Started in 1991 as a 3-night party called “Fright Nights,” Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights has expanded into a 28-night spectacular featuring 7 or 8 haunted houses, multiple street scare zones and at least 2 live stage shows. The entire event changes completely each year with new themes, new technology and new ways to scare. Universal hires hundreds of people each year as “scareactors,” the insider term for all the performers in the haunted houses and street scare zones.
Both my father and I have been fortunate enough to be selected as scareactors at different times. We have theater experience, but it is by no means a requirement. What is required is a fierce passion and dedication to the role, even in the face of often-challenging circumstances. If you are at least 18 years old and think you have what it takes to make guests scream for 28 nights, here are some insider tips for getting the job.
1. Audition early
Universal typically hires scareactors during the month of July, with continuing auditions held as needed until, and sometimes during, the event. However, they do not hold back roles. Instead, actors are hired on the spot at each audition, although they are not told exactly where they will be placed until shortly before rehearsals begin. Therefore, those who attend the earliest auditions generally have the best shot. To make sure you are in the loop, sign up for notifications at the Halloween Horror Nights audition site.
2. Dress to move
Although scareactor auditions are not as physically demanding as stunt or stilt walker auditions, you will be expected to move around quite a bit. Closed-toe shoes, comfortable pants or shorts, and a T-shirt or tank top are ideal. If you must come straight from work in professional clothing, plan to change at the audition if possible, or at least bring a pair of comfortable shoes. You might end up crawling on the floor, so wear something that can get dirty. Do not show up in costume, unless you are at the separate auditions for “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure.” The audition committee wants to see who you are and what your abilities are, not your impression of what a Halloween Horror Nights creature looks like.
3. Bring all requested materials
If you have a headshot and an acting resume, bring at least one copy. Photographers are on hand to take photos, but a professional headshot and resume can make the audition team sit up and take notice. In addition, scareactors are hired on the spot. Bring your driver’s license, unlaminated social security card and any other employment documentation. For example, non-U.S. citizens need to show a work visa. Pens are generally available, but are sometimes in short supply. Bring a pen for yourself, or better yet, bring a few to share with your new friends.
4. Plan to wait
If you have never been to an open call audition, you might be surprised to learn how long it can take. You will stand in a long line to check in, fill out some forms, and then sit and wait to be called. Universal Orlando has the audition process down to a science, but a good audition team takes auditioners in small groups and gives each group the time necessary to fairly assess each person’s abilities. That process cannot be rushed. Bring a book, a tablet, your homework or whatever will occupy your time.
What you should never, ever bring is someone who is not auditioning. Even the best-behaved children are stretched to their limits by the endless waiting, and more rambunctious ones can put themselves and others at risk in a crowded room. Best friends, spouses and parents take up valuable seating space and can be distracting. Find a babysitter, leave your loved ones at home, and take only yourself to your audition. Of course, if you and a friend or loved one are both auditioning, there is nothing wrong with attending together. Just be aware that you might be split into separate audition groups.