Halloween Puppet Show is a Real Head-Turner

Written by Wynter Holden Category: Performing Arts Issue: October 2015

Photo courtesy All Puppet PlayersWhen William Peter Blatty’s novel-turned-film The Exorcist hit the silver screen in 1973, audiences were so freaked out that some theater owners stocked smelling salts. One disgruntled fainter actually sued Warner Brothers after breaking his jaw falling on the seat in front of him.

In the 40-plus years since the flick was made, generations have been exposed to far more gruesome scenes – AMC’s The Walking Dead or recent release The Green Inferno by controversial director Eli Roth, for example. But The Exorcist remains an audience favorite, one often referred to as “the scariest movie of all time.”

Shaun Michael McNamara, owner and artistic director of Phoenix’s All Puppet Players performance troupe, is always on the lookout for serious source material that he can comically transform with a bit of felt and some Silly String. Back this year is McNamara’s The Exorcist Has No Legs, a wacky, irreverent puppet play on the horror classic. “This show was begging to be spoofed considering it scared generations of people,” he says. “We are very faithful to the source material, but obviously [we] have fun at the film’s expense.”

The Exorcist Has No Legs runs weekends October 9-30 at Playhouse on the Park. Even though the main characters may appear as cute and cuddly as a Sesame Street cast, audiences are warned not to bring little ones to the show. Anyone familiar with the infamous pea soup scene will understand why. “Be sure to wear a rain slicker,” quips McNamara.

If you go:
Playhouse on the Park
1850 N. Central Ave., Phoenix
$22 general admission; $54 VIP tickets


If rotating puppet heads and blood-soaked crucifixes don’t compel you, check out one of these four family-friendly Halloween events around town:

Get spooked at a free movie screening of the original 1984 Ghostbusters, 6:30 p.m. this Friday, October 9, on the grassy turf lawn at downtown’s Cityscape. Shake hands with members of the Arizona Ghostbusters charity costuming group and don your best Venkman uniform or Slimer outfit for a chance at a $25 gift card. 1 E. Washington St., Phoenix. Visit cityscapephoenix.com.

Little Wednesday is all grown up and getting married (to an Ohioan – gasp!) in Scottsdale Desert Stages Theater’s The Addams Family: A New Musical Comedy, playing weekends now through November 1. Catch up with Morticia, Gomez, Uncle Fester and the whole Addams clan as they attempt to navigate the waters of normalcy through catchy tunes like “(Death is) Just Around the Corner” and “Full Disclosure.” 4720 N. Scottsdale Rd., 480-483-1664, desertstages.org. $25 adults; $22 seniors/students.

Life Time Fitness’ Gilbert, Tempe, Scottsdale and Palm Valley locations are hosting a Holiday Spooktacular event from 10 a.m-1 p.m. on Saturday, October 24. Activities include carnival games, pumpkin carving, “Monster Mash” dancing, bingo, and spooky hair and makeup stations. Cost is $10 for members, $20 for non-members; parents attend free. Visit lifetimefitness.com for location info.

Still waiting for your owl? Muggles, witches and wizards are invited for an evening of magical music and seasonal mayhem at Phoenix Symphony’s annual Halloween at Hogwarts event, opening Thursday, October 15 at the Orpheum Theatre in Phoenix (203 W. Adams St., 602-262-6225). Relive the Harry Potter franchise’s finest moments with songs from the original scores, plus fun seasonal favorites. Prizes will be awarded for the best movie-themed getups. Tickets are still available for opening night and a newly added Sunday show at Mesa Arts Center. Visit phoenixsymphony.org.