RECAP: The 16th Annual Edwardian Ball in San Francisco
A bit of history:
“Puzzling to explain—nigh impossible to describe, but absolutely delightful to experience—The Edwardian Ball is an elegant and whimsical celebration of art, music, theatre, fashion, technology, circus, and the beloved creations of the late, great author and illustrator Edward Gorey. Set in a re-imagined “Edwardian Era,” this multi-city, multi-media extravaganza has grown over the past fifteen years from an underground club party into an internationally recognized festival of the arts, now operating with the blessing of The Edward Gorey Charitable Trust.”
The Edwardian Ball has become a destination for fans of the Gothic, macabre, and fantastic; there’s a definite Steam-Punk element permeating the event as well. Stepping into the Regency Ballroom in San Francisco Saturday night was a trip back in time and through alternative spaces. I found myself amongst a congregation of adventurous spirits and unbridled aspirations, a Universe where all mankind needs to master the land, air, and sea is metal, coal, and imagination.
This is the world of Jules Vern, Captain Nemo, and Alan Quatermain; the realm of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Jekyll & Hyde, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; another dimension of ether and Xanadu, science and madness. It’s the age of the “Mad Monk” Rasputin and tragically innocent Anastasia. Most alarming, this is the era of Jack the Ripper, a time of morbid fascination with murder and the occult. And the Edwardian Ball is, in fact, the perfect opportunity for a fiend dressed as a respected aristocrat to stalk dim hallways and lounges, mingling with the inebriated, seeking an opening to strike!
The Ball is somewhat reminiscent of the party in Stanley Kubrick’s EYES WIDE SHUT; the abundance of masks affords ample opportunities for anonymous and clandestine interactions. But while I didn’t stumble into any orgies at the labyrinthine Regency, there were plenty of circus freaks, soothsayers, renegades, and delightful deviants. You can almost detect plumes of opium smoke wafting from intimate alcoves and from behind velvet curtains. There’s plenty of flesh to behold: Porcelain skin and warm mounds bursting from bodices; a cornucopia of ruby lips for kisses.
Let me take you on a tour:
The basement held a bizarre of vendors hocking early 20th Century accoutrements and relics: Top hats, jewelry, art, and countless masks. The main ballroom at street level was packed with twirling dancers and featured performances from The Vau de Vire Society and a rendition of The Stupid Joke presented by Rosin Coven, Dark Garden, and Kinetic Steam Works. The Balcony Level offered a hypnotizing panoramic of the kinetic revelries below.
Taking the 100-year-old elevator to the top floor brings you to yet another tier of creepy wonderment and whimsy. I was greeted by the Haunted Pipe Organ, skillfully tickled by Mighty Dave, before I perused The Museum of Wonders. It was here that I spotted creatures from another world: Trolls, fairies, and ogres. Reality disintegrates into a festive cacophony of astonishing sights and sounds; it’s a welcoming and exhilarating hallucination that, alas, ends all too quickly.
Folks in Los Angeles can experience the Edwardian Ball at the Fonda Theater in Hollywood on Saturday February 27th. If you are intrigued and able, I highly recommend you experience this awesome and uncanny celebration for yourself. You can purchase tickets online: HERE.