The sounds of a shakuhachi echo down the soft alleyway, pulling me along. In white robes, dirtied by black soot, three Komusō wait with straw baskets worn upon their head. They are absent of any distinguishing marks, triplets hidden by the passage of time. Japanese ghosts left to haunt this alley, and follow people like me home. I pass the first, and he does not register me. Silent and still, a guardian of old. The second is similar. But the third—I pass him—and he turns, lunging at me, with a sound far more frightening than a shakuhachi. This Alley is Haunted was a one day pop-up haunt to launch the Kaidan Project: Alone phone app.
To celebrate the release of their Kaidan Project: Alone app, Rogue Artists Ensemble and East West Players present a one-day only free walk through haunt entitled This Alley is Haunted at the East West Players physical home, The Union Center for the Arts in Little Tokyo. Weaving together narrative threads from Kaidan Project: Walls Grow Thin, this haunted experience utilizes live actors, gorgeous sets, and larger-than-life puppetry. While the experience only lasts ten or so minutes, it is bound to make an impression and leave you wanting more—and luckily, there’s an app for that.
In an effort to amplify AAPI creative works across disciplines and genres and support diverse narratives, the app, Kaidan Alone and This Alley is Haunted both weave Japanese folklore together with themes that resonate within all of us. Specifically, This Alley is Haunted begins by reintroducing us to Kana Mori, who went missing during the events of Kaidan Project: Walls Grow Thin. She is seemingly still stuck, trapped in a world of folklore and spirits. And as you progress deeper down the alley, you too will interact and engage with the Japanese spirits that have come forth from the shadows to entertain and haunt you.
While the layering of guilt and karmic trauma is not as fully developed in this short experience, what is apparent is the gorgeous set-dressing, costuming, and attention to detail that Rogue Artists Ensemble is known for. The folklore ghosts are as beautiful as they are authentic. From the Komusō, who lie in wait for travelers; to a masked warrior staring at us through a mirror, questing his identity and ours; to a guardian of Kitsune waiting in a gorgeous room filled with strobing lanterns. Each area felt cohesive, memorable, and a thread of a much larger mosaic.
Of course, no Rogue Artists Ensemble experience would be complete without puppetry, and This Alley is Haunted delivers in this regard. From the start, a massive two-piece Oni tells you riddles and jokes (dad jokes at that) before laughing and warning us we’re in trouble. And this promise is rewarded by the end as a massive Kitsune demon looks down upon us with her long, crooked neck from a fire escape above us. It’s both gorgeous as it is imposing.
While the event only ran until 5pm, I could only imagine how this experience would have changed from the warm afternoon sun to the darkness of night. The friendly jokes of the Oni may have darkened, and the long, crooked neck of Kitsune may have looked far different if it peered across a veil of darkness, bathed in neon light.
I will never stop attending anything Rogue Artists Ensemble produces—and especially anything Kaidan Project related. Their use of puppetry, of storytelling, and of directing you through another world is masterful, and if any ghosts are to follow me home, I hope it is one of theirs. Just know, that not only is this alley haunted, but This Article is Haunted. Haunting is Haunted.
For more information about the Rogue Artists Ensemble, check out their website, Facebook and Instagram pages. For more information about East West Players, check out their website, Facebook and Instagram pages. To find other events similar to this one, check out our Event Catalog.
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Rogue Artists Ensemble presented This Alley is Haunted a one day pop-up to launch their Kaidan Project: Alone phone app.