A Haunting at the Ice House

Oct 7, 2023 | 2023 Articles, Lorie Lewis Ham, Theatre

by Lorie Lewis Ham

This Halloween season the Visalia Players are doing something a bit different, they have put together their own haunt! We took a moment to chat with the director of this experience, Michael Pistoresi, to learn more.

KRL: What is A Haunting at The Ice House? Is it a play, or more of an experience?

Michael: A Haunting at The Ice House is, at its core, a haunt but unlike any “haunt” that’s ever been undertaken. That’s because this haunt is also a look back in time to when The Ice House Theatre was, actually, an ice house. With that in mind, we’ll be turning the theater’s lobby into a museum; complete with old pictures, newspaper articles, antique tools and other items found in and around the main building on the property over the years. It’s also going to provide our guests an opportunity to tour areas of the theater they never get to see during traditional theatrical productions with guides who know the building, and its rich history, inside and out. Finally, a respected paranormal team out of Porterville will be on hand (most nights) to discuss the property’s history and (possibly) to make an announcement. For those reasons, and a host of others, this promises to be a one-of-kind experience — with plenty of jump scares. After all, it is still a haunt!

KRL: Can you tell us more about what that will entail and what attendees can expect?

Michael: The experience for each guest will start the moment they approach The Ice House. With lighting and music, attendees will know they’re in for something different. Outside the theater, guides will explain the historical relevance of the ice house. From there, they’ll be taken inside the lobby as the experience continues; wrapping up with an extensive tour of the main stage and backstage areas. Refreshments will also be made available afterwards for anyone who’d like to stick around and tell a few ghost stories.

KRL: Will it all be taking place inside the Ice House?

Michael: Weather permitting, the experience will be inside and out but, if the weather does become an issue, accommodations will be made.

KRL: Is this something you put together and wrote yourself?

Shannan Ajluni, one of the guides for the tour

Michael: Yes and no. The Ice House has a unique history. Between the research I did at the library and stories I’ve heard over the years; I was able to piece together the experience we’re hoping to provide our guests with the last two weekends in October.

KRL: Have you been in other local shows? If so, can you tell us a bit more about that?

Michael: I was involved in theater quite extensively from grade school through high school, in the Salinas Valley. After a 30 plus year hiatus from the stage, I returned in Backwards Broadway (here at The Ice House) last year. I also portrayed Jonas Fogg in Visalia Players production of Sweeney Todd and I’m currently involved in Visalia Player’s production of The Norma Conquests. Apparently, I’m trying to make up for lost time.

KRL: Have you worked at other haunts?

Michael: Actually, I haven’t. But we’ve assembled quite a team to put this all together and they all have extensive “haunt” experience — as actors and special effects technicians. For every idea I come up with, they’ve been able to figure out a way to make it happen.

KRL: Why were you interested in doing something like this?

Michael: It actually all started with a conversation I had with Rebecca Coffee-Godfrey about this time last year. She directed me in Backwards Broadway and became my connection to the theater. As she explained some of the building’s history… as well as some of the “ghost stories” that have circulated about it over the years… I thought there might be something I could make of it. After researching the ice house at the library, I knew there was. I pitched my idea to the board and they gave me the green light.

KRL: What are you most excited about?

Michael: The most exciting thing about this is also the most intimidating. There’s no established framework. No “script,” per se. We can’t follow in other’s footsteps because we’re walking on virgin ground. We’re creating this from scratch, with a little help from history and lore. But I am curious to see how close it actually comes to my original vision for it.

KRL: Is this just for adults or will there be kid friendly aspects of it?

Michael: I would say it’ll definitely be appropriate for anyone 18 and older. There’ll be no blood, guts, or gore. We’re aiming for more of a psychological scare as opposed to clown with a chainsaw scare. Think Blair Witch Project, minus the adult language.

KRL: What are the dates, how much are tickets, and where can they be purchased?

Michael: Tours run October 20-22 and the 27-29. There’s some talk we may do a few more tours Monday, October 30. Tickets can be purchased for $15 a piece at The Ice House on the days of the tours or ahead of time at visaliaicehouse.com.

KRL: Anything else you would like to add?

Michael: Just that The Ice House itself is going to be the real star of this “haunt.” She has some stories to tell and, if we all listen closely enough, I think she’s going to share more than a few of them with us.

Visalia Players
410 E Race Ave., Visalia, CA 93291
(559) 734-3900

You can find more music, and other entertainment, articles in our Arts & Entertainment section.

Lorie Lewis Ham is our Editor-in-Chief and a contributor to various sections, coupling her journalism experience with her connection to the literary and entertainment worlds. Explore Lorie’s mystery writing at Mysteryrat’s Closet. Lorie’s latest mystery novel, One of Us, is set in the Tower District of Fresno and the world of community theatre!<


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