Take a moment and think back to that feeling you used to get as a kid around Halloween: that deliciously spooky cobweb of eeriness cast over everything, with decorations and tricks everywhere, celebrating all things creepy. That’s the feeling Christel Edwards and Stephen Simmons are looking for when they put together their annual, fall spook-fest extravaganza, aptly dubbed An October Evening. Now in its seventh year, the show has evolved exponentially and become an entity of its own. It has become a sought-after event for artists, filmmakers, designers and performers to showcase their work, and also a highly anticipated must-see show in SLC, packing the house with a growing audience every year.
Simmons, a local filmmaker and one of the original founders of the annual event, had humble expectations going into the first show. “The first year, we just wanted people to show up!” he says. After unexpectedly packing the house at Trolley Square’s Regency Theatre, he and co-founder/fashion designer Heather Mathieson decided they couldn’t let the show die. “Since we sold out the first year, we [thought], ‘Let’s bring it to a bigger venue and see if we can bring in more people.’” A crowd of 800-plus people showed up the second year, and the rest is history.
Since then, Mathieson has departed from SLC to continue her career in fashion in NY, but Edwards has deftly taken over the position as Simmons’ partner in crime. Friends from high school, Simmons asked her to be in a short film he was working on several years ago, and they reconnected big time. “When Stephen and I started working together, we both had a lot of the same interests—we’re both big horror movie buffs,” Edwards says.
To accommodate the success and growth of the event, they decided to move to the well known, but still very mysterious, Masonic Temple in SLC. Simmons says they had three different venues in mind, but once they stepped into the Masonic Temple, they knew they were in the right place. “I love that building. It has such a unique feeling to it. You walk in and you just feel history,” says Edwards.
The passion they both have for all things goth and vintage mod is what drives their vision for the ever-evolving show. Since the first year, the format remains consistent, with music, fashion, film, photography and live performance represented in the artistic offering. Each year, the setting and theme are updated, new live acts are introduced and great effort is made to ensure that the experience you have at An October Evening is unique in comparison to any other art show or Halloween fête. Even amid huge growth and popularity, An October Evening maintains its spooky grassroots openness, showcasing talented emerging (and mostly local) artists every year.
“Halloween was such a magical moment for me growing up … We try to spark some kind of a memory from childhood,” says Edwards. Memories are nudged out of the deep recesses in your mind as you lean back and watch dance performances inspired by favorite childhood cartoons, listen to live music that makes the hair stand up on your neck and watch short films that bring to life some of the most haunting impressions left on you by childhood favorites. Everything ties together in a shadowy throwback, a brief visit to that time when Halloween meant tricks and treats. “It’s very nostalgic,” says Simmons.
The short films that are debuted at the event have not been seen anywhere else, including Simmons’ annual contribution of short films based on the children’s book series, Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark. This year, other eerie delights include a conceptual fashion show by perennial favorite Pretty Macabre, a special aerial performance by local high-flying starlet Hope McCurdy and a dance performance by the always lovely Voodoo Darlings. There are plenty of surprises in store, too, so you’ll have to stop by the show to find out what else they’ve got planned for us. “We do our best to have something for everyone,” says Edwards of the variety.
The twosome seems to be hitting a chord with their concept, since the show continues to sell out year after year. “If you’re going to have an audience, you have to treat them,” says Simmons. They continue to build on An October Evening’s popularity the good, old-fashioned way: by consistently presenting a top-notch experience.
To get a feel for what you’re in for, check out the teaser on the Facebook page for An October Evening, or go to nightofproductions.com for information and sample short films from October Evenings past. Put Oct. 20 on your calendar this year and let the magic of Halloween back into your life. “It’s just a fun way to get into the Halloween spirit,” Edwards says. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased in advance at the Tower Theater or at the door day-of.