Editor’s note: Co-produced by the musical group Rosin Coven and the circus performance ensemble the Vau de Vire Society, the Edwardian Ball is an extravaganza like no other. (That’s “Edwardian” as in Edward Gorey, as well as the turn of the 20th century. Don’t worry if you are confused. In this instance, categories get well mixed.) The premise? Create a theatrical environment inspired by a Gorey story. Many attendees describe The Edwardian Ball as the highlight of their year.
The Ball does not deserve a conventional review or a conventional reviewer. What follows is an impressionistic response by up-and-coming Bay area fiction author, Sean Taylor (“Your Smallest Bones”).
The Edwardian Ball is the first best example of the phrase “Paris of The West.” It is progressively past tense; if San Francisco could go back and do the early nineteen hundreds better, it would every year in late January- and that’s why it does. No thanks to an earthquake and fire, San Francisco was rebuilt in the Edwardian Era, and as rebuilding requires change, so change is reason to celebrate. Under the all-creative authority of Rosin Coven and the Vau de Vire Society every patron of the Edwardian Ball is expected to celebrate this change. And we all love our new skin, we grin heavy in this less than twelve-hour fantasy we are granted to play and dream within.
The folk in attendance are brave; born again stranger than strangers. They touch up their make up in their Edwardian-styled homes built more than a hundred years ago. Their, fantastic, wide parachute-bottom dresses sashay through every last door frame. In the early nineteen hundreds the first Edwardian Ball probably wasn’t called an Edwardian Ball; it was probably, simply, called a “ball.” Now a full century and change later the dresses, the suits, the canes, the monocles, the pocket watches, the manners, the waltzes, the booze, the smirks, the gambles, and those brave hearts mostly haven’t changed.
The Regency Ballroom hosts our dramatic change on three different floors in three different ways. The basement bottom handles our dress and aesthetics, our presentations and what we will be newly responsible to parade. Here one will find the Vendor Bazaar, a collection of clothes, jewelry, wares most commonly described as hand made and other worldly gorgeous, see steam punk wedding, see gothic to the nines.
The Museum of Wonders on the top floor plays host to our inner change. All manner of goblin and fairy will ask and remind us what terrible, whimsical, and magical events have made us who we are. There is a phone booth to talk to god if one is lost at the sight of an eight foot kicking and fluttering bird. There is a haunted pipe organ and an art bartering station.
The main stage, the Grand Ballroom on the middle floor, is the last great place to celebrate who we are and who we have become. It is where Edward Gorey’s newfound characters take their great new laughter with their endless dance steps. Throughout the night, performances boast ribbon and hoop trapeze, the theatrical orchestra of Rosin Coven and their ‘pagan lounge music,’ and the strong, sexy, gravity-defying, jaw-dropping Egyptian mini play ‘Deities,’ presented by the Vau de Vire society. The main event and this years themed story, “The Stupid Joke,” went off brilliantly. It was a seemingly simple tale brought to life with an ever-mechanized bed sprouting wicked wings and taking flight.
The Edwardian Ball is not a costume ball, it is not a performance. It is a metamorphosis of guests and performers alike. It is the fun we are capable of if we just let down our hair, let up some absinthe, and look to the past for our new futures.
If you missed this extraordinary event, you will have another chance next month (February 27th) in Los Angeles. For further information, click here.