Mikado abridged

Yum Yum and Nanki-poo

Some of the funniest entertainment at the Great Dickens Christmas Fair is in the Victoria & Albert Bijou Music Hall. This year they’re performing the Mikado in an hour, and it will make you laugh.

It’s like a send up of a Victorian Thespian Society putting on community theater in their bathrobes. Most of the voices are Gilbert & Sullivan worthy. Yum-yum can hit those high notes and be heard in the next county. Nanki-poo has a smooth tenor. But even if the actors don’t have an operatic voice, they are still fun to watch. Ko-Ko, the Lord High Executioner was very fun to watch as the actor (what are these player’s names anyway? Is there no cast list anywhere?) played a slightly nerdish Victorian banker-type who’d been cast into the role because he was just really funny. And the Mikado is as pompous as any businessman playing an emperor might be.

The Mikado and Ko-Ko, the Lord High Executioner

Plus, the play was a great sketching situation, as I could get a grip on what each actor looked like and have plenty of time to do gesture drawings as they posed and sang.

Dressing the part

One of the best parts about going to the Great Dickens Christmas Fair are the costumes. They are amazing! Yard of taffeta and silk, flounces and ruffles, waistcoats and petticoats. Oh, I do want a hoop skirt.

It’s fabulously expensive to have a period dress made, so I don’t think I can go that route. If I were handy, I could  join the Greater Bay Area Costume Guild and learn to make my own. Or if I were even more handy, I could follow the directions on The Cup That Cheers and with needle, thread, duct tape and a hot glue gun, I could re-purpose thrift shop finds into a stunning costume.

Unfortunately, I am just a painter. Although I grew up in a family of Women Who Sew (my grandmother was a professional seamstress and furrier, for heaven’s sake!), I was never able to catch on to sewing. But sometimes if I want something bad enough, I can learn how to do it.

The Great Dickens Christmas Fair

We kicked off the Christmas season with the Great Dickens Christmas Fair Sunday. It was delightful and entertaining as usual. Dickens and the Victorians practically invented my idea of Christmas, and I love the play-acting.

This year I went prepared to sketch with a Tombow dual brush pen, a Niji waterbrush, and several Staedtler pigment liners. I used the same 7″ x 7″ hard-bound Daler Rowney I used last year for my first foray into public sketching. I have to admit I still haven’t finished that journal, and besides, I thought it a proper and fitting way to round out the year.

I decided that I’d do at least 10 pages of sketching. I counted journal pages, and put a big number 10 on the tenth page so I’d know I’d reached my quota of sketching for the day.

And I did it.  Some of my pages aren’t anything I’d want to show anyone, but oddly, the least successful as sketches have the most possibilities for future projects. I’ll blog about the completed projects later.

Sketches I will show you

Polka at Fezziwig’s Dance Party

Fezziwig’s Dance Party was as fun as always. In fact, it was more fun this year because the players asked us to dance, and then they taught us to waltz.

Waltzing with someone who knows how to do it is an experience verging on the sublime, and I recommend you run right out and find someone to teach you. In fact, any of the old-style dances are barrels of fun, and I think everyone should try them. Fortunately, the Bay Area has a lot going on. Try the Period Events & Entertainments Re-Creation Society  (Peers) website. They sponsor scads of events, and their links page gives even more info on other local and national period reinactments and events.

Irish Step Dancer

The Siamsa le Cheile dancers put on a terrific exhibition of traditional and modern-style Irish, Scottish, and Cape Breton dancing. After all these years of being involved in the music and dance, this stuff still makes my heart stand up like a 4-year old kid and whirl around till it’s dizzy.

The Dark Garden window displays seem like a perfect spot to draw, since the models hold their creative and cute poses very well, and let’s face it, just about everybody looks better in a corset. Unfortunately, the windows are also a perfect photo-op, so there’s a lot of jockeying for position with photographers. Also, people do love to look over your shoulder and comment on your drawing. Maybe some year, when I’m more confident sketching in public,  I’ll get a hoop skirt, set up my easel, and become a part of the show.