Oct. 18--Bay Area adults love any opportunity to ditch their real identities and reinvent themselves. Need proof? Just look at Burning Man, the Edwardian Ball, the Pride parade, the Folsom Street Fair, the Northern California Renaissance Faire and the Society for Creative Anachronism, to name a few.
But Halloween remains one of the more exciting days of the year. The early buzz on the most popular costume says that the national trend is toward 1920s-style clothing (a la "The Great Gatsby"), ducks and duck-hunting costumes (influenced by TV's "Duck Dynasty"), and a giant foam finger (inspired by Miley Cyrus' MTV Music Awards performance).
In San Francisco, we doubt we'll be seeing any Brian Wilson beards this year, now that the former Giants pitcher has joined the Los Angeles Dodgers. But we won't be too surprised to see Boy Scout uniforms or even a Pope Francis or two, given the group's decision to allow openly gay Scouts and the pontiff's recent remarks about not judging priests for their sexual orientation.
But you know the Bay Area -- the wackier, the better. And what's Halloween without sharing a little inspiration? Send photos of your favorite costumes from Halloweens past to us at email@example.com. At your dress-up parties this year, Tweet and Instagram your pictures and tag them #halloween #sfstyle. We'll post our favorites on our style blog, SFUnzipped, on SFGate.com. For those in need of insight, here are a few places to get into the act on Halloween night:
ACT Costume Shop
For more than 50 years, the American Conservatory Theater has created costumes for the actors in its productions. As a result, the company has thousands of costumes for men and women in stock, in time periods ranging from the ancient world, medieval, Renaissance and Elizabethan times through the 20th century, including military uniforms and clowns. Take note: There are no costumes for commercial characters (Mark Twain, yes; Darth Vader, no), nor sexy pirates, nurses, doctors or anything with fishnets, high heels or unbuttoned cleavage.
"This is not the place for a sexy Mother Teresa, which we have had requests for," said Jef Valentine, inventory supervisor, who handles customers with Callie Floor, the head of rentals. "For sexy, we send them somewhere else."
Costume rentals come in two price tiers: $140 for most costumes, including jewelry, hats, bags, gloves, coats, alterations and dry cleaning; and $200 for newer and more elaborate Renaissance and 18th century Marie Antoinette-style costumes. ACT cannot guarantee the provision of shoes (supplies and sizes are limited), nor does it provide wigs.
Rentals are on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays only, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Customers must bring a credit card and valid ID to the appointment, as a credit card is necessary to put the costume on hold while alterations are made. The rental must be paid for before the costume leaves the building.
"It's best to think ahead -- don't wait until the last minute," said Valentine. "We don't have unlimited sizes and we don't have multiples of anything. Matchy-matchy is not our strong suit."
A.C.T. Costume Rentals, San Francisco, by appointment only; (415) 439-2379; www.actcostumerentals.org. Address of rental shop will be given to customers when an appointment is made. Due to high volume, walk-ins are not allowed.
San Francisco Zombie Prom
This year marks the fifth annual San Francisco Zombie Prom, created by local music agent Tanoa Stewart and his wife, Lee. His agency, A-Town Booking Agency & Events, provides local clubs with bands playing music popular from the 1930s through the 1960s -- everything from swing and rockabilly to surf, Americana and country.
The prom sprang out of a dance party that Stewart hosts every Tuesday at the Verdi Club. Five years ago, that Tuesday coincided with Halloween. "I said to myself, 'Obviously, I've got to do something special,' " he said. "Zombies were becoming popular with various movies being released, and 'The Walking Dead' zombie series on TV. My wife came up with 'Zombie Prom,' so we went with it."
The party features live music by Slim Jenkins, a midnight costume contest with a $200 prize, a photo booth, DJ Undead Jeff, zombie go-go dancers Svandora LaVey, Roxy Reve and Mynx D'Meanor, and others.
A big part of the fun is dressing like a zombie. Last year's theme was "Circus of Horror," while this year's is "Haunted Hollywood," in which guests are asked to dress as their favorite undead movie star, sports icon or public persona from the 1930s through the 1950s.
"We get all sorts of people attending, really a vast melting pot -- not just people who are into the 1930s through 1960s music scene," Stewart said. He predicts many undead Elvises, Marilyn Monroes and James Deans, but said people have asked if they can dress as characters from the 1980s. Not one to be a buzz kill, Stewart replied, "Why not?"
Oct. 25, The Verdi Club, 2424 Mariposa St., San Francisco. Open to adults 18 and up; doors open 8 p.m. For advance tickets ($16) and information, go to www.zombiepromsf.com. Tickets $20 at the door, cash only.
"Grand Guignol" horror play
Film director Mitchell Altieri is firm in the belief that people love to be scared, and that scary stories are "one of the best forms of storytelling."
If so, the North American premiere of "Grand Guignol" in San Francisco should satisfy the bloodthirsty among us. The theatrical horror play is influenced by the Theatre du Grand Guignol and horror stage shows that were popular in London and Paris in the early 1900s. The play is set in Paris and the back streets of Montmartre in 1903 and features a serial killer and the search for his influences. Written by Carl Grose, and directed by Altieri ("Lurking in Suburbia," "The Violent Kind"), the sets are by Charlie Smith, costumes are by Beaver Bauer, lighting is by Pamela Z. Gray and hair and makeup are by Shae Smoot.
A "splatter zone" and VIP "shock boxes" are part of the fun. Theatergoers are encouraged to dress in the spirit of the play, whether steampunk, Jack the Ripper or an Edwardian era motif.
"People like to be uncomfortable, to squirm a bit," Charlie Smith, a co-producer of the show, told The Chronicle in September. "We want people to have a good time. Going to the theater should feel like a party."
Z Space, 450 Florida St., San Francisco. 7 and 10 p.m. Oct. 30-Nov. 3, Sunday matinee at 2 p.m. An Oct. 31 Halloween package includes an after-party. Adults 21 and over only. For information and tickets ($15-$195), go to the box office tab at www.zspace.org.
For a video of Shae Smoot's zombie makeup tips, go to www.sfgate.com/style.
Carolyne Zinko is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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