Become immersed in the works of Edward Gorey at The Edwardian Ball's annual celebration of art, fashion and music. This year's event takes place Saturday, February 8 at The Fonda Theatre. (Alex Stover)
In 2010, Justin Katz and company brought San Francisco’s The Edwardian Ball to Los Angeles for the very first time; the event took place at Tower Theater.
Since then, The Belasco Theater and The Fonda Theatre (again this year) have hosted the festival. Now, in its fifth year, The Edwardian Ball (an elegant and whimsical celebration of art, music, theatre, fashion, technology, circus, and the beloved creations of author Edward Gorey) comes to Hollywood again with a Gorey theme: The Curious Sofa.
The line-up features Dark Garden, John Brothers Piano Company, Delachaux, Shakti Bliss, The Gentlemen Callers, BellHop, The Klown, Malvoye The Mentalist, ShOvELmAn, and Owl Tree Tarot.
In an exclusive interview for Living Out Loud, Katz talked about this year’s line-up, balancing the act of both performing and organizing the event, the 2014 theme, and much more.
Living Out Loud: Tell us a bit about the lineup this year.
Justin Katz: We’re fortunate to have a very strong, best of San Francisco showcase. That is a great sampling of all the core groups. We’ll also have some great LA performers and DJs. We don’t want the show to just be an export…I think we really hit a nice balance this year.
LOL: What can you tell us about the planning process every year?
JK: By the time we do both in San Francisco and LA, we’re all ready to have a break. From a planning point of view, we immediately try to assess this both from the people putting up the event and the people attending the event. What worked? What was the favorite? What was challenging? We do it while it’s fresh in everyone’s minds. Also, the inspiration. When everyone’s done, they’re just so inspired. That’s the best time to take advantage. We note everything and address it after our break.
LOL: What’s your favorite part about putting everything together?
JK: That’s hard to pin down, but I think it always comes down to seeing what the participants bring to it each year. We create a structure for the event, and an aesthetic for the event, but other than that, as producers, we try to keep it very loose and very open. That way, the majority of the content is created by those in attendance. My favorite part, I think, is seeing how much creative effort and what brilliant ideas are used in costumes, and characters, and themes, that people bring year after year. They outdo themselves every time.
LOL: You organize and participate in this event. How do you balance both?
JK: It is challenging to produce and perform, but it’s a wonderful challenge. One of the unique things about The Edwardian Ball is that the co-hosting groups are my group Rosin Coven and my partner’s band called Vau de Vire Society. Both of us, Mike Gaines and myself, are producers and performers. In addition, we each run our groups in partnership with our wives. So we have these great friends and wives partnership on both sides of the creative production, which I think is unique. Mike is the director of Vau de Vire Society, his wife Shannon is the choreographer and designer, and she’s very instrumental in putting the shows together. Similarly, my wife Carrie is the founder and really, the heart of the band. I think we’re fortunate to not only be able to run this, but to be able to participate in the center.
LOL: It seems the San Francisco event is larger than the one in LA. Is that the case?
JK: It is bigger. It’s got a much longer history. This will be our 14th year in San Francisco, and our 5th year in Los Angeles. People [in San Francisco] have had longer to get into the culture of the event. We also have more time and more space. We run the event through the course of 2 days, plus set up and strike days, so it’s really a 4-day endeavor in San Francisco. In LA, it’s more of a consolidated version – one day, in and out, like the circus coming to town.
LOL: What are some of the best resources for people who plan on dancing lessons and outfits?
JK: We tried to aggregate a good amount of resources onto our website, so if people go to edwardianball.com, they will find a resources page. We’ve also got a history of the event, as well as costume and fashion suggestions and locations in both San Francisco and LA, and accommodations/places to stay near the event. We try to include as much as possible, and we always love to get new suggestions.
LOL: The event is at The Fonda Theatre this year. Why?
JK: We actually have been at the Fonda before. I believe this is perhaps our 3rd trip to the Fonda. We loved being downtown, our original event was at the Tower Theatre, which is not really an operating theatre, just a location shoot – very dilapidated, but beautiful aesthetics for what we were doing. It was very difficult to work with it because it didn’t have certain basics like water or power. So coming into the Fonda – we’ve tried to keep the event in historical locations, and we love working at the Fonda. It’s a beautiful location, the staff is really good to us, they have a great tech setup, and they really do a lot to help us with such a short timeline, to put on the best show possible.
LOL: This year’s theme is The Curious Sofa. How did that come about, and how will it be portrayed?
JK: As you might know, every year we choose an Edward Gorey story, and that particular story becomes the essence of that year’s event. This year, The Curious Sofa brings a bit of a risqué, illustrated adult nature to the ball, because that was his most pornographic work. In classic, Edward Gorey form, you see nothing and everything is implied. But it’s a very playful, fun, risqué story, which is a nice contrast to some of his more dark and confusing works. I think with that playful essence of his work, people feel more permission to spice things up a bit.
LOL: Why should people go see your show?
JK: I honestly believe there are very few events that allow such an elegantly imagined otherworldliness to be created. When people step into The Edwardian Ball, time and time again they share that they feel like they left the ordinary world and entered an elegant, unpredictable dream-like state. People are not only in costume and character, but they are very kind, inclusive and fun. I think we’ve hit something very special with this blend of art, imagination, history, literature and a dash of the circus. I’ve never heard anyone say ‘This is just like…’ because it’s not.
LOL: What is your vision moving forward for the show in LA? Are you attempting to gradually expand it?
JK: We would love to see the LA event blossom into something more like San Francisco, where we have a couple of days to really create a more in-depth experience, more immersion in art, more groups participating, and more time on stage. I would say, before talking about the vision, we would like the LA festival to grow and become a multi-day, immersion arts festival.
LOL: Anything else you would like to add?
JK: I always say to the people to not be intimidated by the outfits, costumes and fashion. There are no rules, there’s no right or wrong way to dress. The only thing we ask is that people come in and participate, step out of their ordinary lives and enjoy.
The 5th Annual Edwardian Ball
Saturday, February 8
8 p.m. to 2 a.m.
The Fonda Theatre
6126 Hollywood Blvd.
Hollywood, CA 90028