Be forewarned, Charleston. Something wicked this way comes.
For five years, the Dark Cabaret has worked its magic in Columbia. Starting as an invitation-only event, the story-driven show takes audiences on a trip into supernatural territory. Now the Dark Cabaret is making its first foray to Charleston to play on the historic city's otherworldly reputation for a one-night-only performance at Pulp Gallery. Fresh to the local supernatural circuit, the Dark Cabaret offers a unique experience for fans of things that go bump in the night.
"It lends itself very heavily to paranormal entertainment — ghost stories, hauntings, that sort of thing," says Joseph Daniels, the show's creator. "Enthusiasts in the haunted genre and the paranormal genre will really enjoy it. We call it spirit theater. Whereas you're used to Ghost Hunters and things like that on television, this is a live experience where the audience actually participates in an evening of paranormal entertainment."
According to Daniels, the upcoming show will feature a diverse group of performers with talents deeply rooted in the mysterious and unexplainable. There is Tiffany Allen, a mesmerist with the ability to overpower even the strongest of wills with her skills of hypnosis and suggestion. Then there is Joey Vazquez, billed as South Carolina's top mentalist, specializing in mind reading and behavior control.
"We've really prided ourselves on being a diverse show because there's something that I think appeals to everybody. ... The mentalism really challenges the boundaries of how much of what is in our heads is actually accessible, and just for people to see that their actions have not only been controlled in some cases but predicted in advance is really interesting," says Daniels. "There's a little something for just about everybody if you like that creepy kind of vibe. It's not exactly a horror movie brought to life, but it is definitely one of those things you'll get a few chills and thrills from."
Drawing on his 25 years of experience as a stage performer, writer, and director, Daniels rounds out the cast with stories of ghosts and the unexplained. He says his family has always had brushes with the paranormal and the macabre. And although the Dark Cabaret has been going on for years, each performance is guided in part by those in the audience and their connection with the supernatural.
"We personally involve the audience. It's sort of immersive theater that follows a bit of a jazz format. Depending on the choices they make, the show can take a lot of directions. We call it mystery entertainment," says Daniels. "And we don't do that to be non-specific. It's because the audience very much governs how the performance goes. ... Someone from my generation called it the ultimate Choose Your Own Adventure."
The members of the Dark Cabaret plan to draw on the paranormal history of Charleston with this newest iteration of the show. In a city heavily populated with historic graveyards and stories of lingering spirits, the Dark Cabaret is an intimate evening of Southern Gothic mystery that is equal parts The Twilight Zone, Edgar Allan Poe, and 19th-century parlor entertainment.
"This gives you the opportunity to experience the stories and the flavor of Charleston, and then you end up in something truly immersive because it's one thing for you to hear about hauntings — it's altogether another thing to be seated in the middle of one," says Daniels. "For things to actually happen that are just beyond understanding, it is quite an interesting evening."