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Six Flags looks to scare up some talent

Aug. 15, 2014

By Carley Dangona and Katelyn Gendron

Editor’s note: Reporter Carley Dangona shared her first-person account of the makeup chair. Reporter Katelyn Gendron interviewed the members of the Fright Fest crew.

AGAWAM – A small army of the monsters serves as the workforce behind the Six Flags New England (SFNE) Fright Fest. From zombies to ghouls, aliens to mutants, employees tap into the depths of their creativity to ensure park guests are treated to a frightful good time.

SFNE recently hosted its first-ever Scare Fair to hire its cast and crew for this fall’s Fright Fest that will begin on Sept. 20. More than 200 applicants attended the event, which sought to hire 350 seasonal employees to take part in the more than 25 attractions of the Fright Fest. Many new surprises are in store this year’s Fright Fest.

Now, I could have done the traditional “preview” article that highlights the upcoming event, but that’s so, expected. I decided to undergo a “make under” if you will and experience the transformation first-hand. This is the first of three articles where I go behind-the-scenes to unveil the fun behind the scares of Fright Fest.

Upon entering the Scare Fair, I was greeted by a bevy of costumed characters who welcomed me into their ranks. In charge of my makeup was Alex Squiers who serves as a makeup captain.

My only request was that I not be made into a zombie since, well, been there, done that. Squiers chose a reptilian complexion, which he applied with an airbrush, a variety of stencils and contouring techniques that even Kim Kardashian hasn’t mastered.

Surprisingly, especially considering the level of detail of the make up, my new persona was complete in just under 15 minutes. I was instantly unrecognizable and my demeanor immediately changed to meet that of my alter ego.

Squiers knows his craft. At one point, another member of the media, also covering the event, walked past me without realizing I was a fellow reporter sitting in the chair.

The best part was the fact that it took only two minutes to remove the make up once I returned home. I’m seriously considering changing up the techniques of my daily make up routine to save time and product.

While in the chair, I asked Squiers how he became adept at transforming people into monsters. He said that while he gained most of his skills through practice. Those just starting out could find many videos online to hone their techniques.

“When makeup people [artists] chat with each other, they ask, ‘How many people have you killed?’ Squiers said with a laugh. “It’s about 90 to 120 people you ‘kill’ per night. I’m at about 2,000 ‘kills’ overall.”

Squiers, of Enfield, Conn., is a 13-year Fright Fest veteran, who specializes in the airbrush techniques necessary to “complete his kills.”

Squiers continued, “We like to use airbrush because it’s quick and clean as opposed to brushes and sponges, so we don’t have to wash everything after each actor, which would take a while,” he explained, noting that each makeup artists has just 15 minutes per actor. “You have to know color theory, facial features and structures. It’s the opposite of beauty makeup.”

According to Eric Boucher, production coordinator, it takes more than just makeup to put on Fright Fest. Each employee must complete a three-day training, which includes an eight-hour “Ghoul School.”

Boucher explained, “There’s more than just jumping out and yelling at someone. We go over timing and vocal technique and movement: a scarecrow moves differently than a toxic mutant.”

He was quick to note that while employees are trained to scare, they must also know when to terminate behavior that might traumatize.

“We give kids ‘ghoul repellant.’ It empowers the child to feel safe,” Boucher said, noting that there are many family-friendly Fright Fest options before 6 p.m., such as the Mayhem Mission Game Show, Daffy Duck’s Halloween Party and the Trick-or-Treat Trail.

“Around 6 p.m., that’s when Mayor Slayer calls forth the demons,” he added, noting that’s the time for teens and adults to play.

Milta Vargas, an 11-year Fright Fest actor from Springfield, echoed Gonzalez’s sentiments. When asked why she chooses to come back each year, Vargas replied, “To scare! [Also] the new people you meet and the friends you make. Six Flags provides and supports your creativity.”

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