Reality theater production opening today in Willmar designed to shock
By Jacob Belgumjbelgum@wctrib.com WILLMAR -- On average, 99 people ages 12-24 in the U.S. will breathe their last today. The majority of those deaths could be avoided. The 99, a live, walk-through reality theater production, aims to shock people ...
By Jacob Belgum
WILLMAR - On average, 99 people ages 12-24 in the U.S. will breathe their last today. The majority of those deaths could be avoided.
The 99, a live, walk-through reality theater production, aims to shock people into making choices that will diminish its namesake’s number.
“I wanted to move from success to significance,” said The 99’s creator Terry Henshaw of his motivation for producing the show. Henshaw owned a sports complex in Tulsa, Okla., before developing The 99.
The production opens today in Willmar. Preparations for The 99 have been visible for many days in the Kandi Mall parking lot.
Henshaw technically resides in the South - his accent reveals that much - but he takes his 20,000-square-foot inflatable tent and about 10 production interns on the road 10 months out of the year. He raised four kids and realizes that youth’s immaturity can yield devastating consequences, death being chief among them.
According to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, on average, 31 young people will die today from auto-related accidents, 16 from domestic violence or homicide, 12 from committing suicide and the rest will die from poor choices, and natural causes. Studies suggest that 17 of the 31 auto-related deaths would not have occurred had a seat belt been secured. Scenarios like that spawned The 99.
Newscasts linked on The 99’s website reveal dramatized scenes of car crashes and crack houses, images disturbing enough to force their audience to pay attention. Roughly 150 local volunteers will aid the production, many of whom will act out the 13 different scenes - each featuring avoidable death scenarios - during the 45-minute production. Viewers should expect to be emotionally shaken, and children under 11 should not walk through.
“It is graphic,” Henshaw said.
Testimonials pack a section of The 99’s website with comments from people who say The 99 has permanently altered their behavior.
People probably wouldn’t care to author poor reviews and send them his way, but Henshaw said that reactions are predominantly positive everywhere The 99 has been.
“We get hundreds of emails, people thanking us,” Henshaw said. “Usually … when people go through it, they want their neighbors, their co-workers, their relatives to come back with them, so we’ll have people come back three, four, even five times.”
Henshaw trucks to between five and 10 locations across the U.S. every year to spread The 99’s message.
Henshaw does not usually bring his production to towns as small as Willmar, instead preferring areas whose populations creep toward six digits, but the schedule had an opening, and, when the Kandi Mall offered free space, Henshaw agreed to come to a smaller place.
“(The Kandi Mall) had the space to do it, and they invited us to come,” Henshaw said. “Being in Minnesota in July sounded like a great opportunity,” he added, laughing.
The 99’s news release states that the production is “not based on fear and scare tactics, but rather is based solely on reality.”
It’s no haunted house, but it is a haunting tent.
IF YOU GO
What: The 99, a live, walk-through reality theater production which shows how young people’s missteps can lead to death.
Where: Kandi Mall parking lot, 1605 1st St. S in Willmar
When: Today-Sunday, July 24-26, 31; Aug 1-2. People can arrive any time between 7 and 10 p.m. (50 groups walk through nightly)
Info: www.whatisthe99.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org ; website: