Posted by: Necci – Oct 02, 2012
For the sixth year in a row, a coalition of RVA's creative performing artists is coming together to present a month-long extravaganza known as The Carnival Of 5 Fires. Taking over Gallery 5 every weekend for the entire month of October, the Carnival Of 5 Fires brings together live musicians, burlesque performers, DJs, visual artists of all types, and of course, fire performers, who all join together in pursuit of a transcendental artistic performance that overwhelms the senses. I wanted to know more about this event--its origins, goals, and what the performers had in store for us this year--so I got in touch with organizer Parker S. Galore, founder of Vaudeville Galore and member of the Party Liberation Front, to find out all the details about the Carnival Of 5 Fires. Here's what he had to say:
First of all, tell us what we can expect from the Carnival of 5 Fires this year. What do you expect the major highlights of each event to be?
Where to start? There's so much! With the Co5F we always try to have an eclectic mix of elements for each night, with every event having its own unique tone or theme. Our home, Gallery 5, has many areas to create different atmospheres, and we really work hard to utilize the space.
For the First Friday kickoff night (which, as always, is a free event) we are going all out in every way. We'll be closing down the street beside the gallery for the Party Liberation Front street party, which will feature fire performances, DJs, bellydance, circus arts, and the debut of our mobile pirate ship art car, Flora Burn. Flora was beautifully designed and built by PLF pyrotechnic expert and wood worker Reef Clem. We already have two school buses (one of which is about to be painted as a tentacled sea monster) and a covered wagon; we're so excited to add the pyroship to our arsenal of creative vehicles to transport our crew and gear. On the stage inside Gallery 5, we'll have burlesque, vaudeville, circus performers, and The Big Payback (James Brown cover band).
Also, on that night (and up for the entire month of October) in conjunction with Co5F will be the opening of Visuals, a multi-sensory art experience with over 30 artists utilizing all types of mediums. Curated by Todd Raviotta and myself, Visuals is the first big PLF art show, and we've invited some really amazing, diverse artists to be involved.
And since we're on the PLF subject, we are throwing a big Halloween-esque speakeasy style party (with a twist) on Oct. 12th. Spookeasy Masquerade will have live music by Alison Self and friends, and some booty shakin' tunes provided by Mr Jennings and Reinhold. We'll have some video projections, a lounge and cocktail waitresses, and the Visuals show will be open that night as well!
This year Deanna Danger has been brought on to wrangle the Carnival of 5 Fires beast on the production end. She put into place a package deal, so you can pay $25 and attend all the shows. Deanna is one of the hardest working ladies in the burlesque/live performance community, and we're very fortunate to have her. She'll be the guest producer of Vaudeville Galore this month with her "Gypsies! Tramps! Thieves!" on October 19th, which is going to transform G5 for a night, taking everyone back olden days of dust-bowl circuses.
The final night of Co5F 2012 will be "Ghouls and Gams" on October 27th, presented by Deepa De Jour's Richmond Burlesque Revue, which will be in full on Halloween mode with a burly tribute to monster movie madness, live music, a costume contest and all kinds of surprises.
How were you initially inspired to create the Carnival of 5 Fires event? Who else was involved in the beginning?
I've always been enthralled by the old American circuses and carnival culture; not only the amount of hard work and production involved in these traditions but also the stories that came out of getting all of these unique individuals and groups together, the human interactions and connections. One late night back in 2006, while Amanda Robinson (founder/executive director of Gallery 5), myself, and a few others were installing the latest art show at Gallery 5, [we] got into a discussion about what was happening with the gallery. The subject of circuses and carnivals came up--how they had evolved from back in the Chicago World's Fair of 1893, through the 1930s, and where they were currently. I was extremely excited and basically blurted out, "Let's have our own version of a carnival here!" And from that point, it was on. Those early days of G5 were like a chaotic art carnival in many regards anyway, so we decided to rein in certain elements and really make the October First Friday as "carnival" as possible, with an environment full of caged "freaks" (people altered with makeup and prosthetics... spider boy, siamese twins, etc), burlesque, sideshow, bands, and artwork on the darker, weirder side of things. The magic that was created that night was so exciting that we knew we had to continue the tradition annually.
What are the fundamental connections between Carnival of 5 Fires and other events and subcultural movements that promote radical creative expression and interactive art, such as Burning Man?
My first Burning Man was in 2003, and my mind was completely blown and put back together differently. Being a part of that experience changed me forever. I was all of sudden surrounded by this multi-sensory experience, and part of a community that encouraged creativity and celebration on all levels by tapping into your passions and approaching all aspects of life with a respect, awareness, and progressive pro-activity. It was all of these pieces of a large, beautiful puzzle that I had always been interested in, all in the desert. Thousands of people were working together to build this temporary, magical city with art, music, performances of all kinds, but separating the wall between the observer and the participant. Everything clicked for me. I brought those lessons back to Richmond and really began to integrate them into my daily interactions and into the community. There are many regional "burns" all over the East Coast, and we're starting to see more community events thrown by "burners." This is really at the forefront of my belief system, and I try to spread these ideals in everything I do.
