A masquerade ball with actors will put the audience inside the play at 'The Red Death.' )
“The ‘Red Death’ had long devastated the country. No pestilence had ever been so fatal, or so hideous.”
So begins Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Mask of the Red Death,” the 1842 story of Prince Prospero, the despot who carried on a masquerade ball with thousands of his moneyed friends within his “castellated abbeys” while others died without.
“Mask,” a timely story for fans of Halloween or the macabre in general, has been retold a number of times on film — first, as a silent 1911 short movie, but most memorably in 1964 with the legendary Vincent Price as Prospero in “The Masque of the Red Death.”
It’s a story single-named producer Mikal plans to bring to life with “The Masquerade of the Red Death,” Saturday at the Crofoot Ballroom in Pontiac.
With his birthday just three days after Halloween, Mikal traditionally has held Halloween-related birthday parties; this year, though, he decided on something bigger: a 19th century masquerade ball staffed with actors that puts guests in the middle of the well-told story.
“I am a big fan of Vincent Price and Edgar Allan Poe,” says the event producer. “I started thinking about them and the one thing that popped into my head was the movie ‘The Mask of the Red Death’ because it takes place at a masquerade ball.”
Guests at Mikal’s event will find a scene from the book/movie being acted out in one room, while a different scene is going on in another, he explains. There are seven rooms in all.
“It’s kind of like they’re surrounded by the story instead of just standing there watching it,” he says.
In addition to the play-within-the-party, “Masquerade of the Red Death” will include a multitude of performers like those one might encounter during the middle ages.
“I tried to get as many different types entertainment of as possible,” says Mikal, “as many things that you might see at a masquerade ball set in an older time period.”
In addition to performers who entertain with fire, there will be psychics, tarot and palm readers, magicians, hypnotists, aerialists, burlesque dancers, circus-style performers and a 30-piece orchestra. All hosted, of course, by Prince Prospero.
Guests attending Saturday’s ball must wear masquerade-appropriate attire — no modern monster costumes will be allowed.
“And do not wear red. Not even for the jest of it,” Mikal says, borrowing a line from Vincent Price’s Prospero. “It would be in poor taste,” he adds, “like they’re mocking the situation.”
'The Masquerade of the Red Death'
7 p.m. Saturday
1 South Saginaw St., Pontiac
Tickets: $18 or $23 VIP for a private entrance; $65 deluxe VIP for one or $100 for two includes private entrance, valet parking, VIP area with a private bar, server, hors d’oeuvres and a glass of absinthe. 18 and older only; must wear masquerade attire, no modern monster costumes. See website for costume ideas. (248) 270-7331 masqueradeofthereddeath.com
Andrea Daniel is a freelance writer