Designed to Save: Scenography and Ideology in Hell House

Madelon Hoedt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Indebted to the American tradition of the Halloween haunted house, Hell House presents the Pentecostal Christian version of a horror narrative, depicting the terrors waiting in the afterlife for those who sin. Consisting of seven key scenes, which address homosexuality, drunk driving, abortion, teen suicide, the occult and representations of Hell and Heaven, Hell House uses its performance as an evangelical tool. The event draws on aspects of immersive and promenade theatre and thus intertwines scenography and ideology, where each aspect of design is geared towards a singular goal: saving its audience from eternal torment in Hell.

This article will examine the importance of staging and set in Hell House performance, and their relationship to the aim of the event. Particular attention will be paid to what its dramaturgy is intended to do, as Hell Houses ultimately use a created environment to represent a spiritual reality, in which both Heaven and Hell should be considered very real. The article will use the Hell House Kit, a do-it-yourself manual created for staging the event, to examine the connection between ideology and design that underpins the Hell House event, and the tensions this creates for representations of truth and reality in performance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)48-57
Number of pages10
JournalPerformance Research
Issue number1-2
Early online date15 Nov 2021
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2021


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