Dante Wildern and Eric Olechowski, longtime volunteers, work on a large tableaux complete with lights and animatronics. This scene shows the carnival in full swing, meant to capture the event’s history. Dante seems like the perfect name for a man in charge of a fictive hell created in Detroit for the entertainment of people willing and able to shell out $100 for a ticket (the opening gala cost $260, but this includes valet service, dinner, and an open bar). While the name recalls the inferno, the man himself is welcoming and clearly proud of the part he plays in putting Theatre Bizarre together.
“I’ve been working with these people since I was eight,” the 20-something Wildern says. “This piece alone took nearly four years of work.” He gestures at the diorama. Olechowski nods. He’s been volunteering for years, too, and says he cannot even begin to account for the hours spent painting tiny figures -- many in the diorama are modeled on volunteers and performers -- or setting up lights, or constructing stages. I ask him to estimate the time, and he just smiles and says, “Too long.” Wildern holds out a figure from the diorama. It’s clearly Olechowski, down to the long ponytail. The figures, each about 4in tall, are roughly dollhouse scale.