So I basically took my Burning Man experiences, love for those "weirder" things, my art background, want for more burlesque, affection for vaudeville, appreciation for sideshow, fire performance, and brought all of that to what we wanted to showcase with the Co5F. There were so many artists, musicians and performers in Richmond that fit perfectly with this new platform. We were in the second year of putting together art shows, music shows at G5, so it just organically made sense to have a concentrated night with all of these elements.
What sort of changes have occurred to the event in the course of doing it for the past 6 years? What has worked best in the past?
Every year is different but we look at what has worked and do our best to build on that while keeping it fresh and exciting. No carnival is the quite the same. It started as one night in October and is now multiple nights. In my opinion it works best when there is a different producer placed in charge of constructing each night. That way they put their own spin on the tone and/or theme and it becomes its own unique experience.
What are the unique challenges of putting together an event that features performances involving open flames? What sort of reactions do you typically see from attendees with respect to the fire performers?
Fire performance has been a big part of Gallery5 since the very beginning. It was part of the grand opening back on April 15th 2005 and the fire community has continued to grow by leaps and bounds. Safety is always first, and there's a system in place to make sure everything is running smoothly. Every First Friday that we're out on the street, we attract a big crowd of all ages with smiles on their faces and massive amounts of appreciation for the art of fire play. It's also a beautiful thing to see a multitude of people that are involved in fire performance now [who] were once in that crowd clapping and cheering. They were so inspired, they wanted to learn. It's all about spreading the fire love.
On a broader level, how do you feel about the current state of the live performance community of these types in RVA? Where do you see it going in the near future?
It goes through waves, but currently it seems that most of the vaudeville, burlesque, and comedy type shows in the city are now concentrated at Gallery 5, with a couple of other venues hosting these types of events here and there. Also, we currently have a very out of date and draconian law still in place that doesn't allow burlesque at certain venues that serve liquor, which is ridiculous. As far as people attending the shows, our crowds are very enthusiastic and show a lot of love. It's great to see people turning off their televisions and continuously coming out to support live performance.
As far as within the community, as long as we go forward with positive attitudes and support each other, we are good. I try to instill in other performers in the city that we are still in our baby phase of growth and we have to all stick together and work together to help each other grow. There's always going to be ups and downs but the people with the right attitudes stick around, and if there's anyone in the community that is/has been divisive or negative they usually bring that negative karma on themselves and fade out. Unity always wins. There's so much talent in this city, and more on the way!
Beyond the Carnival of 5 Fires, what does Vaudeville Galore have planned the near future?
With Vaudeville Galore starting in January of this year out of the ashes of my old group, Voix De Ville Follies, the new mission was to bring in guest producers every month (with myself solely producing 3 of the months) to put together quality shows with different themes, tones and a customized cast. It's been such an enriching experience, and rewarding to see what everyone brings to the table. With 2013, we will continue that format, and also I will be working toward taking a Vaudeville Galore show on the road. Onward and forward!
The Carnival Of 5 Fires consists of four events taking place at Gallery 5 in the month of October. The full schedule is listed below--for details on each event, click the bolded event title. Tickets to the events can be purchased separately, or as a package deal for $25. The Festival Ticket Package can be ordered here: co5fpackage.eventbrite.com.
**CARNIVAL OF 5 FIRES KICKOFF CELEBRATION/ OPENING OF "PLF PRESENTS 'VISUALS' (an art show)"!**
-10/5, 6pm, all ages, FREE!
Multi-media art showcase grand opening, PLF street fire & DJ show, cabaret performances from the Festival cast on-stage, set from 'The Big Payback': James Brown Tribute band, art cars, vendors, projections, carney folk & attractions.
**THE PARTY LIBERATION FRONT PRESENTS "SPOOKEASY MASQUERADE"**
-10/12, Doors 9pm, 18+, $5 adv/$7 door
A speakeasy inspired night of live music, dancing, cocktails, flappers, fedoras, video and masks (if one so desires); Reception for the PLF Visuals art show upstairs; Live music by Alison Self and Friends with DJs Mr Jennings and Reinhold.
**"GYPSIES! TRAMPS! THIEVES!" PRESENTED BY DEANNA DANGER PRODUCTIONS & VAUDEVILLE GALORE**
-10/19, Doors 8pm, 18+, $12 adv/$15 door
A three-ring, performance art circus of burlesque, bellydance, aerial arts, sideshow and storytelling. Featuring: Deanna Danger, Khalima, The Red Huntress, Cherry Von Bomb, Maharal, Name Of The Rose, and Professor Bless & the Dancing Madwoman. Multi-stage setting, original live music sets, carney attractions, vendors, hooch tent girls!
**"GHOULS & GAMS: A HORRIFYING BURLESQUE SHOW IN 3-DD" PRESENTED BY THE RICHMOND BURLESQUE REVUE**
-10/27, Doors 8pm, 18+, $12 adv/$15 door
Silver screen monster movie burlesque madness feat: Deepa de Jour, Ophelia Derriere, Magnolia Jackson Pickett Burnside, Deanna Danger, Chris Chaos, Eerie Twilight, Buster Britches, Puppie Buffé and Lilly Vaudeville; Live music from the Creep-A-Zoids; Costume Contest & raffle.
By Andrew Necci; top image by jaypaulphoto.com