On October 25th, the Marblehead Arts Association (MAA) will be hosting its second annual Marblehead Arts Masquerade Party. Back by popular demand, this fall fundraiser’s proceeds will go towards sustaining the association’s many programs and community education efforts that benefit the town of Marblehead. As one can assume, an event of this magnitude takes months of preparation. In the two days before the event, the house is completely revamped into a spooky mansion complete with themed rooms filled with incredibly extensive décor.
One major proponent for making this event come alive is Board member, Tom Saltsman. Saltsman is a builder and architect who was originally introduced to Deborah Greel, then Executive Director of the MAA, by Dawn Levigne. Levigne knew Saltsman through his involvement in the Coffin & Gerry School’s haunted houses that he directed from 2003 to 2009. When Saltsman first met Greel, the MAA was performing a sequence of stories in each of the mansion’s rooms for Halloween; he was enlisted to help add to the atmosphere due to his experience. Saltsman initially attended college to study theatre arts, which included learning lighting, sound, set design and costume design, and later changed to architecture. His qualifications have proven to be an invaluable asset to the MAA in general, and especially in staging the Masquerade Party.
Saltsman’s creative vision for the King Hooper Mansion’s transformation would not be possible without the help of Board members Robin Taliesin and Emily Cantor, as well as the association’s new Executive Director, Kristine Fisher. The Sullivan family, MAA volunteers and student volunteers from the Marblehead High School also play a vital role in converting the celebrated mansion and staffing the party. This year, Saltsman plans to up the ante by adding video effects that will play on the walls. Many of the previous year’s props and décor will be back, along with a favorite – the Zoltar booth, but Saltsman has a handful of fresh ideas he plans on showcasing to make the second year of this event even more frighteningly engaging.
When walking through the mansion on the 25th make sure to take note of how the rooms’ themes flow together despite their isolation from each other. With the story telling event in past years, it was vital to time the way groups of visitors were directed so none overlapped, making it feel like the house was empty. However, with the switch to the Masquerade Party, the mansion is not just a haunted house – it is a full out party. Saltsman commented on this change stating, “With the general party atmosphere that we have now we don’t need the challenges of sequence, and the party embraces the isolated moments of the house.”
Although the house’s layout can present some difficulties when staging, its history and unique rooms help inspire the team as they bounce ideas back and forth. Saltsman’s approach is to “…try to take clues from the rooms and simply enhance them,” for instance, the basement has been used for the pirates because the dim lighting and wood paneling of the tavern make the perfect setting. On the opposite end of the spectrum, due to its large scale, the ballroom tends to be a decorating challenge. Saltsman overcomes this hurdle by using lighting, sound and minimal set pieces to create the ultimate transformation.
With Saltsman’s expertise and the help of a great team and group of volunteers, the Masquerade Party is sure to impress any partygoer. The fundraiser includes not only “wicked” fun entertainment but also a door prize, best costume and best mask prizes, music and dancing, delicious savory delicacies and a cash wine & beer bar with a spooky specialty drink. Be sure to be there for a great time, and know you are supporting the arts in Marblehead meanwhile.