Arts & Culture

Check out 10 of Tacoma’s spookiest arts events this Halloween

A tapete, or sand painting, created by Fulgencio Lazo at Tacoma Art Museum for its Dia de los Muertos community festival several years ago. It’s returning this year.
A tapete, or sand painting, created by Fulgencio Lazo at Tacoma Art Museum for its Dia de los Muertos community festival several years ago. It’s returning this year. Courtesy

Looking for a Halloween date that goes beyond fright night? Arts groups around Tacoma get into the spirit of the season this year with theater, dance, music and art that’ll give you shivers in a highly cultural way. From “Dracula” to Dia de los Muertos, here are 10 events to — er — die for. And you just might experience a theater ghost to boot.

‘Dracula’ at Tacoma Little Theatre

In this stage adaptation by Steven Dietz, Bram Stoker’s famous vampire stalks London, exerting his will with a theatrical flair on unwitting residents who must fight to stay alive. Directed by Pug Bujead, with Joseph Grant as Van Helsing, Michael Christopher as Dracula, Jesse Morrow as Mina and Brynn Garrett as Lucy. Expect blood, drama and very long teeth.

And is Tacoma Little Theatre haunted? Absolutely, says director Chris Serface. The house manager and at least one actor have heard conversations onstage and in dressing rooms, only to find no one there.

“Theaters traditionally have that magnetism around that kind of thing,” Serface says. “There’s lots of emotion.”

7:30 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays through Nov. 6 (Pay what you can 7:30 p.m. Nov. 3). $24 general; $22 senior, student and military; $20 ages 12 and younger. Tacoma Little Theatre, 210 N. I St., Tacoma. 253-272-2281,

‘Haunted Theater’ ballet

Every year, Tacoma City Ballet teachers and students transform the ballroom and studios into a spooky “Haunted Theater,” offering backstage tours (not too frightening for little ballet-lovers) and a family-friendly dance performance replete with pirouetting pumpkins, gliding ghosts and sashaying skeletons.

This year, it’s even better after the ballroom’s remodel, with new lighting, black drapery, a real curtain and audience risers. Don’t forget to dress up — every performance has a costume prize.

And look out for the ghostly lady in the balcony who isn’t actually a dancer.

“The Merlino Building is definitely haunted,” says director Erin Ceragioli. “It’s built on land that used to be a home for unwed mothers. Once, years ago, we were sitting in the ballroom and looked up and saw a girl wearing a Gibson hat carrying a baby, a shadowy figure. And you hear creaking noises walking across the ballroom floor even when nobody’s there.”

7 p.m. Friday (Oct. 28); 1 and 3 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. $10. Tacoma City Ballet, Merlino Building, 508 Sixth Ave., Tacoma. 253-272-4219,,

‘La Bohème’ at Tacoma Opera

Dying of tuberculosis in a freezing garret? Sounds scary enough to us. Puccini’s “La Bohème” is a classic for a good reason: sweeping melodies, romantic harmonies, a Paris setting and a cast of believable bohemian characters from the intense Rodolfo to the fiery Marcello, flirty Musetta to tragic Mimi. Tacoma Opera’s production is directed by Linda Kitchen and sung in Italian with English subtitles.

The Pantages Theater’s ghosts are well-documented. But while the Rialto isn’t haunted, to director Noel Koran’s best knowledge, backstage is definitely creepy.

“It’s dark, with all these cubbyholes with doors that you have no idea where they lead to,” he says.

7:30 p.m. Saturday and Nov. 4; 2 p.m. Nov. 6. $25-$85. Rialto Theater, 310 S. Ninth St., Tacoma. 253-591-5894,,

‘Haunted Tacoma’ storytelling

Is Tacoma haunted? Well, the Wheelock library is, says media relations manager David Domkoski.

“Custodians have seen things, heard noises that shouldn’t be there,” says Domkoski, who spent a few hours in there with a ghost hunter without turning anything up.

Plenty of other Tacoma locations are haunted, says Teresa Nordheim, co-author of “Tacoma’s Haunted History,” one of the photo-history books in the Arcadia Publishing series. Join Nordheim at the Tacoma Public Library’s Wheelock branch for an afternoon of local ghost stories.

