Archive for the STEAMPUNK/ VICTORIANA Category

Happy Valentine’s Day from the Littlest Lovers: Tom Thumb & Lavinia Warren

Posted in BUNKUM, Dime Museum and Side Show, Little People, STEAMPUNK/ VICTORIANA, Valentine's Day with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 14, 2017 by travsd


“There’s someone for everybody” goes the old matchmaker’s expression, and perhaps no words rang truer on February 9, 1863, the day that professional little person Tom Thumb (Charles Stratton) married Lavinia Warren at Grace Church, New York. (I believe that’s Lavinia’s sister Minnie Warren as Maid of Honor; and Commodore Nutt as Best Man). This little stunt, the “Fairy Wedding” by the press, lightened people’s hearts during the depths of the Civil War. We present it to you in the same spirit today.


It wasn’t just a publicity stunt, however; the two were a real couple. But even so, their boss P.T. Barnum was probably not too unhappy when the big event resulted in coverage like this:


“I love you completely, my own, my all. But above all, I love this front page coverage in Harpers!”

Where We At: Springtide Spectaculumps!

Posted in Circus, Contemporary Variety, Dime Museum and Side Show, Indie Theatre, LEGIT, EXPERIMENTAL & MUSICAL THEATRE, ME, My Shows, PLUGS, STEAMPUNK/ VICTORIANA with tags , , , , , , on March 18, 2015 by travsd

And now…for my next trick!

The last twelvemonth was such a chain of large projects (4 of them) that there has been scant time for what you might call the NYC alt-performer’s DAILY SWIM. First there was Marxfest, then I’ll Say She Is, then Dead End Dummy, and then Horseplay.…Outside the context of those four projects, I don’t think I did any of the usual day in, day out type personal appearances, one offs and smaller scale thingies that usually season our calender.

For the next month or so, however, I will have no less than three such special events, and I dearly hope you’ll join me. Since the last of three has the most seats to fill, I’ll present it first and work backwards….


April 21, 7:30 PM, Dixon Place, 161A Chrystie Street


April, 2015 marks the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War. To observe the occasion I​ will be presenting sections of my Civil War circus comedy A House Divided, written as companion piece to Kitsch (presented at Theater for the New City in 2009.) This unique variety presentation features clown bits, a “magic lantern slide show”, live music, farcical scenes from the play and circus and sideshow turns.

In the cast:

Trav SD​ as circus showman Romulus LeGuerre and his twin brother Remus, a committed Quaker!

Carolyn Raship​ (Illustrated Slides)

Dandy Darkly​ as your Gentleman Narrator!

Lewd Alfred Douglas​ as Castor and Pollux, two dashing and romantical young lads!

Jeff Seal​ performing a pantomime, twill make you laff til your sides ache!

Jenny Lee Mitchell​ as the divine Miss Greensleeves, love object and soprano

Jennifer Harder​, blowing her bugle and essaying multiple parts!

Justin R. G. Holcomb​ as Major Anderson

Robert Pinnock as the deformed creature “Murk”

the haunting cello of Becca Bernard

sideshow stunts by CARDONE

and introducing…“Abraham Lincoln”!

Stage Manager: Sarah Lahue​


Friday April 3, 8pm, $10 suggested Donation
Barbes, 376 9th Street, Park Slope
Opera on Tap’s New Brew Series Presents:
The Curse of the Rat King: Trav S.D. (libretto) and David Mallamud (music) have been collaborating on this campy comic opera since 2010. It is a post-modern mash-up of Universal horror films, The Pied Piper of Hamelin, the operas of Gilbert and Sullivan, the writings of Sigmund Freud, and numerous other elements. On the bill with him will be selections from Three Way, by David Cote (libretto) and Robert Paterson (music), which has been described as “a kind of NC-17 Il trittico”, and two works with lyrics by UTC#61’s Edward EinhornThe Velvet Oratorio (music by Henry Akona) and Money Lab (music by Avner Finberg).
The Curse of the Rat King
libretto: Trav SD
music: David Mallamud
Three Way
libretto: David Cote
music: Robert Paterson
The Velvet Oratorio
libretto: Edward Einhorn
music: Henry Akona
Money Lab
libretto: Edward Einhorn
music: Avner Finberg
Featuring David Gordon, Seth Gilman, Anne Hiatt, David Macaluso, Cameron Russell, and Krista Wozniak with Christopher Berg tinkling the piano keys.
March 27, 7pm & March 28, 11pm
HERE Arts Center, 145 Sixth Avenue
Money Lab: An Economic Vaudeville
Trav S.D. plays P.T. Barnum in The Art of Money Getting, a  monologue adapted from Barnum’s eponymous self-help book, directed by Carolyn Raship, accompanied by educational slide show. It’s all part of Untitled Theatre Company #61’s Money Lab: An Economic VaudevilleI’ll be on the bill with some of my favorite downtown artists — don’t miss it!

