Theater troupe brews up night of witches for festival


Gabriel de la Mora

Theater troupe brews up night of witches for festival

By Arts & Culture Reporter

Most know witches as the warty, “double, double toil and trouble” type popularized by Shakespeare, but a local theater troupe is battling the misconception.

“Relax, It’s Only Magic: a Theatre Festival Celebrating Witches in Film” will host live staged renditions of cult classic witch films “Hocus Pocus,” “The Craft” and “The Witches” at The Charnel House, 3421 W. Fullerton Ave., Oct. 22. 

Tai Palmgren, artistic director of InGen Productions, the company putting on the festival, said the idea for a witch-themed festival was a joke until the troupe got the opportunity to make it a reality in The Charnel House’s funeral-home-turned-theater. 

“What we’re doing comes from love for the movies,” Palmgren said. “We’re celebrating them, and we’re celebrating the memories we all share.”

InGen Productions reimagines popular films as stage performances, and Palmgren said “Relax, It’s Only Magic” will expand upon the concept by adding puppetry, music and dance. 

The 6-hour festival will also host a panel of experts discussing the history of witches in film, tarot card readings and a performance by local band Beauty School, among other attractions, according to the event’s Facebook page.

Hannah Schupbach, the event’s hostess, said the idea of a witch theater festival exploring film and pop culture was irresistible. 

Sarah Giovannetti, drummer for Beauty School and InGen Productions company member, said witch culture resonates with so many people because, at its core, it is about female empowerment and a naturalistic worldview.

“We live in a really polarized culture right now,” Giovannetti said. “We’re looking at masculinity versus femininity with our current election, and women are trying to come up and show themselves as strong and valuable—just as valuable as men.” 

Palmgren said witches have been used as a way to villainize women in the past and “a way to shut down powerful women.”

“Now, that is something to be celebrated: women who aren’t afraid to speak their voice and be themselves,” Palmgren said.

Giovannetti said the films chosen for the festival have resonated with people long after their original releases—from 1990 to 1996. “Hocus Pocus” is notable because of its departure from standard Disney tropes, “The Witches” is “especially strange” and “The Craft” is an “all-around good spooky flick,” she added.

Palmgren said the event is already sold out, which has never happened this quickly for InGen’s previous productions. 492 people have RSVP’d on the event’s Facebook page and more than 3,200 are listed as interested as of press time.

“We’ve been doing these shows for almost five years now,” Palmgren said. “Our audience is [usually] friends, coworkers, parents or people we know in the theater community. We’re delighted a lot of strangers and new fans, hopefully, will come to this.”

Not everyone is interested in witches and the Halloween season, but Schupbach said “Relax, It’s Only Magic” could easily appeal to those unfamiliar with the culture. 

“[The panel] is a really great entry point,” Schupbach said. “People might ask that question of, ‘What’s the big deal?’ It will be really, really engaging.”