|synonyms:||spoilsport, wet blanket, damper, party pooper;
prophet of doom
“uh-oh, here comes that killjoy Walter”
In what is probably one of the most outlandish, most inspired, most wickedly funny haunted houses created, the ONE Archives at the USC Libraries is currently presenting KillJoy’s Castle, A Lesbian Feminist Haunted House. Part “Hell House,” part performance piece, part haunted walkthrough, Killjoy’s explores the persistent stereotypes often associated with the LGBT community, in particular, lesbians, through a series of audacious scenes and experiences.
Staged at Plummer Park in West Hollywood, visitors are asked to queue up outside Long Hall.
Outside, a surly looking woman dressed as the now-dead activist Valerie Solanas stands at the threshold of a passage into Killjoy’s. She gruffly parses the line into groups of around 10 or more, and pulls each to the chalk-drawn inner circle area to explain the rules. She explains that we are about to experience something totally different than what is offered in today’s paternalistic society. This is KillJoy’s Castle, a place to celebrate feminism and lesbian rule. Here, women reign supreme. Here, the bathrooms are marked Oppressed and Oppressor. Here, we are to learn that the typical activist is seen as a killer of joy and dismissed. And here, we are to learn far more than we could ever expect to learn at your average “haunt”.
We are asked to come up with a name for our group, and are then guided to the central holding area. We wait for our tour of the castle to begin, and pass the time by listening to live music with a specific agenda. The tone here is set as very tongue-in-cheek. Not preachy and dogmatic, but sharply witty. Laughter slowly bubbles forth from the rotating audience in the courtyard as each cycle begins to realize that it’s okay to laugh, to relax, to open up, and have a good time.
Soon enough our group name is called, and we are summoned to the EMASCULATOR portal into the castle. A crisply dressed tour guide welcomes this mixed group of males and females to Killjoy’s Castle and explains what we will be seeing. A wide varieties of lesbians are on display; The Activist, The Old Cat Lady, the Ball Buster, the Straw Lesbian, and so on. This collection is here to help us make our way, perhaps even bridge a gap, to greater understanding.
Entering the first room, we see pejorative terms, activist sayings, and more, hung on the walls in a funhouse style. Rounding the corner, we the experience introduces us to, well, the vagina. It was in this room, of course, that we could not take pictures, and is the sole reason why this is an 18 and over maze. While impactful, its a pity as more than just “adults” should see this maze.
Passing into the next room, we met a frenetic, tie-died, faceless character that was running, bouncing around the room. In the center of the room, a collection of psychedelic punching bags hung, labeled with the issues faced by the lesbian community.
To continue to give a play by play of the haunt would do it injustice, as the jokes are truly that funny. Suffice to say that each room featured a fiercely honest, yet savagely funny member of the stereotypical lesbian community.
In the final room, guests are invited to talk to a “Real Life Lesbian” that doesn’t fit into any of the aforementioned categories. As our group entered, laughter bellowed from one circle, while others sat intently, listening to one another, smiling warmly.
A professional looking female approached us and introduced herself. We were then asked to introduce ourselves to the group. Relaxed, calm, and friendly our new hostess guided the conversation by asking us what we thought of the experience and how it effected us. I personally thought it was a brilliant piece of satire and education, while others had no clue what they were getting into. The good news is that, while clueless, the other visitors didn’t run. They stayed, they learned, their eyes opened, their hearts expanded.
As with any “Hell House” experience, this place has a decided agenda. That agenda is one of acceptance, understanding, and respect of all beings. We were able to openly laugh at common misconceptions toward the Lesbian and Transgender communities, while also having an open dialogue about what it is to be part of said community.
I left the experience with a greater understanding of those around me and how to treat them, be it gay, straight, bi, trans, male female, black, white, and so on. Killjoy’s Castle is a feat of activism, art, performance, and theater that entertains, educates, and amuses. Killjoy’s is art that creates positive recourse and a bigger sense of respect for the community that it depicts.
Killjoy’s will be open from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. on the following dates:
• Wednesday, October 28, 2015;
• Thursday, October 29, 2015; and
• Friday, October 30, 2015.
This project is organized by the ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives and funded in part through a grant from the City of West Hollywood through its Arts and Cultural Affairs Commission.
Admission is free and open to the public.
More information is available online. http://one.usc.edu/killjoys-kastle or www.weho.org/arts. The event also has a Facebook page.