“Diversions and Delights” Opens Thursday

Posted in Indie Theatre, PLUGS, STEAMPUNK/ VICTORIANA with tags , , , on March 3, 2015 by travsd


On Culture and Anarchy

Posted in BOOKS & AUTHORS, CRITICISM/ REVIEWS, CULTURE & POLITICS, STEAMPUNK/ VICTORIANA with tags , , , on December 24, 2013 by travsd


Today is the birthday of the great Victorian poet, essayist and cultural critic Matthew Arnold (1822-1888).

This year I read Culture and Anarchy (1867-1869) for the first time and I suspect I will be grappling with its contradictions for a long time to come. I don’t mean this as a criticism. All the best humanistic writing is self-contradictory, otherwise it wouldn’t be of the slightest interest.

The title may mislead the modern reader; Arnold has his own definitions of the words at play, and they may differ from your customary associations with them. By “Culture” he means not only arts and letters but something closer to “society” in the sense that political philosophers like Hobbes and Rousseau conceive it, in other words ALL human exchange, embracing polity, religion, morality, and behavior. Furthermore, for Arnold true culture has a certain character; it is about a perpetual striving toward the Good, “the best that has been thought and said”, and (to use a phrase he borrowed from Swift), a “Sweetness and Light”. By the same token, by “Anarchy” he isn’t referring to the political doctrine of anarchism but the tendency of people to “do as they like”, heedless of peer and public opinion and the general welfare. Arnold definitely favors one side, as you will glean from the fact that he chose a very positive sounding word for the first concept and a negative one for the second (as opposed to freedom, liberty, or the rights of the individual).

Victorian that he is, his thoughts are simultaneously what we think of as “conservative” and “liberal”. He definitely thinks of culture as a process towards happiness and truth. He never wants it to be hidebound, ossified, dogmatic, or rote. It was Arnold who coined the term “Philistine”.  Thus what Arnold advocates is the very essence of the liberal mind: active, inquiring, critical, reflective. Yet, the Victorian in him demands that this process be forever gauged  by consensus. I picture his conception as akin to peer review within the modern scientific community. Everyone must sign off on the revised outlook, else it probably isn’t true. We don’t just jettison commonly held beliefs; we must assume that they must be commonly held for a reason, if they have stood the test of time. One is forever working to perhaps slowly adjust what makes up the common body of ideas, but one is duty bound not to go rogue. The area where an illustration of this balanced outlook might be clearest is religion. Influenced by Spinoza, Arnold believed in the moral benefits of religion, without the supernatural aspects. Yet (this is important) he did not believe in what is called religious non-conformity. He did not believe in sects. He believed in working within one’s culture to bring invigorating movement toward truth and the good.

Arnold is also often considered the third great Victorian poet, after Tennyson and Browning. We leave you with “The Future”, published 1852:

The Future

A WANDERER is man from his birth.
He was born in a ship
On the breast of the river of Time;
Brimming with wonder and joy
He spreads out his arms to the light,
Rivets his gaze on the banks of the stream.

As what he sees is, so have his thoughts been.
Whether he wakes,
Where the snowy mountainous pass,
Echoing the screams of the eagles,
Hems in its gorges the bed
Of the new-born clear-flowing stream;
Whether he first sees light
Where the river in gleaming rings
Sluggishly winds through the plain;
Whether in sound of the swallowing sea –
As is the world on the banks,
So is the mind of the man.

Vainly does each, as he glides,
Fable and dream
Of the lands which the river of Time
Had left ere he woke on its breast,
Or shall reach when his eyes have been closed.
Only the tract where he sails
He wots of; only the thoughts,
Raised by the objects he passes, are his.

Who can see the green earth any more
As she was by the sources of Time?
Who imagines her fields as they lay
In the sunshine, unworn by the plough?
Who thinks as they thought,
The tribes who then roam’d on her breast,
Her vigorous, primitive sons?

What girl
Now reads in her bosom as clear
As Rebekah read, when she sate
At eve by the palm-shaded well?
Who guards in her breast
As deep, as pellucid a spring
Of feeling, as tranquil, as sure?

