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Edwardian Ball Set for SF and L.A.

Writer and illustrator Edward Gorey inspired this whimsical arts and entertainment event

Saturday, January 19, 2019
Edwardian Ball characters

San Francisco’s Regency Ballroom will be transformed into an eccentric, steam-driven fantasyland as the 19th annual Edwardian Ball takes place on Saturday, Jan. 26. The arts and entertainment extravaganza will cap off a weekend that also includes the Edwardian World’s Faire on Friday, Jan. 25 and a Vendor Bazaar on Saturday afternoon. The producers then head south for the 10th annual Los Angeles Edwardian Ball on Saturday, Feb. 9, at the Fonda Theatre in Hollywood.

The program includes music, ballroom dancing, puppeteers, circus acts, steam-powered gadgets, and art installations. There’s no dress code, but most attendees appear in costume or other forms of artistic attire.

The events are a collaboration between Rosin Coven, a “pagan lounge music” ensemble from Berkeley, and the Vau De Vire Society, an Oakland-based “avant-cabaret” dance and circus performance troupe.

The first Edwardian Ball was conceived by Rosin Coven’s Justin Katz as a tribute to writer and illustrator Edward Gorey (1925-2000), whose books are known for dark, nonsensical humor and Victorian or Edwardian stylings.

The band found “a very comfortable place in Gorey’s aesthetic,” Katz says. “[We] loved the crossroads of elegance and darkness and humor. We always skewed our art toward that, having the brooding music with the martini and a wink. He presents a puzzling and dark and whimsical and funny portrait of the world.”

Gorey is the main inspiration, but “from the very beginning, we thought that calling it ‘Edwardian’ would also give it a fun, historic twist,” he says.

Vau De Vire Society, led by Mike Gaines, joined forces with Rosin Coven in 2005. Katz and Gaines serve as the event’s producers and creative directors.

Saturday Highlights

Each Edwardian Ball features a stage interpretation of a Gorey tale, and this year’s main event will be The Epiplectic Bicycle as performed by Rosin Coven and the Vau De Vire Society.

Gorey created “a huge catalog of stories which say very little,” Katz observes. “He is very reserved in his narrative. He is unapologetic about stories just beginning at a random point and ending nowhere in particular.” This offers a “rich palette to extrapolate and elaborate and play and create theatrical narratives out of these puzzling scenarios.”

The bill also includes ballroom dancing with “retro-electro” DJ Delachaux, and performances by Earles of Newtown, Gerald Joseph, DJ Flipside, French Oak Gypsy Band, Katy Stephan, Kingfish, Miz Margo, and The Klown’s ZjitZjo.

Edwardian Ball performer

The World’s Faire

In keeping with the bicycle theme, the World’s Faire on Friday night will feature “The Rose Pedal Garden,” which Katz describes as a “mechanical kinetic immersive garden” with steam- and bicycle-powered contraptions from Kinetic Steam Works and Cyclecide respectively.

Both organizations are long-time Edwardian Ball collaborators. Kinetic Steam Works will have a steam engine outside the venue to power its mechanical devices. (We encountered them at Maker Faire in 2017, where they demonstrated a steam-powered pencil sharpener.)

Friday’s musical lineup will include Dakh Daughters, an all-female, seven-piece “dark-cabaret” ensemble from Ukraine.

That’s just on the ground floor. On both nights, another floor will be dedicated to the Vendor Bazaar (complete with fitting rooms), and attendees can also peruse the “Museum of 1,000 Wonders” with curated art installations. The venue will also have a full bar with absinthe cocktails and a kitchen serving hot food.

DJ Vourteque, a frequent performer at steampunk events, will appear on both nights. The full lineup is listed on the website.

General admission to the World’s Faire costs $65, or $25 for kids 15 or under. Tickets to Saturday’s Edwardian Ball are $85. A full weekend pass costs $140. VIP packages with mezzanine access and reserved seating are also available.

The Vendor Bazaar will be open on Saturday afternoon for a $5 admission fee. The Afternoon Tea on Saturday is sold out.

Opened in 1909 as a masonic lodge, the Regency Ballroom is known for its Beaux-Arts interior design. It’s located at 1290 Sutter St (corner Van Ness) in San Francisco.

The Edwardian Ball Los Angeles

In L.A., the Edwardian Ball is a one-night event, but it will have some elements of the World’s Faire, including parts of the Rose Pedal Garden. Kinetic Steam Works and Cyclecide will be there “to help animate the ballroom floor,” while leaving space for the ball, Katz says.

In addition to The Epiplectic Bicycle and Delachaux, that event will feature performances by Atom Smith & His Bass Age Big Band, Dark Garden, Dr. Solar, The Grand Artique, Marquis & The Rhythm Howlers, Danniellow, Vaude Villainz, and DJ Baz.

Tickets cost $60 for general admission with limited seating, or $100 for seating in the VIP Balcony.

The Fonda Theatre is located at 6126 Hollywood Blvd (between Argyle and Gower) in Hollywood.

See the event website for more info.

Photos by Marco Sanchez.

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