Spooky Movie Month Day #27 – Forbidden Panel’s Zombie Pageant

October 27th 

By now you’ve seen the posters and you’ve heard the buzz. Many of you who have been around a while may even remember our “Inland Empire Zombie Beauty Pageant”, the brainchild of our CEO and founder, AJ Herrera. A real-life event direct from the pages of the comic book Zombie Kill Squad originally written by AJ Herrera and illustrated by Justin White, swept the city of Redlands, CA for 3 years in a row. After a decade at rest, we decided to dig her up, dust her off and rebrand her for a whole new generation as Forbidden Panel’s Zombie Pageant held at Rancho Verde High School in Moreno Valley, CA!

We had some killer contestants this year including myself as “Massacre Meg”, the docile dog training zombie trying to make it into the Westminster Dog Show. Other contestants included “Miss Fortune”, a tarot reading zombie, a gardening zombie named “Die-dra Diggums” who danced to “If I Only Had A Brain”, a therapist zombie named “DIEana” who talked as much in death as she did in life, a hula-hooping clown zombie who was attacked at a circus and now goes by the name “Zombemi”, and my own kiddo, Lion, as “ZombieAna Grande”, the Starbucks employee whose talent was making a legit, eatable ‘zombie frapuccinno’ for an audience volunteer to try. The entire show was emcee’d by none other than the spectacular David Strickland of the Red Hot Cholo Peppers with audience protection from the undead provided by ZKS members headed up by Cameron Dortch and Adam Broehl.

Each of us had to create a character, write the backstory, build the costumes, create a design for our makeup/hair and overall look. We attended rehearsals, learned a dance number, created, practiced and perfected our zombie’s talents, created ballot boxes that represented our characters and did so all while juggling school, work, Halloween, birthdays, midterms and whatever else was going on. Every single one of us put in 150% and the show was awesome. We all had such a great time sharing this super fun and light-hearted look at the zombie apocalypse as the opener to everyone’s Halloween weekend. 

My amazing and much-deserving friend, Alicia Bonanno Herrera (and wife of our CEO, AJ Herrera) won the night as “Die-dra Diggums” and was crowned our zombie queen by popular audience vote. 

Now, I’d just like to gush for a moment here about my incredible kid. They did amazing and held their own in a show with grown adults in a performance opportunity where they were literally the only child participating. 

Read that again. My just-turned-11-year old kid created their own story, designed their zombie’s look, character, make-up and behaviors. ON.THEIR.OWN. ..then stood up there and competed on the same level as the fellow contestants – all grown women – and kicked MAJOR butt. Most everyone I talked to after the show didn’t realize she was a child and everyone was so impressed. 

They made “finger cookies” to add to the concoction, researched the recipes, practiced them to get all the proportions JUST right and picked out their own music. They chose their costume pieces and worked on them with me to “zombify” them, even endured shopping for “evening gown” clothes and chose the one that best suited the character. They then helped design and create the ballot box which was seriously a work of art. 

On the day of- they worked with our makeup specialist, Cameron Dortch, and led him to create the look they had in mind. That night, they bravely overcame severe stage fright, stepped onto the stage with poise, grace and confidence to perform their heart out with ZERO hand-holding (but lots of hugs) from mom. In no way, not even for a second, was this event a “mom is making all of this for me and I just show up” situation. 

Lion was 100% in the process and put in the work, time, sweat, tears and literally blood to pull this off and I am beyond proud of them in every possible way. They may not have “won” the pageant, but they won at life just by being there in SO many ways and I am infinitely proud!!

Overall, we all had an incredible time and hope this marks a new era for Forbidden Panel, as we kick off new and exciting content both on the page and on the stage for all our friends and fans. 

Special thanks to our friends at Rancho Verde High School in Moreno Valley for allowing us to use their gorgeous theatre. They were incredibly gracious hosts and the kids from the theater class who helped us and participated with us were exemplary in their professionalism and knowledge of technical theatre. It was truly a joy! 

Here’s a few photos of our team at work!

Now onto the next thing…. Tomorrow night and Sunday, The Mothership will be taking a trip back in time to spend some time with Beethoven and Ralph Vaughan Williams, as we prep for and participate in the Inland Master Chorale’s fall concert while trying our best to stay in the spooky holiday spirit. Check in with us tomorrow for more!