What bard,
At the height of his vision, can deem
Of God, of the world, of the soul,
With a plainness as near,
As flashing as Moses felt
When he lay in the night by his flock
On the starlit Arabian waste?
Can rise and obey
The beck of the Spirit like him?

This tract which the river of Time
Now flows through with us, is the plain.
Gone is the calm of its earlier shore.
Border’d by cities and hoarse
With a thousand cries is its stream.
And we on its breast, our minds
Are confused as the cries which we hear,
Changing and shot as the sights which we see.

And we say that repose has fled
For ever the course of the river of Time.
That cities will crowd to its edge
In a blacker, incessanter line;
That the din will be more on its banks,
Denser the trade on its stream,
Flatter the plain where it flows,
Fiercer the sun overhead.
That never will those on its breast
See an ennobling sight,
Drink of the feeling of quiet again.

But what was before us we know not,
And we know not what shall succeed.

Haply, the river of Time –
As it grows, as the towns on its marge
Fling their wavering lights
On a wider, statelier stream –
May acquire, if not the calm
Of its early mountainous shore,
Yet a solemn peace of its own.

And the width of the waters, the hush
Of the grey expanse where he floats,
Freshening its current and spotted with foam
As it draws to the Ocean, may strike
Peace to the soul of the man on its breast –
As the pale waste widens around him,
As the banks fade dimmer away,
As the stars come out, and the night-wind
Brings up the stream
Murmurs and scents of the infinite sea.

Nutcracker Rouge

Posted in Burlesk, Christmas, Contemporary Variety, CRITICISM/ REVIEWS, Dance, HOLIDAYS/ FESTIVALS/ MEMORIALS/ PARADES, Indie Theatre, LEGIT, EXPERIMENTAL & MUSICAL THEATRE, STEAMPUNK/ VICTORIANA with tags , , on December 14, 2013 by travsd



I’ve attached two pictures above because, though I have looked at about a dozen official photographs of Company XIV’s new holiday show Nutcracker Rouge, NONE adequately conveys the beauty of it. The one on top captures something of the color; the one on  bottom gets something of the motion. To get them both, I encourage you strongly to get thee to the Minetta Lane theatre as quickly as possible.

I would call Company XIV my favorite dance company in New York but that would be dishonest. I rarely attend dance, so that wouldn’t be fair to all the hard-working companies out there. But this is my fourth Company XIV production, and their pull on me won’t surprise you in the least once you discover this company’s work. Artistic director and choreographer Austin McCormick draws heavily from history for his inspiration.  He is especially interested in the Baroque era, when ballet was young and still populist and sexy, and this is his jumping off point in  terms of movement style, scenic and costume design, subject matter (fairy tales and classics), and presentation (unlike the modern ballet, text and song play a role). McCormick trained in this specialty at the Conservatory of Baroque Dance Theatre. See my 2010 article on him in The Villager here. But in maintaining the spirit of that era, he playfully invokes much that came since, mostly movements that echo the decadence of that earlier period, such as the can-can of the Moulin Rouge, and American burlesque.

That’s the background. So if you’re Nutcrackered out, have no fear, this is neither your mother’s nor your daughter’s Nutcracker, but more like a kaleidoscopic, hallucinatory collage that uses Nutcracker as a leaping off point in the vaguest of ways. (The actual ballet The Nutcracker didn’t even come into being until a couple of centuries after McCormick’s favorite time period.) Here the girl Marie Claire (Laura Careless) is given a nutcracker by the Drosselmeyers (Jeff Takacs and Shelly Watson) and then taken through a dream-like fantasia of dances based on sweets: licorice, chocolate, candy cane, cake, macaroon, etc etc. It thus has the structure of a burlesque show, and while each turn is sexy, each also has some amazing additional skill-based element that takes this production into the realm of the dazzling: contortion, acrobalance, trapeze, the playing of castanets, the cracking of whips. This is over and above the beauty of the dances themselves which excite admiration for reasons both aesthetic and athletic.

The Drosselmeyers become ringmasters. Takacs is the company’s traditional narrator. He composes his own droll doggerel in close collaboration with McCormick; onstage he always strikes me as some sort of cross between Charles Perrault and Jim Morrison, with sprinklings of Silenus and de Sade, all cod-pieces and tri-corner hats. The ample and commanding Shelly Watson evokes bordello madams from a dozen eras, and regales us with tunes ranging from lullabies to opera to the blues. Sophie Tucker by way of Versailles. And I assure you it would be madness not to give high praise to set and costume designer Zane Pihlstrom whose command of a thousand Western and “Orientalist” idioms matches McCormick’s own. The show is an explosion of sensory pleasure. (And with sweets as the theme we can add “tasting” and “smelling”  to “seeing” and “hearing” on the list of senses attacked; as for “touching”, we live vicariously through the bodies of the dancers.

