Let me just start by saying that as I write this I am dead. Yes, dead.
On Halloween night, at the Masque of the Red Death Masquerade, Death itself tapped me on the shoulder and whispered in my ear. The time of death was 11:07 p.m. I had almost made it to midnight, the time when it was announced that death was defeated. Oh, well, you can’t win ‘em all.
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Dead or not, my take on the evening was that the Akron Civic Theatre lived up to its promise that its 6th annual Masque of the Red Death Masquerade Party would be, “Akron’s most macabre, artfully elegant, daring, dramatic and decadent Halloween event.”
Having never attended the Masquerade, I had heard lots of hype about over-the-top and elegant costumes, delicious and plentiful food and drink, and entertainment in every corner of the gorgeous building.
The evening didn’t match my expectations. It exceeded them. A lot. This party was – well it was more than just a Halloween party. It was decadent and surreal in the best possible way. If you think I am exaggerating, look at the images photographer Dale Dong captured and you will begin to understand…or maybe not. I had seen photos from previous years, and still I didn’t expect to feel like I was walking through the Akron incarnation of Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin-Rouge.
But I did.
I’m not going to say too much about the costumes – the photos can tell that story way better than I. What I will say about them, though, is that, as a group, all who were at the Civic Theatre that night were more than costumed revelers. They were committed performance artists. Hosts, staff, entertainers and attendees alike embraced the opportunity to leave reality behind for a few hours and become outrageous and enthusiastic characters in an unscripted epic production.
The food was delicious – a continuously changing assortment of unpretentious, flavorful comfort foods that had guests lined up all evening long. My personal favorite was the homemade macaroni and cheese. The three bars made it easy for revelers to wet their whistles wherever they happened to be.
The Help and The Hands played in the Grand Lobby for most of the evening. Front man Brian Feltner channeled his inner pirate and the whole band brought their brand of raw exuberance and serious musical chops and gave a performance that not only fit the Masquerade, but also elevated it.
The Gage Brothers were on hand to play an acoustic set for guests and for ghouls who wandered by. Other notable entertainers included creepily masterful storyteller Kyle Jozsa, magicians Bill Bishop and Jim Klayder, juggler John Flower, balloon-mask maker Mot Buchanan and hoop/levitation wand/fan dancer Juliette Antony. Organist Sarah Kaufman’s haunting and powerful music filled the space with spooky mood music that beaconed the many ghouls and ghosts that roamed the halls mischievously warning guests of impending danger.
Fortunetellers, tarot readers and psychics were on hand, as were strolling dancers and musicians. There was an all evening long scavenger hunt, and Dan Cuthbert and Jean Griffith assisted guest with clues to the hunt throughout the building.
Midway through the evening, the Civic Theatre’s main stage was turned into a dance floor with a backdrop movie screen that silently showed “Young Frankenstein” as guests danced to a festive mix of old and new party music.
If you didn’t make it to this year’s Mask of the Red Death Masquerade, fear not. I would imagine that organizers are already planning how to top this year’s event, and I cannot wait to see what they have in store for 2016.
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