1 p.m. Saturday. Free. Tacoma Public Library, Wheelock branch, 3722 N. 26th St., Tacoma. 253-617-7811,

‘Tales of Terror’ at main library

For something a little scarier, head to the Tacoma library’s main branch, where supernatural tales come with a tour of the “dark and forbidding” library basement, a screening of Steven Spielberg’s “Poltergeist” and refreshments. Recommended for teens, registration required.

1-5 p.m. Saturday. Free. Tacoma Public Library main branch, 1102 Tacoma Ave. S., Tacoma. 253-292-2001, Ext. 1791, or

Art Cauldron at UWT

There’s actually nothing spooky about this beyond the title, but the University of Washington Tacoma’s School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences is organizing two community art events that might be more your Halloween cup of tea than a haunted zombie pumpkin maze. Called an “art cauldron,” the get-togethers explore how art and community relate. Friday night is a slide jam of local artists. Saturday includes workshops on eco-art, mask-making and 3-D drawing (all day), eco-poetry (10 a.m.-noon), performance and dance (12:30-2 p.m.), and improvisation (3-5 p.m.). No experience required.

7-9 p.m. Friday Art Slide Slam; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday workshops on eco-art and cultural identity. Free. Whitney Art Building, 1901 S. Fawcett Ave., Tacoma.

‘Twelfth Night’ at UPS

Shakespeare’s comedy of masks and identity switches is perfect for Halloween weekend. “Twelfth Night” is the story of aristrocratic twins Viola and Sebastian, who are separated after a shipwreck. Alone in a strange place, Viola disguises herself as a man, which results in a complicated love triangle with the Duke Orsino and the disdainful Olivia. Norton Clapp Theatre is one of Washington’s most haunted places, says director Geoff Proehl. The ghost apparently moves scenery, turns lights on and off, slams doors and rattles paint cans, as well as rescuing one student from a fall off the catwalk.

7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, Thursday-Nov. 5; 2 p.m. Nov. 5. $17/$11. Norton Clapp Theatre, Jones Hall, University of Puget Sound, 1500 N. Warner St., Tacoma. 253-879-3100,

Halloween ball in the Harbor

Grown-up ghouls and goblins, this one’s for you. The Harbor History Museum in Gig Harbor is throwing its first Halloween ball, “Night at the Museum,” a 21-and-over event. Music, dancing, Halloween-themed rooms and regular museum exhibits come with a costume contest, door prizes, scary stories and plenty to eat and drink.

7-10 p.m. Saturday. $75 presale; $85 at door, includes appetizers, two drinks and museum entrance. Harbor History Museum, 253-858-6722,

‘Sister’s Back to School Catechism’

If you haven’t seen Sister (veteran actor Kathleen Cogan) dishing out her particular brand of punishment — er, instruction — then you’re in for a Halloween treat at “Sister’s Back to School Catechism: The Holy Ghost and other Terrifying Tales.” Armed with wimple and ruler, Sister leads a one-woman comedy spoof of everything you’ve always thought about Catholicism but were afraid to laugh at. In this case, the church’s take on ghosts and goblins. There’s plenty of audience participation, with Catholics loving it more than anyone.

3 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday; 3 p.m. Sunday. $19-$44. Theatre on the Square, 915 Broadway, Tacoma. 253-591-5894,

Dia de los Muertos at TAM

OK, this event is technically way after Halloween. But since Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is the traditional Mexican celebration of All Souls’ Day (Nov. 1), the day of which Halloween is the eve (All Hallows E’en), it gets included in this list. Actually, Dia des los Muertos is more about love and memories than scariness, despite the skeletons and skulls. Celebrate the culture at Tacoma Art Museum’s annual free community event with an altar-making workshop for youths (11 a.m., first 75 guests only) with artist Ruben Castillo, dance by CeAtl Tonalli Aztec Dance (noon), mariachi (1-2 p.m.) and ongoing art activities including metal folk art, paper flower-making and face-painting.

Don’t miss the 30 community altars on the mezzanine level, the tapete (sand painting) on the lobby floor and illuminated fantastical creatures by Ruben Castillo.

And don’t stay past closing time. Security guards who’ve had to stay overnight in the museum have reported weird noises, “as if someone else is in the building,” says staff member Christie Chang.

10 a.m.-4 p.m. Nov. 6. Free. Tacoma Art Museum, 1701 Pacific Ave., Tacoma. 253-272-4258,

Rosemary Ponnekanti: 253-597-8568, @rose_ponnekanti