” It’ll be a fabulous evening and a whole lot of really good spirit all night.”
The evening of October 25 is when fears come alive — literally, if you’re in Dufferin Grove Park. Organized by Clay and Paper Theatre, Night of Dread is coming back to the park and the community for its 15th year starting at 6pm with a parade, followed by pageantry and celebration at the park at 7:30pm.
A “pre-emptive strike” against the consumerism that’s taken over Halloween, Night of Dread is a parade bringing us face to face with our fears given — often very large — form. But fear not! The night culminates with the participants facing down their fears and mocking them.
David Anderson, the theatre’s artistic director, says his initial idea all these years ago was to celebrate endings and our fear of them. The public nature of Clay and Paper’s performance has the theatre involving the community in various stages of the process: From suggesting fear stereotypes that will appear in the parade to making the actual costumes and puppets to volunteering for various jobs at the big event itself.
The event may have originated with Clay and Paper Theatre, but Anderson says that over the years a number of like-minded groups and performers have “coalesced” around the idea over the years. A samba band leads the procession and another ends it. Horn and saxophone players are scattered throughout the parade. Broulala, an improvisational choir, is taking part this year, singing at shrines as the bride and groom of death swing overhead. Another vocal group will be singing celebratory songs of death at the night’s close. And, of course, a great number of volunteer performers will be taking to the stage as part of this year’s Big Fear theme: The fear of Us and Them.
The Big Fear portion of the evening is sure to be a spectacular one: Anderson says that some 120 black and white masks were made for the event. Back at Dufferin Grove park, forty dancers will take to the field, half as “Us” and half as “Them.” Each performer will control three masks linked together into a single costume.
Whether you’d attended the event before or are taking part for the first time, you’ll likely see familiar fears. “The images are stereotypical, really, or they even become stereotypical in the act of presenting them,” says Anderson. This is certainly true of the Fear of War, a giant medieval warrior complete with sword in one hand, mace in the other, and a spiked helm. But at the same time, the stereotypes are so powerful because they can represent the intensely personal.
Anderson describes the origin of the Fear of Authority, suggested by a young man who escaped from Mexico after his father had been “disappeared.” When asked to suggest a fear, the man said, “authority.” The result is an enormous skeletal figure — with a policeman’s boot for a head.
The night certainly has a very serious aspect to it, but it’s also very light, a combination that makes it so much fun, says Anderson. After all, the parade isn’t just a showcase of our biggest fears — it’s an opportunity to bring them out of the dark corners into the light and thumb our noses at them. Join what’s become a massive community event, with some four to five thousand people taking part in the parade and about two thousand staying around for the post-parade festivities in the park.
The event is Pay What You Can, with a suggested donation of $10, and a dress code of “Black, White, and Dreadful.” You can also take a more active part, as the theatre is still looking for volunteers! Simply email Clay and Paper Theatre, and let them know you’re interested.
For more information, directions, check out their listing on BeMused Network.