the Project

Theatre Bizarre: A Documentary

For the last decade, a derelict neighborhood in Detroit has played host to an incomparable Halloween masquerade: Theatre Bizarre.  It is completely illegal.  No permits.  No insurance.  No boundaries.  It has consistently operated without incident or indictment… until 2010.

About Theatre Bizarre

On a series of connected lots in a residential neighborhood in Detroit stands a puzzle.  Complete with a Ferris wheel, a homemade roller coaster and a vintage carnival concession, it is (according to local zoning ordinances) an amusement park, but it only fully opens its gates on one night each year.  The rest of the year, it stands dormant, overlooking the (now abandoned) Michigan State Fairgrounds.  But, for that single October night every year, it transforms into The Greatest Masquerade on Earth.

Armed with more than 150 performers, 40 flame throwers, a half-dozen stages, and a haunted house, Theatre Bizarre must be experienced to be believed.  Its Dustbowl-era carnival setting is so authentic that it’s difficult to believe that every element is newly constructed by an army of unpaid volunteers who work around the clock for months at a time to prepare for that single, transcendental night.  On that fabled night, those lucky enough to be in attendance have each been a part of a singular performance that is entirely transformative.

In 2010, Theatre Bizarre became a victim of its own fame.  As its Facebook fan count exploded to over 10,000 nearly overnight, it became impossible for Detroit to ignore the now-legendary event.  City officials descended on the grounds and closed them down, but they failed to kill Theatre Bizarre.

About the Documentary

With the cooperation of Theatre Bizarre’s sole artistic voice, John Dunivant, we have been granted access to hundreds of hours of historic video, covering both the show itself and the people who dedicate their lives to its performance.  Combined with thousands of still images and hundreds of hours shot by our own film crew throughout the ill-fated 2010 season, we have the raw materials to allow a never-before-seen glimpse into the now infamous underground celebration.

The real story of Theatre Bizarre remains as yet untold.  We intend to change that.

Comments are closed.