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A Weekend at the Ball

A report and photos from San Francisco’s Edwardian World’s Faire and Edwardian Ball

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Hundreds of revelers packed San Francisco’s Regency Ballroom last weekend for the Edwardian World’s Faire and Edwardian Ball, a pair of events that combined elements of a circus, music festival, art exhibition, and masquerade party, all with a quirky neo-vintage twist. Conceived as a tribute to writer and illustrator Edward Gorey, it was a spectacle not only for what happened on stage, but also for the wild, imaginative costumes worn by attendees.

It was presented by Paradox Media and the Vau De Vire Society, a theatrical and circus performance troupe in the Bay Area. Paradox Media is a company founded by Justin Katz of Rosin Coven, a Bay Area musical ensemble that produced the first Edwardian Ball in 1999.

Dakh Daughters

Both events — the Edwardian World’s Faire on Friday and Edwardian Ball on Saturday — took up all four floors of the venue, a former masonic lodge built in 1909. At Friday’s event, one big attraction was the Rose Pedal Garden, which occupied most of the Grand Ballroom on the main floor. The Garden included a bicycle-powered umbrella contraption by Cyclecide and two steam-powered projects from Kinetic Steam Works: a printing press and a mechanical croquet game featuring a large cutout of Edward Gorey.

Stage performances included the “Swing Punk” sounds of Van Goat and aerial acrobatics from the Vau De Vire Society. But for me, the musical highlight was Dakh Daughters, a highly theatrical “dark cabaret” group from Ukraine. It was the final appearance on their first-ever North American tour.

A series of DJs kept things moving during the interludes. They included Vourteque, who is well known to steampunk fans due to his frequent appearances at conventions and festivals.

That was just in the Grand Ballroom. Occupying the basement was the curated Vendor Bazaar, featuring about 50 sellers of handmade items, including apparel, jewelry, crafts, and fine art. (See “A Trip to the Vendor Bazaar.”)

The Lounge, an event space on the top floor, was set aside for the Museum of Wonders, a curated art exhibition where the highlights included a giant orrery by Kinetic Steam Works. An orrery is a mechanical model of the solar system, and this one featured large metal gears fabricated by KSW. Also of note: two steampunk-inspired pieces by Oregon artist Steven La Riccia. “Babbage-Lovelace’s Machination” is an operational steampunked Macintosh that includes part of an early 1900s Singer sewing machine. “Oppenheimer’s Enigma” is an assemblage built around a 1940s Graphotype metal stamper.

Babbage-Lovelace's Machination

This room had its own stage with a gorgeous painted forest background. Just outside The Lounge, Dangerous Puppets performed its darkly themed puppet shows throughout the weekend.

For Saturday’s Edwardian Ball, the producers removed the Rose Pedal Garden to make space for a larger crowd that came to dance and hear the music. The program included “Swingin’ Dixie” sounds from Earles of Newtown, a musical fashion show from Dark Garden, and a one-hour set by Rosin Coven. Then came the main attraction: A stage adaptation of Edward Gorey’s The Epiplectic Bicycle, featuring acrobatic performances from the Vau De Vire Society with music written and played by Rosin Coven.

Next, the producers are preparing to head south for the Los Angeles Edwardian Ball, Saturday, Feb. 9 at the Fonda Theatre in Hollywood.

Words alone cannot do justice to an event like this. See the photo gallery below for scenes from the weekend.

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