BWW Interview: Cynthia Rintye Talks Life as a Town Madam and More in Lawrenceville Ghost Tours
It's that time of year again. And thanks to the storytellers from the Aurora Theatre, that time of year means a variety of spooky experiences for the city of Lawrenceville.
Appearing for her millionth (approximate) season, Cynthia Rintye is bursting with excitement to don her historical personas once again and experience the unique art form that is storytelling. Check out our conversation with her in which she details what makes these ghost tours an intimate, thrilling experience for audiences and performers alike!
You have been doing this storytelling gig for a long time, so can you tell me what draws you to it year after year?
I really like the platform of storytelling, because when you're doing a regular show, people usually sit back passively in their chairs. And when I did the Renaissance Festival which is a lot of audience interaction just coming up to strangers on site, people's initial response would be to pull back just a little bit. But then the very first night I had a storytelling tour in Lawrenceville, I noticed this one woman on my tour kind of tipped her head forward, slackened her jaw, and leaned in to my story. It's that spellbinding power that storytelling has where you really paint a picture inside their mind. So I really was drawn to it as a form of artistic expression.
One of the things that we added this year was the Lawrenceville Ghost tour presented in Spanish. It's been something that I've wanted to do for years, but we needed to find the right guide because we needed a bilingual guide so that I as the director could train them, but then they could do the tour in Spanish. So last year we had a guide train for the regular ghost tour who was bilingual, a native Spanish-speaker, and this year, she translated her tour into Spanish and presented it on a few Saturday nights. It went well!
That makes so much sense for Aurora and their audiences.
Yes, yes! That's why I wanted to do it. The fact that there's already Teatro Aurora there, it made a great deal of sense. And then we have two other tours that are more limited edition because they only have one guide. One is the haunted cemetery tour.
Oh that sounds scary!
Oh yes, the ghost tour is a storytelling tour in costume and in character, whereas the haunted cemetery tour has the character storyteller, and it's more historical and a chance to explore a really haunted cemetery- and I'm talking really haunted. We don't guarantee that something paranormal will happen, but people need to be open to the situation and not upset that it does. Because it's a little more intense, it is for ages 13 and up.
And then even more limited is the availability for the pub crawl which is actually called "Brews and Boos Haunted Pub Crawl." And again, it's in costume and character, but the guide also sings bawdy songs, and the stories are gory. The price of the ticket includes three drinks because we go to three different establishments. Those are a lot of fun!
It's particularly been a blast for me because for 14 years, I've portrayed the same character, and everyone around you starts to believe that you are that character. The persona is very proper, educated lady, and I wanted to do the pub crawl, but I knew that the character wouldn't work, so I invented a new character that was very bawdy and was really a lot of fun to portray someone different than I've been portraying for all these years.
That sounds so special!
Yes, the Town Madam. I get to do really bawdy stuff.
Is it fun?
Yes. [laughs] As a matter of fact, it is! I would do this shtick when I introduce myself, I would gather the group outside before we really begin the tour, and I would say, "I'm the town madam, and I make it a point to never recognize repeat customers in public," and then I make eye contact with one particular, random guy, and then I say something like, "Everyone's secret it safe." I use something like that as an icebreaker. We've really designed the pub crawl to be a party that gets louder and bawdier as the night goes on. We go to three venues, and at the beginning of each venue, the first thing we do is a song. It's designed so your first song has a little audience interaction, then the second song they're singing more, and the third song they're singing even more.
That sounds like a blast!
I've gotta tell you! Another thing that I like about storytelling is, whereas when you're acting, you audition for a role, and you have to rely on whether the director thinks you're right for a part. And you might not get it because you're too tall, or they already cast a redhead, or something like that. In this art form of storytelling which is highly theatrical, I tell the guides I'm training that they're right for every part, and I encourage them to take on the characters and tell the story with different character voices and movements as well.
So they get a chance to really stretch the storytelling character that they have, you're that character throughout, but then when you're telling a story, you might become the characters in it. So it gives you an opportunity to have a wider portrayal of characters over very short periods of time.
That sounds so fun!
Yes, it is! It's good for actors who have improv experience and get to be self-directed.
When I went on a ghost tour last year, I was so engaged, and we were laughing so hard at random funny things our guide would do. It was a blast!
The thing about the ghost tours is we really emphasize the scary, but there's a lot of humor in them as well, to take the edge off the scary. There's a lot of funny stuff that's happening. Another thing about our ghost tours is we don't use a script. Some places they do, but for our training, I give the guides an outline of the story, and then they get three audio examples of other guides telling the story. So they create a character, like Malachi McMortum, and filter the story through their character and create their unique version of the story.
That sounds like a dream for a lot of people!
It would be a nightmare for some of them, but a lot of people just love the freedom and the fun and the interaction with people that you get.
You mentioned it was good for people who improve...
Absolutely. It's not like a theatre. Your audience is right there, they say things and respond to you, or a car drives by, or the fire engine comes by, you're out there dealing with things. So improv is a really good tool to have as a guide.
Anything else you'd like to say to our BroadwayWorld readers?
Storytelling is theatre at its most elemental. One person, one voice.
Lawrenceville Ghost Tours is presented every night in October and Haunted Cemetery Tours occur on weekends throughout the entire month. Reservations can be made by calling the Box Office at 678-226-6222 or online at tickets.auroratheatre.com. Tickets for Sunday through Thursday ghost tours are $12 (adults) and $9 (children); Friday and Saturday ghost tour tickets are $15 (adults) and $12 (children). Tickets for the cemetery tours are $25. For more information and ticket purchase, please visit scarystroll.com.
Brews & Boos: Lawrenceville Haunted Pub Crawl tours are happening October 5, 9, 12, 16, 19, 23, 27 and 30. Ticket reservations can be made by calling the Box Office at 678-226-6222 or online at bit.ly/BoosandBrews. Tickets for Tuesdays are $30; weekend tickets are $40. Ticket purchase includes the following beverages: a signature margarita at La Cazuela, a Blue Point Toasted Lager at Universal Joint and The Howlin' Curtis-the signature drink of Haunted Lawrenceville-at McCray's Tavern on the Square. Attendees must be at least 21 years old.
Equentro Fantasmal de Lawrenceville commenced on October 6, and took place October 13 and 20.