Thrillpeddlers presented the first Shocktoberfest in 1999 at The Exit Theatre with the intention of presenting an annual festival of Grand Guignol horror theatre and sex farces during the Halloween season. After several years of performances at The Exit, The Odeon, and the SF Performing Arts Library and Museum, Thrillpeddlers found a permanent home at the Hypnodrome in SF’s SOMA district. Outfitted with a guillotine, thunder sheet, strobe lights, and even secret doors, The Hyonodrome is a purpose-built horror theatre.
Shocktoberfest has been running now for 16 years and is responsible for having revived more plays from the infamous Le Theatre du Grand Guignol than any other producing entity. And most of these scripts were presented here for the first time ever in English adaptations.
Dubbed “Thrillpeddlers Pageant of Terror and Titillation,” Shocktoberfest has always looked to meld classic Grand Guignol one-act plays with revivals of other bloodcurdling and erotic entertainments as well as premiers of new works devised by Thrillpeddlers resident playwrights. As with the traditional Grand Guignol bill of dramas and comedies, one-acts and short sketches, the combination of fare on the Shocktoberfest bill gives the audience a “Scottish Shower” dousing them with a variety of “cold” terror plays and “hot” comedies.
The company’s approach to the material is not to slavishly recreate the Grand Guignol experience, but rather to interpret and enlarge this French theatrical genre and its allied American cousin the spookshow, burlesque, and horror cinema-style theatrics for contemporary audiences. This material is a chance for actors to reclaim elements of antique acting styles and stagecraft that make these plays irresistible to Thrillpeddlers and their loyal audiences.