costume parade and contest Saturday from 4 to 5 p.m. Prizes will be awarded.
“Come out and have fun,” Cerniglia said.