For the past two years, TheatreStorm has invited San Francisco writer Sean Taylor to reflect on The Edwardian Ball, one of San Francisco’s most extraordinary traditions.
Here is Sean’s report on the 2014 edition:
When Rosin Coven and Vau De Vire Society selected Edward Gorey’s story, “The Curious Sofa” for the Fourteenth Annual Edwardian Ball, they ran with it, exploring the shamelessly shameful back aisles of your great grandparents favorite sex shops. They stalked the early 20th century for those illegal (yet ever so PG) trading cards of beautifully mischievous women baring a full ankle or two. Then they brought those cards to life before our very own eyes.
We, the attendees, dressed up stunning dreadful and poured over tchotchkes for the apocalypse in the vendors’ bazaar. We chased down a fairy queen and a hobo king in search of terrible and magical things. As the room allowed us no less we swilled Manhattans and let our imaginations come to rest inside San Francisco’s Regency Ballroom. We were treated to a ground floor cancan dance-off, a fashion show, and a balcony Opera singer all within the ten o’clock hour.
The Edwardian Ball could be the best Halloween party of the year, that just happens to occur in January. In a top hat tip to technology, screens behind the bars exposed their best #EdwardianBall Instagram pics of the night, and its revelers. I spied an Admiral’s epaulettes brushing the shoulders of a confederate soldier, a DJ flapper’s pearls caught spinning around her mixing records. On the third floor we played detectives for Vivien Blackwell’s Murder Mystery.
This year the Curious Sofa theme wore the building through and through. From a replica centerpiece for arguably the city’s best photo booth (which practically begged for depraved reenactments) to “The Curious Armchair”, a pornographic peepshow by San Francisco’s own Dark Garden.
As for the actual retelling of “The Curious Sofa” by Rosin Coven and Vau De Vire Society, well, it was a raucous one. It fell, with grace, within the afterthoughts of every uncensored ballet. The performers threw each other in and out beds and sofas and taxis and trouble, in the heat of the play it became difficult to discern the fog from steam. The final culmination resulting in piles of Gorey’s- polite to the point of extinction- characters collapsed in their shallow romance of unending possibilities. It was, in short, a Gore-gy.
Then at 12:50am they sent in the clowns.
Fou Fou Ha! is a performance group out of the bay area known for their nightmarish costumes and outlandish dance routines. They fit in perfectly. Their clown makeup and wicked hair lent them the pop demons they showed every sign of exorcising. After their brilliantly horrifying escapade the circus truly let out as the crowd danced away the last hour of this year’s Edwardian Ball.
Yes, there was also choreographed ballroom dancing in too-big-to-lie-about dresses, a woman at one point even slipped a limerick into the ribbon of my hat. As for those terrible and magical things. They were our every things, everywhere. And in the words of Edward Gorey himself, “I just kind of conjured them up out of my subconscious and put them in order of ascending peculiarity.”
If you missed this year’s event (HOW COULD YOU???), do not despair. It will be conjured again in Los Angeles on February 8. For further information, click here.