General audiences will leave the theatre supremely, buoyantly charmed and entertained (the cast received a standing O the night we attended; I’m sure they get one every night). Artists who attend will walk out invigorated and inspired, head full of ideas, determined to hit McCormick’s very high mark of achievement. The beauty part is that this is a company. They have been at this since 2006, and God Willing they will be at it for a good long while to come. So if you miss this particular production (though you’d better not, it’s their best yet), you will most certainly have future opportunities to see their genius in action. I for one intend to follow this company until it — or I — cease to function.

Company XIV’s Nutcracker Rouge will be at Minetta Lane Theatre through January 5. Info and tickets here:


Phantom Masquerade Tonight!

Posted in Horror (Mostly Gothic), PLUGS, SOCIAL EVENTS, STEAMPUNK/ VICTORIANA with tags , , on November 1, 2013 by travsd


The Phantom’s Masquerade is a live event that will play homage to the famous masquerade scene in Phantom of the Opera.
The Phantom’s Masquerade on Friday, November 1 will be a party with a great mix of music and dancing all night, plus snacks and a cash bar (one drink included with admission), singers and other performance pieces, plus a few surprises — all under the magnificent chandelier and baroque splendor of the Loew’s Grand Lobby.  There will be a costume contest for fun prizes on stage. And somewhere, lurking . . . the Phantom. . .
The evening is a fundraiser for Friend of the Loew’s. It’s a chance for you to have fun – and help the Loew’s too!

Tickets are $25 in advance, available on, or $30 at the door. One drink is included with admission.

Doors will open at 7PM, and festivities will continue to 1AM — so there will be plenty of time for people to either drop by or stay all night.

Halloween will linger one day longer this year . . . at the Loew’s. For more info, call (201) 798-6055, email, go to, or follow us on Facebook andTwitter.

Spirited Events at the Merchant’s House

Posted in Bowery, Barbary Coast, Old New York, Saloons, EXHIBITIONS & LECTURES, Halloween, HOLIDAYS/ FESTIVALS/ MEMORIALS/ PARADES, Horror (Mostly Gothic), STEAMPUNK/ VICTORIANA with tags , , , , on October 9, 2013 by travsd


If there’s any building in New York liable to have spirit inhabitants it’s the old Merchant House Museum ( and according to many, it does.

I caught this mournful Victorian lass handing out flyers at the FAB Fest for the Merchant House’s very ambitious Halloween season full of ghostly and otherwise macabre programs in the old 19th century house, and I feel it’s only fair to warn you that right after she handed me the postcard, this lady turned into a transparent mist and floated away into a nearby wall.  So beware — there is truth in advertising.

Here’s what’s up this month, starting with tonight….



Through November 4
Exhibition: The 1865 Death and Funeral of Seabury Tredwell
Photographs by Hal Hirshorn
Using an early 20th-century view camera fitted with a 19th century lens, photographer Hal Hirshorn creates evocative images recreating the death and funeral of Seabury Tredwell, who died at home on March 7, 1865, at the age of 85. Hirshorn printed his images from 8×10 negatives using noted photographer and inventor William Fox Talbot’s 1840 ‘salt print’ process.


Wednesday, October 9, 6:30 p.m.
Lecture: Ghosts of Manhattan
Author and actress Elise Gainer shares historical images and tales of local haunts from her new book, Ghosts and Murders of Manhattan, from Arcadia Publishing. See the faces of the dead that still cling to Broadway theaters, stately hotels, picturesque homes, and cozy taverns. Hear about apparitions, footsteps, phantom smells, and mysterious fires, and the events that still echo today. $15, MHM Members Free. Reservations required; click here to purchase tickets.


Thursday, October 10, through Monday, November 4
Exhibition: A 19th Century House in Mourning
Step back in time to 1865, when family patriarch Seabury Tredwell died at home in his bed. Poignant scenes of death and grief recreated in the House will explore mid-19th century mourning customs. Included with regular admission; reservations not required.


Sunday, October 13, 20, 27
‘Spirited’ Walking Tour of 19th Century Noho:  Glamour, Greed — & Ghosts
The neighborhood surrounding the Merchant’s House was home to some of the most famous, and infamous, names in New York history. From the literary to the illegal, New York society was played out in the elegant parlors and dark alleys of the fashionable Bond Street neighborhood. On this tour, we’ll see the haunts of renowned figures such as Edgar Allan Poe and Washington Irving; the spirits of long ago firemen and stable boys; the high and low life characters of the Bowery — as well as a tale or two of haunted happenings at the Merchant’s House. And we’ll visit the site of the most grisly of all 19th-century New York murders and hear tales of more contemporary ghosts that just won’t leave the neighborhood.

