I use acronyms that are easy to remember for actors, here is one of them
F.E.A.R. this is what makes a good haunted house actor.
Frightening -is pretty obvious, they are paying to be frightened while they are in your show, they want to be scared run three steps then laugh. thats when you are doing it right
Energetic - is all about pacing being able to deliver the same show at 1am that you delivered at 8pm. Energy is about being able pace your self and learning to operate on a level 7 energy level most of the night, that way when you need to you can turn up the dial, if your burn on level 9 then when you need to you do not have any more to give. Its treating your body right so you can maintain your work through the night and the season.
Awareness - This is the most important thing for a haunt actor. awareness is knowing where the groups are, and who is in them. its knowing that the gap between two people you see through your peephole is a 4 year old who is not tall enough to be seen, not a good space to jump out (thats how I kneed a 4 year old in the face). Its getting to your set before show and noting that there is a bulb out and notifying the manager so its fixed before show. Its knowing that light and sound levels were set the way they are for a reason and you should not change them without permission. Awareness in knowing that the actor behind you has an issue and needs you to stall the group and being able to do so without dropping or breaking character and in such a way that the stalled group never even notices it.
Reliable - almost self explanatory but you will never fully understand unless you are the owner and you are short four actor how important reliability is. Be ready to work (in costume and make up) 20 minutes before show opening. Reliability is being on set for every group except when you are on break, its also coming back from your break exactly on time. Its also making the most of the set you are needed in and not complaining about little things.
Im not the best typer in the world but that "pearl" is a biggie, I use it alot and the actors repeat it as a chant before show. Lots more in the DVD so nab it if you are able to. Keep in mind that acting is objective, I try to mold actors into actors that owners like as opposed to actors that are the scariest things ever, scary is important and I never forget that but showing up is more important cause if you miss nights or if you miss groups you did not scare those people at all.
My advice is from 10 years in year round haunts and from working in different seasonal haunts all over the country, I have done it long enough to see patterns that you do not catch onto until you have scared your first 500,000 people or so.
Exactly the kind of post i was looking for, thank you.
Of course i meant no scare classes. Safety and all that probably should be breached in a conversation by the owner at least once. To all cast members. Thats how it is in our haunt. Then we go home come back and make kiddes cry.
I agree that experience is the best training, but if you put someone who doesn't really know what they're doing out there and expect them to be scary, there will be some disapponted customers who will tell others "That one guy in the XXXX area was terrible" They'll tell their friends, who will tell their friends, etc.
I think that enthusiasm and the desire to learn is more important that actual book-training, but those people are the ones who listen to the more experienced actors and inevitably turn out to be the best actors.
Scarowinds hired nearly 400 actors last year, most of them first-years. Every one of them went to a two-hour basic training seminar where they learned how to pick their targets, what works, what doesn't, and a lot of common sense stuff. I was shocked that a LOT of them didn't know that groups of pre-teen girls often make the best targets. When they were put into their individual areas, they received more one-on-one instruction on how to utilize the room, what props were good for this or that, and stuff that wouldn't work in other areas of their mazes.
I trained two of the 11 mazes and scare zones in our haunt last year and both of them were voted among the top 3 "Best Scares" in the park. Hopefully this year I will be able to go through each maze and offer instruction to the new guys/girls. (I took Bob Turner's "Hauntertainer U." course in teh summer of 2008 and got a lot out of it. )
I don't claim to know it all and learn new things every night I'm out in the park, but I had lots of actors come up to me during the year and ask what they could do to improve their areas. I look forward to these folks training new actors over the next few seasons.
Just my .02 cents...