The Shadow Space Interview: The Audience Becomes the Haunters

Creator Shelby Bond on bringing the energy of interactive theatre to Halloween.

What would it be like to exist as a ghost, unseen, spying upon the world of the living, watching and listening but unable to intervene except in the most tenuous ways? The Shadow Space: A Haunted Affair provides an answer to this question by casting its audience as invisible spirits moving among living characters and trying to find ways to make contact in order to influence events. The interactive theatre piece - a combination of ghost story, murder mystery, and escape room - earned favorable reviews during its run this May (“The Shadow Space manages to invent a rather brilliant format") even though at least one reviewer thought the promotional materials oversold eerie elements that weren't actually in the play. Now, The Shadow Space is returning to Los Angeles for Halloween 2019, in a new venue, with new spirit guides, added puzzles, and a new points system, which rewards guests for finding clues.

Hollywood Gothique interviewed Shelby Bond, who created The Shadow Space after earning an MFA in experimental theatre at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London. The city is home to numerous popular immersive experiences and Bond wanted "to bring some of that energy" to Los Angeles. We discussed the advantages of interactive theatre over traditional haunted house attractions and whether there would be more scares in the Halloween incarnation of The Shadow Space.

The Shadow Space Interview Shelby Bond
The cast of The Shadow Space with creator Shelby Bond at right.

Hollywood Gothique: No Proscenium's review characterized the spring production of The Shadow Space as an “energetic dinner party” with “jovial ghost hosts," even though promotional materials had promised something creepier. Will there be an attempt to make the October version spookier?

Shelby Bond: This is the same story we premiered in Spring but with a new venue, a home at the edge of the Hollywood Hills that was built in 1919 to house missionaries. The walls feel imbued with sordid stories and dark fates. We are ramping up the stakes and the intensity, and the spirit guides are more enmeshed in the narrative.

Hollywood Gothique: How would you characterize The Shadow Space for someone wondering whether it’s like Delusion: Interactive Theatre or Creep L.A.?

Shelby Bond: The Shadow Space crosses into the categories of escape rooms, immersive shows, mysteries, and ghost stories. It is unique because it’s not forcing you into action. You get to set into a sandbox of discovery where you feel the chill and thrill of walking unseen by the living, where you are a voyeur into their secrets. It is not presented in a way where you are an audience member; you are an invisible element, just out of reach from the living world.

Hollywood Gothique: How would you estimate the scare factor compared to other Halloween attractions? Is it more likely to induce shivers or screams?

Shelby Bond: There are no jump scares or ghouls in The Shadow Space; the scariest thing is the dark deeds that drive all of our actions. You’ll be closer than you’ve ever been to palpable passion and rage. The ghosts see infidelity and murder unfold. It’s not horror; it’s humanity at its most raw.

Hollywood Gothique: What is the level of interactivity?  Is the audience along for the ride, or do they influence the outcome?

Shelby Bond: The Shadow Space is filled with items that the guests can interact with - puzzles, clues and implements of reaching through to affect the living. Guests are free to explore; they are surrounded by rooms, relationships, and secrets that they can choose from. They may find themselves drawn to spell words for the living the discover, find a key to a secret box, or simply lean into whispered passions. When they find ways to reach through across the chasm of death, they can affect the living world.

Hollywood Gothique: What advantages does your show have over traditional Halloween Haunts?

Shelby Bond: I’m a fan of haunted houses and love being scared, but there’s something much more tantalizing about getting to do the haunting.

Hollywood Gothique: Another advantage theatrical events have over haunted houses is a longer shelf life. Is there any chance The Shadow Space could be extended beyond Halloween?

Shelby Bond: The Halloween season lends itself to the success of tales of death, but we believe this experience is not reliant on the holiday. After this run of 24 shows we will begin work on the next story-line. We then hope to roll this first story out to more cities and houses around the world, every year in October premiering a new show in LA before sending it out to new locations.

Hollywood Gothique: What direction do you see for the future of The Shadow Space?

Shelby Bond: The Shadow Space is going to continue to explore the relationship between the living and the dead, finding places where they collide. The plan is to have a completely new story every October, with the audience always ghosts visiting and meddling in the world of the living. Some will be much more macabre, some more playful.

Hollywood Gothique: So, The Shadow Space will become a Halloween perennial?

Shelby Bond: Oh, just you wait. The dead will definitely come back to life with a new story and all-new deathly delights.

The Shadow Space is scheduled to run nightly except Mondays from October 8 through November 3. The location has yet to be revealed, but tickets ($60) are on sale now. Get more information at: theshadowspace.com.

Steve Biodrowski, Administrator

A graduate of USC film school, Steve Biodrowski has worked as a film critic, journalist, and editor at Movieline, Premiere, Le Cinephage, The Dark Side., Cinefantastique magazine, Fandom.com, and Cinescape Online. He is currently Managing Editor of Cinefantastique Online and owner-operator of Hollywood Gothique.