Something wicked this way comes, and the spooky spectacle is making its way to the Hardback Cafe just in time for Halloween.
“Devil’s Night Dreams,” a horror-inspired burlesque and drag show, is coming to Gainesville. The show will be produced by Purple Nightshade Productions, a three-year-old Gainesville production company “committed to quality horror-based sexy entertainment across Florida stages,” according to the company’s website. “Devil’s Night Dreams” is the fourth show of Purple Nightshade’s 2020 season, following performances in February, May and August, but the first at a Gainesville venue.
The production will be held at 920 NW Second St. on Oct. 30 at 9 p.m. It will offer seating for up to 20 people and a livestream option to watch from home. Tickets are $12 and $15 for each option, respectively.
The show will include performances from a cast of drag and burlesque artists, as well as a homemade mask contest with a cash prize of $50.
For those attending the live show, seating will be available on the Hardback’s viewing patio, separate from the inside stage. Masks and temperature checks will be required upon entry and attendees will be able to order drinks without having to enter the venue.
“The venue has worked really hard to make sure that everybody is following COVID guidelines and making sure that everyone is as safe as possible,” said Della-Kate Flower, the show’s producer.
Flower is the head of Purple Nightshade. The “Devil’s Night Dreams” show is one of several that Flower has produced over the past three years.
Purple Nightshade was founded in 2017 by Flower and her partner, Freddy Vulgar, after a successful test run of the creepy concept in Gainesville’s Acrosstown Repertory Theatre.
“That show was three seats away from selling out — in August — in a theater with no air conditioning,” Flower said. “People were spilling blood, people were slitting throats, it was insane.”
Following the favorable outcome, Flower realized horror is a genre with an eager and enthusiastic audience. Purple Nightshade has been steadily producing shows throughout Florida and southeastern Georgia ever since.
“Devil’s Night Dreams” is continuing with Purple Nightshade’s horror concept, with a cast of performers who regularly incorporate elements like fake blood or grotesque makeup into their shows and are known for their affinity toward the unconventional and unsettling.
Kathryn Giardino, a 28-year-old drag queen and regular performer at Gainesville’s University Club, shines in these types of shows. Mangled, misshapen, covered in blood and even feasting on pretend body parts, Giardino, who performs under the drag name J’Adore LaGore, said doubling down on the horror feels like home.
“I feel so accepted and so welcomed,” Giardino said of the shows she’s done with Flower and Purple Nightshade.
Productions like “Devil’s Night Dreams” take a more alternative approach than other local performances. Giardino said Flower’s support of the weirder side of drag and burlesque has allowed her to test her creative limits.
And for Purple Nightshade regulars, the weirder, the better.
“They were like, ‘You were great!’” Giardino said. “Like, ‘I was a serial killer, but OK cool, thanks.’”
It’s the off-kilter choices that draw a crowd, Giardino said. The grime and gore isn’t for everyone, she said, but those that do enjoy it are among the most engaged and excited audience members.
Devorah Ooze, a 21-year-old drag queen and performer in “Devil’s Night Dreams,” has experienced similar enthusiasm from this crowd. She and Giardino are members of The Boheme Coven, a group of Gainesville performers with a gothic flair.
“People come to us and they’re like, ‘Oh yes, we live for that Halloween fantasy,’ but we do this all the time,” Ooze said.
The “Devil’s Night Dreams” show is following the format conceived by many live entertainment companies as a response to the challenges presented by COVID-19. The adjustments include limited capacity in the venue and a virtual option.
These precautions are part of the new normal the live entertainment industry has had to adapt to over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Art by its very nature is evolutionary and revolutionary.” Flower said. “We’ve got to be flexible if we’re gonna survive.”
Flower has seen performers take advantage of the format in the virtual shows she’s produced over the past few months. The pre recorded “In The Zone” show Flower produced in August gave performers room to be creative in their videos, she said.
“When they figured out they had the freedom to do that, the videos I got were so high-quality and so interesting to watch,” she said.
The video for “Devil’s Night Dreams” will be produced by Edith Meowt, a 30-year-old Gainesville resident who doubles as a video producer and a burlesque performer. For the show, she will be taking on both roles.
Meowt will stream from the venue with a two-camera setup. One to live stream and one featuring Vita Devoid, host of the show and drag performer.
“It sounds like a very complicated spiderweb, almost, but it all comes together,” Meowt said.
While the platform is creatively rewarding, Flower said producing a virtual show takes twice the energy of performing a live show. When the cheers of a crowd are out of earshot, the energy diminishes, and the shift in the performance atmosphere is palpable.
The art form has persevered, though, and its survival is largely due to the support within the community, the performers said. Flower, Giardino, Ooze and Meowt all said Gainesville’s performing arts scene represents a tight-knit group, one that has relied on each other for stability in the turbulence of the past few months.
“The immediacy of care and comfort from all sides – burlesque, drag, everybody – was incredible to watch, even if we couldn’t touch each other,” Flower said.
For many in the community, Flower herself served as this source of comfort, offering work opportunities in her productions or even just a listening ear.
“Della-Kate always takes care of me,” Giardino said.
Amid all of the changes and the challenges, the spirit of spook remains. With “Devil’s Night Dreams,” Flower and her cast of performers are ready to deliver what they hope is an unforgettable night of thrills and chills.
“If you’ve been wondering if Halloween is canceled, come to my show because it’s so not,” she said.
“Devil’s Night Dreams” premiers Oct. 30 at 9 p.m. at the Hardback Cafe. Tickets ($12 for in-person, $15 for virtual) available at www.purplenightshadeproductions.com.