Where all the world’s a stage

Actress Paula Wahla as her Six Flags Magic Mountain Fright Fest witch character Lorrane-Luran. PHOTO Courtesy Eric Kautiainen
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Escaping reality and being immersed in a world of fantasy is a fun pastime for some, and a profession for others.

The life of an entertainer at amusement parks, such as Six Flags Magic Mountain and Universal Studios Hollywood, comes with interesting guidelines and stories that aren’t generally known to the public. 

Several former and current entertainers, some we could name and others who could not reveal their identities, shared their stories. 

Paula Wahla: Lorraine-Lurane and Mrs. Claus at Six Flags Magic Mountain  

Actress Paula Wahla displays a severed foot, a prop used when portraying her Six Flags Magic Mountain Fright Fest character, witch character Lorraine-Lurane. Dan Watson/The Signal

For the past nine years, Paula Wahla has become one of the most memorable characters at Fright Fest as Lorraine-Lurane, a witch character who does cosmetology and stand up comedy. With glowing eyes, blackened teeth and a severed foot in hand, Wahla makes her way through the Twisted Fantasy scare zone offering her services. 

“I love making people laugh and seeing that they were happy to meet me,” said Wahla. “I even scare myself with the things I say.” 

Offering pedicures that involve the removal of limbs, chiropractic services and a chunky pumpkin latte on the side is Lorraine-Lurane’s specialty. 

“Lorraine-Lurane has become a scare actor who people look for at the park and connect with,” said Pam Bugbee, entertainment and events manager at Six Flags. “We created buttons with iconic characters from the park and we included her.” 

Actress Paula Wahla as Mrs. Claus at Six Flags Magic Mountain. PHOTO Courtesy Eric Kautiainen

In addition to work as a scare actor, Wahla is also Mrs. Claus during Holidays in the Park, a role that’s pretty much the polar opposite to her character during Fright Fest. Many actors from Fright Fest stay on for Holidays in the Park, Bugbee says. 

“I’m more like Mrs. Claus so it is easier to get into character, but Lorraine-Lurane is still a part of me,” said Wahla. 

Najahre Gomez-Herrera, former scare actor at Six Flags Magic Mountain 

Najahre Gomez-Herrera worked as a scare actor at Six Flags Magic Mountain during Fright Fest in a post- apocalyptic themed maze. Photo Courtesy Najahre Gomez-Herrera

When Najahre Gomez-Herrera auditioned for her role as a scare actor at Six Flags’ Fright Fest, she said the tryout resembled an “American Idol” audition. 

“We all had numbers we had to wear,” said Gomez-Herrera. “Once we were in the bungalow, we were split into groups and we were assigned a character we had to act out.” 

In these auditions, judges, including Bugbee, searched for a specific candidate. 

“We look for people who have a high level of energy,” said Bugbee. “We care most about their personality and how outgoing they are, before anything else. We want them to like to scare.” 

Once she was hired, she was casted as a scare actor for “Aftermath,” a post-apocalyptic themed maze. Each night, she would dress in all black, wear red contacts and complete the look with realistic gashes and wounds on her face. In the shadows of the maze, Gomez-Herrera would prey on incoming maze-goers and scare them when they least expected it. 

While Gomez-Herrera worked, a friendly competition sparked among the surrounding mazes. Behind the scenes, scarers organized a competition, judged by park managers, to see who could get the most scares. The group with the most scares would be awarded a trophy. 

“It was an exciting job and I loved the people I worked with every night,” said Gomez-Herrera. 

Josh Thomas, Wizard at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood

Guests enjoy escaping reality at theme parks like The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and for some of the park entertainers, it’s not bad work if you can get it. Courtesy photo Universal

At Universal Studios Hollywood, Josh Thomas was able to live out every Harry Potter fan’s dream of being a wizard in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. 

“Every day I would be able to act out my fantasies of living in that world, and still get paid to do my required duties,” said Thomas. 

As a wizard in food service, Thomas was responsible for serving butterbeer and taking orders in the wizard’s dining hall. 

“I’d walk through the world, take pictures with guests and serve them,” said Thomas. “I couldn’t say I went to Hogwarts, so I said I was just a regular wizard who was home-schooled. I couldn’t say I knew the characters, only that I had only heard of them.” 

Instead of an audition, Thomas experienced a standard job interview, except with “Harry Potter” trivia. 

“We just needed to know the lore of Harry Potter and what we can and cannot say,” said Thomas.   

Each wizard in the world was dressed in a uniform designed by J.K. Rowling’s costume designer. When employees clocked into their shifts, they would change into their uniform in the wardrobe department and once their shift was over, they would change back into their regular attire. Uniforms never left the park, Thomas said. 

To make anyone who wanders into the world feel as if they just landed in Hogwarts, wizards were expected to remain in character at all costs. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter was meant to be a fully immersive experience for both park-goers and employees. 

“People would try to make me break character all the time by asking me about things in the movies,” said Thomas. “Even when I went to lunch, I couldn’t be seen in my uniform outside of the world. Dressed wizards were only allowed to be seen in the world.”

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