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In and out of the monster factory

Dark Harbor performers explain make-up process, training involved with annual event.

Denny Cristales & Sebastian Echeverry, Managing Editor & Production Manager

Pictured%2C+from+left%3A+Hunter+Leyvas%2C+a+second-year+performer+at+the+Queen+Mary%E2%80%99s+Dark+Harbor+event%2C+and+Nicholas+Guerrero%2C+a+third-year+performer.+Leyvas+and+Guerrero%2C+decked+out+in+their+make-up+for+their+characters+at+the+event+Sept.+28%2C+said+they+are+expert+sliders%2C+often+using+this+technique+to+scare+attendees+at+Dark+Harbor.+
Pictured, from left: Hunter Leyvas, a second-year performer at the Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor event, and Nicholas Guerrero, a third-year performer. Leyvas and Guerrero, decked out in their make-up for their characters at the event Sept. 28, said they are expert sliders, often using this technique to scare attendees at Dark Harbor.

Pictured, from left: Hunter Leyvas, a second-year performer at the Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor event, and Nicholas Guerrero, a third-year performer. Leyvas and Guerrero, decked out in their make-up for their characters at the event Sept. 28, said they are expert sliders, often using this technique to scare attendees at Dark Harbor.

Sebastian Echeverry | Signal Tribune

Sebastian Echeverry | Signal Tribune

Pictured, from left: Hunter Leyvas, a second-year performer at the Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor event, and Nicholas Guerrero, a third-year performer. Leyvas and Guerrero, decked out in their make-up for their characters at the event Sept. 28, said they are expert sliders, often using this technique to scare attendees at Dark Harbor.

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Folks have witnessed first-hand the looming creatures of the night that roam the outskirts of the Queen Mary during its Dark Harbor event every Halloween season, but few are familiar with how the cast of characters are brought to life behind the scenes.

Dark Harbor performers gathered inside a specific room aboard the Queen Mary Sept. 28, as make-up artists applied every intricate detail of color and design to turn mild-mannered individuals into full-fledged horrors.

Groups of performers moved in and out of the monster factory and sat in separate make-up stations for what could be a 20-minute-plus process, a fluid preparation time that could change in accordance to the type of monster.

Hunter Leyvas and Nicholas Guerrero work in tandem during the annual event. Both experts in sliding techniques and stunts, Leyvas and Guerrero’s in-character gimmicks are that of crazy twins.

“We run around together, and we’re pretty much the same person, but just little things are off,” Leyvas, who is performing for a second year at Dark Harbor, told the Signal Tribune. “We run around together, and people see me and then, two seconds later, people see him. They’re like, ‘Wait, didn’t we just see you?’”
Guerrero described the act as a pair of schizophrenic, psycho clowns who delight in terrorizing attendees. A running trope for the two are the use of trigger words.

“Before the start of the night, we’ll come up with a random word that we’ll say to one another,” Guerrero, a third-year performer, said. “I’ll lure somebody in, and I’ll tell them to say the word to [Leyvas] to win a prize or something. So, they go and say the word to her, and she’ll flip out. Then, I’ll go back in and say, ‘Why did you say that to her? You just said her trigger word.’ And we just go off.”

Leyvas said the words are random and vary every night.

Photo by Denny Cristales | Signal Tribune
An artist applies make-up to performer Sarah Sheppeck Sept. 28 inside the Queen Mary for the ship’s annual Halloween event, the Dark Harbor.

“It can be like papaya one night. It can be pizza another night,” she said. “[…] We just joke around like that. We’re big jokesters.”

Leyvas and Guerrero both said they enjoy being a part of the event, attributing the fun to the Queen Mary’s infamous reputation of being haunted. She said the haunt factor adds an “extra presence there, so it gives you more of a spooky feelingness to it.”

Leyvas said the duo have been training with fellow sliders for eight months to put the show together. The practice consists of organizing proper sliding technique and ensuring performers won’t crash into guests during their movements.

Guerrero explained that his sliding team adds about five new people every year. The new additions to the roster vary in skill level, which can lead to more time investing in basic drills until more advanced techniques can be learned and refined.

Photo by Denny Cristales | Signal Tribune
Before entertaining guests at the entrance of the Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor Sept. 28, performer Brad Hills must don his make-up and outfit to complete his portrayal of the historic ship’s undead character, The Captain.

“I look forward to this day every year,” Guerrero said. “My life literally becomes, ‘Eat. Sleep. Haunt.’ Sliding is one of my main things, and I love it. It’s what I’m very passionate about. You can see it in our stunt show how passionate our guys are, especially the rookies this year. They’re killing it, and they’re kind of just pushing it that far to make me want to do better and aspire to do better tricks.”

For more information about the Dark Harbor, which runs from Sept. 27 to Nov. 2, visit queenmary.com.

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