FAIRFIELD — Portraying a zombie doesn’t come naturally.
“You have to find an animalistic physicality,” said Fright Fest performer Mikkel Simons, who plays a walking ghoul at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom.
“You’re not playing a human character, so you have to think about what they would do if they were real, and what would freak people out . . . because your job is to scare them,” said the Vacaville resident.
Simons, 23, landed her first zombie role at Six Flags this summer and trained through September for this month’s festivities. To audition, actors had to perform two songs with Halloween themes and learn a few dance moves before they were cast as either a walk-around ghoul or performer.
Vallejo resident Kayla Santos was tapped to sing and dance at Six Flags’ Skull Manor Haunted House. To warm up for her performances, the 19-year-old takes a few minutes to focus on her role.
“I kind of get this mean and dark quality, so I’m looking like a zombie and a more demented character . . . because I’m not usually like that,” she said.
Visitors to the Vallejo theme park this year will find a variety of spooky zones and “Monstertainment.” Performances such as “The Awakening” and “Cirkus Berzerkus” contain storylines with murderous clowns and a frightening physician. Some ”Fearful Frights” include a pig slaughterhouse and shipwreck, as well as an abandoned gold mine.
If you go
Where: Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, 1001 Fairgrounds Drive, Vallejo
Hours: Friday, 4 to 10 p.m.; Saturday, noon to midnight; Sunday, noon to 9 p.m.
Cost: Admission fees for adults and children under 48 inches tall; children under 2 years old are free. Fright Fest admission fee does not include haunted houses. Call for details.
Actors roaming the park face the challenge of spooking a mix of adults and children.
“You really have to gauge what the guests are doing and what their vibe is, and that does kind of dictate how you move and talk . . . what you do as a performer,” Simons said.
“It’s a good exercise on how to maintain your character,” she said.
Both Simons and Santos broke into the local acting scene at different times with Solano Youth Theatre and have earned an array of Arty Award accolades.
Simons was nominated this year for her leading role in Solano Repertory Theatre Company’s adult comedy ”Almost Maine” and for her supporting role in the drama “A Christmas Carol.” She was nominated in 2012 for best supporting actress in Benicia Old Town Theatre Group’s “Distracted” and also played Curley’s wife in Solano College Theatre’s “Of Mice and Men.” The Will C. Wood High School graduate is working toward her bachelor of arts degree in drama from San Francisco State University.
Santos, who works at Redwood Veterinary Hospital in Vallejo, won an Arty Award in 2012 for her lead role in Benicia High School’s production of “Twelfth Night.” In 2011, she was nominated for playing Belle in “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast,” another Benicia High production.
Santos also has three year’s experience working with Six Flags, performing in Holiday in the Park and Cirque Dreams Splashtastic. She said she enjoyed last year’s Fright Fest and decided to audition again.
“It was very exciting . . . with the audience and everyone involved,” she said. “It makes my family proud.”
The Fright Fest gig gave Santos some fresh experience when another performer’s absence required her to take charge.
“We’ve had one singer have a conflict, so we had to take her roles, take her lines and disperse them between us singers,” Santos said.
“It was a nice way to teach me to take a step back and see what fits best rather than what I want as a performer . . . to see the show as a director,” she said.
Entertainment supervisor Phillip Graham said the quality of the Halloween shows at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom is getting better every year.
“Our zombies are amazing,” said Graham, who has worked at the park for eight years.
“I’ve seen Fright Fest grow – going from two haunted houses and one zombie zone to up to 13 this year,” Graham said. “. . . It’s a spectacular experience for anyone.”
Fright Fest performances run weekends through Oct. 27.
Reach Adrienne Harris at 427-6956 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/aharrisdr.