actorsOpening Night is always one of the most crazy experiences for us and for volunteers at School District 13. That first night, before everyone has put on their costume and make-up for the first time, everyone is nervous about what to expect. Though we do some rehearsal at the Pre-Scare, no one knows what to expect on Opening Night when there will be real-live patrons at the event.

It makes sense that new volunteers would be nervous and not know what to expect, but even though we’ve done this gig for eight years now, we still don’t know what to expect on Opening Night either…which is one of the reasons why we still love doing haunted houses and entertainment. Crazy things happen when groups of strangers gather together. But why bother doing something over and over again if it’s always the same, year-after-year? I guess people really enjoy the predictability of repeats, but everyone needs to be surprised from time to time, just to keep life interesting. And our haunted attractions always surprise us. Every year. There’s always something new that happens.

It’s the newness that really appeals to teenagers. Between 12 and 18 years of age, teenagers’ brains aren’t fully developed which is both good and bad. Sometimes it’s frustrating to be living with a human being whose brains are a bit garbled, but the garbling and scrambling of synapses that happens when kids are between 12 and 18 makes them remarkably flexible in their thinking. And this flexibility is something to capitalize on! It needs to be nurtured in order for teenagers to turn into adults who can think on their feet. School District 13 gives teenagers the opportunity to stretch their wings a bit and have some unusual experiences haunting the rooms of the school and the community hall down the street. It gives them the opportunity to make decisions on the basis of ambiguous information.

There are few opportunities in life that offer real ambiguity. Traveling to a foreign country is all about ambiguous situations…those moments when there doesn’t seem to be a right or a wrong answer because all the rules are different or because there are no street signs and you’re completely lost.  Here in the United States, for Americans, things are very organized and ambiguous situations are rare, but when ambiguity arises (like when people hear gunshots in their classrooms or theaters) people who aren’t used to it freeze. Firemen, EMT’s, policemen and a variety of other individuals confront ambiguity often and these are the people who are most likely to spring to action in appropriate ways when strange things happen. But making peace with ambiguity can be helpful for anyone who wants to think better on their feet.

As the hour of our Grand Opening approaches tonight, I can feel the buzz of excitement and nerves in the air here at School District 13. I can’t wait to get the make-up wedges out and turn on the music in the costume and make-up room for another year of flamboyant glamourizing and gore. Another year of ambiguous situations and human weirdness to give me food for thought that will carry me through the next 11 months.