Tour is 50 minutes and begins promptly at 1 p.m.
Promenaders will return to the Museum in time to take the 2 p.m. GUIDED TOUR if they wish.
$10, Students $ Seniors $5, FREE for Members.
Reservations not necessary.

NOTE: Tours are canceled in the case of heavy rain, snow, or extreme heat and cold advisories.


Friday, October 18, 7:30 p.m.
Chant Macabre: Songs from the Crypt
Ghosts, ghouls, and goblins haunt the music of the 19th century. Come be spooked by these harrowing tales as the Bond Street Euterpean Singing Society bewitches your imagination and sings shivers down your spine, echoing sumptuous, rarely-performed songs in an authentic Victorian parlor. Singers Roberta Alessandra, Anthony Bellov, Jane Elizabeth Rady, and Dayle Vander Sande. Music by Schubert, Schumann, Liszt, Debussy, Loewe, Mussorgsky, and others. $25, $15 MHM Members. Reservations required; click here to purchase tickets.


Tuesday, October 22, 6:30 p.m.
Lecture: Grisly Crimes and Unsolved Murders of 19th Century New York
Ike Iikiw, licensed private investigator, retired NYC Police Detective, and founder/owner of NYC Adventure Tours shares “just the facts” of the most macabre, gruesome, and some unsolved crimes of 19th century Gotham.$15, MHM Members Free. Reservations required; click here to purchase tickets.


Thursday, October 24
60-minute tours at 6:30, 8, and 9:30 p.m.

Reading the Rooms: A Psychic Talks with the Tredwells
A rare opportunity to walk the dark and hallowed halls of “Manhattan’s Most Haunted House” (The New York Times) with Certified Psychic Medium and Paranormal Researcher Cathy Towle. Ms. Towle will relate happenings and unexplainable occurrences from her several years of on-going paranormal investigations at the House – and deliver any messages from the beyond she might receive on the spot. Bring your questions. $60, MHM Members $30. Reservations required; click here to purchase tickets.

Friday & Saturday, October 25 & 26; Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday, October 28, 29 & 30
50-minute tours begin every half hour from 6 to 9:30 p.m.
Candlelight Ghost Tours of ‘Manhattan’s Most Haunted House’
Updated with the latest eerie happenings!

Doors slam, floorboards creak, voices call into the night. Restoration work always ‘stirs things up’ at the Museum so we’ve had lots of new reports of especially strange experiences this year. We invite you to venture into the shadows of history to see the house where eight family members died and hear the newest tales of inexplicable occurrences from the people who actually experienced them. And the creepiest of past ones.
6 p.m. (includes 4th floor Servants’ Quarters) $40;
6:30, 7, 7:30 p.m. $25; 8, 8:30, 9 p.m. $30;
9:30 p.m. (includes 4th floor Servants’ Quarters) $40;
MHM Members $15 all times. 

Reservations essential, click here to purchase tickets.


Sunday, October 27, 4 to 5:30 p.m.
From Parlor to Grave: 1865 Funeral Reenactment and Graveyard Procession
In the 19th century, death and funerals took place at home. Join us in the Museum’s double parlors as we recreate the 1865 funeral service of Seabury Tredwell and discuss the funerary customs of 19th century New York City. After the service, mourners follow the coffin to nearby New York City Marble Cemetery – rarely open to the public – for the graveside service and cemetery talk. 19th century mourning attire is encouraged. VIP tickets include front-row seating, black crape armbands, and the opportunity to lead the graveyard procession as a pallbearer. $50, $65 VIP Seats, $25 MHM Members; $10 Graveside Service & Cemetery Talk only. Mourners attending the Graveside Service and Cemetery Talk only should arrive at the Merchant’s House at 4:30 p.m. 
Reservations essential, click here to purchase tickets.


Thursday, October 31, Hallowe’en
Performances at 7 and 8:30 p.m.
Tales of the Supernatural: Horror on Hallowe’en
Dramatic readings from 19th century Gothic literature and true ghost stories as reported by visitors of the Merchant’s House through the years told in the Museum’s parlors set for a Victorian funeral. $25, $15 MHM Members. Reservations required; click here to purchase tickets.


For directions, reservations and more info for all these programs go to:

%d bloggers like this: