April 18, 2017

Moisture Festival Spotlight: Aerial Coordinator

Notes from a conversation with the Moisture Festival’s Cathy Sutherland

By Steve Wacker

I’ve been attending Moisture Festival shows for a few years now, and I never really thought much about the combination of art forms: varietè, aerial performance, and burlesque. That is, I hadn’t thought about them until I had the opportunity to speak with the Festival’s diva deviante of dance and gymnastics, its coordinator of all things aerial – Ms. Cathy Sutherland, without whom the Festival wouldn’t be as multifaceted as it is.

Aerialistas 2010 (Credit: Michelle Bates)
We all appreciate the shared-laughter aspect of Moisture Festival shows, but there’s definitely something to be said for how the giggles, gags, and jokes are complemented by aerial artistry. I know that I’ve been gob-smacked more than once when, while trying to catch my breath after laughing so hard that I thought I’d pass out, I saw an aerial performance that left me awestruck and speechless. This is the dimension that Sutherland brings, with her passion for physical movement and her appreciative eye for talent. She was the person who recognized the possibilities of burlesque, and the potential synergy and audience appeal of combining burlesque with aerial artistry and varietè.

Sutherland has quite a resumé, with a strong emphasis on life experience. In her mid-20s she dropped her gymnastic scholarship at the University of Washington and turned down a dance scholarship to go to Europe and make her living as a performer/musician (saxophone and vocal harmonies) on the streets of Paris and elsewhere. She and MF cofounder Ron Bailey established the Royal Famille de Caniveaux, and their relationship evolved from the professional to the personal, which ultimately became a marriage partnership and family. Their daughter Caela is a gifted singer and entertainer in her own right – her first CD release is slated for the spring of this year.

Aerialistas 2010 (Credit: Mark Gardiner)
After they returned to the States, Sutherland says that originally the concept of MF was pretty much Bailey’s thing. “RB – I call him RB – was kind of wanting to do this. At first, it was something that he started, and I was really involved with my gymnastics team. He and I had done a lot of stuff together, been to Europe and done all that, playing in the streets, you know.”

Sutherland feels very fortunate for the opportunities she has had in gymnastics and dance, and the chance to work with some great dancers and choreographers, such as Pat Graney. But Sutherland is one of those people who can’t stand going to gyms for exercise, and when an invitation to join an aerialist troupe came along she jumped on it.

“I had been invited by Lara Paxton of the Aerialistas to become an understudy in this new all-girl aerial gang. That sounded like fun, and I was looking for something to do. Before I knew it I was performing with them and having a blast. Then Moisture Festival started letting me do our aerial acts there. This was a six-person troupe, which was really nice to see. We would go to Lara’s house and make these great fairy costumes, with big fairy wings.” Sutherland speaks highly of Paxton’s creativity, and is grateful for the opportunity to work with her.

Aviatrix 2011 (Credit: John Cornicello) 
“Then burlesque started happening, and there was a need to do burlesque. We even created a burlesque aerial number, which we did at Moisture Festival. We did our first burlesque there, at Hale’s Palladium, but we realized we needed to find our own venue, that the comedy/varietè needed to be on its own – so people who wanted family-oriented entertainment didn’t get it mixed up with burlesque. We tried different venues and performed at some really nice ones, such as ACT Theatre, and over time we started incorporating burlesque into aerial.”

Bell Hops 2015
(Credit: David Rose)
Eventually they ended up finding the Broadway Performance Hall venue (MF’s primary burlesque venue today). “We really wanted to differentiate our burlesque from other burlesque in town – we wanted it to have a Moisture Festival feel, with skill acts and aerial acts and humor, like the original music hall idea. We wanted to see those other acts. And there’s so much humor in burlesque – like our aviatrix act, in which we were all formation flyers dressed up like Amelia Earhart, for example. We had a lot of fun incorporating burlesque into aerial.”

Sutherland is not very philosophical about Moisture Festival’s ability to foster a sense of community. “That’s not me. I think that RB is more the person who brings the community together – he’s the visionary about such things. I just like things physical. I like doing physical, fun, scary things. I like to laugh, and being up high – I’m so lucky. And we’re also lucky to be part of such a great community, with organizations such as SANCA (the School of Acrobatics and New Circus Arts) and Emerald City Trapeze, and Teatro Zinzanni bringing great aerial acts in from places like France and Canada.”

Aviatrix 2014 (Credit: David Rose)
From left: Carri Anderson, Esther Edelman, Martha Enson, Cathy Sutherland
Sutherland believes that MF audiences appreciate the fact that the Festival is genuine, that it’s not a hustle. “There’s a feeling that the audience is proud of us. Like when we were doing the aviatrix act, there were women in the audience who appreciated that we were older women – in our forties and fifties – doing a very cool act, and they were totally behind us. That’s something that’s engendered in that room, and to me a lot of that spirit is something that RB creates.”

Sutherland’s positive spirit shines throughout her work, and it shone throughout our conversation. She shared some fascinating details of the Festival’s history, and I know that this spring I’m going to have a deeper appreciation for the aerialist and burlesque performers. See you there!

Seattle's Moisture Festival of Comedy/Varietè, founded in 2004, is the largest and longest running comedy/varietè festival in the world. Learn more at www.moisturefestival.org/.

Thanks to Kirby Lindsay for background information. 

February 13, 2017

2017 Moisture Festival Benefit Show - Room Circus

Dedicated to giving back to the community that gives so much to us, Moisture Festival hosts a benefit show every year in which a portion of the ticket sales is directly donated to a local non-profit organization. In 2017 we are thrilled to announce our benefit show on Sunday, March 19th at 7:30 pm will be raising money for Seattle's Room Circus Medical Clowning. Partnering with Seattle Children's Hospital, their goal is to expand the program within Seattle Children's Hospital and to other area hospitals with pediatric services.

Using a playful, interactive approach, medical clowns use music, physical comedy, improvisation and circus arts to help transform the health care environment. Stress relief, distraction, reduction of anxiety and pain and empowerment of patients are just a few of the measurable benefits. In addition, medical clowning helps build trust between physicians and patients, especially when a patient is feeling frightened or in pain, and has been shown to have positive clinical outcomes. Room Circus clowns reach through the barriers, pull out laughter, and create a circle of trust that encompasses everyone in the room - providers, families, patients and staff.

There are a myriad of ways that you can contribute to organizations like Room Circus, dedicated to creating a more joyful world in our own backyard, whether it is through donation, participation, or simply coming to the show on Sunday, March 19th. If you visit their website you can read firsthand accounts of medical "clown rounds" and the difference that laughter can make in child's healing and recovery. 

Deaf Spotlight

Moisture Festival was born out of a passion for the comedy varietè arts and a desire to preserve the tight-knit community that can foster new talent and support lifelong artists. Its mission is to enrich the community by presenting an affordable annual festival showcasing the art of live comedy/varietè performance. Keeping with its mission statement, the festival strives to keep ticket prices low (as well as working with organizations like Teen Tix to provide heavily discounted tickets for youth audience members) as well as opening up lectures and workshops to the public at varying price points. (Our FREE lecture series continues in 2017 with Matthew Stull of The Bobs on Monday, March 27th at 7:30 pm.) Creating an accessible performance arts festival spanning four weeks and multiple venues presents a challenge but one way that we hope to overcome barriers is by partnering with Deaf Spotlight to provide four ASL interpreted shows throughout the festival.

Since 2011, Moisture Festival has been working with our friends at Deaf Spotlight, a renowned non-profit arts organization dedicated to the art, culture, and creativity of the Deaf community in the areas of cinema, performance arts and visual arts. Their mission is to inspire, encourage, and showcase creative works of, by, and for Deaf people in the Pacific Northwest through events that celebrate Deaf culture and American Sign Language. Big thanks to Deaf Spotlight Executive Director Patty Liang and Board Member Vicki Moseley who have been working with Paula Togawa, a long time Moisture Festival volunteer and driving force behind the logistics of arranging interpreters for a handful of shows each season. Thank you to Paula, Patty and Vicki for contributing to a more accessible Moisture Festival and coordinating all of our amazing interpreters!

We’re pleased to announce that Moisture Festival will present four ASL interpreted shows this year:
Friday, March 24th: 7:30 pm (Varietè @ Hale's Palladium)
Friday, March 31st: 7:30 pm (Libertease Cabaret @ BPH)
Saturday, April 1st: 7:30 pm (Varietè @ Hale's Palladium)
Sunday, April 2nd: 3:00 pm (Varietè Matinee @ Hale's Palladium)
[Edit: March 31, April 2 dates pending. Check in for more updates as we approach the festival.]

Tickets for the both varietè and burlesque shows can be purchased through Stranger Tickets. When you arrive at the Palladium for the show please let the Box Office know you will be sitting in the ASL section and a host will show you to your seats. Burlesque shows are 18+ only please. We highly recommend purchasing tickets in advance as these shows tend to sell out.

February 9, 2017

The Bobs: The Most Influential Acapella Group You've Never Heard Of

Moisture Festival's FREE lecture series will continue in 2017 with Matthew Stull of The Bobs and his talk "The Most Influential Acapella Group You've Never Heard Of" on Monday, March 27th at Hale's Palladium. The Bobs 35 year collaborative career is coming to an end as these tireless performers turn to new chapters in their lives. Matthew will be following The Bobs LAST EVER Moisture Festival performance (and final performance on the West Coast) with a Monday night lecture chronicling the unexpected journey from singing telegrams to Emmy® Awards performances. This is a free lecture, open to the public, and all proceeds at the door will go to Moisture Festival.

In 1981, Matthew Stull and Gunnar Madsen (newly unemployed in the Great San Fransisco Singing Telegram Depression) put out a wanted ad for a bass singer. Richard Greene answered the call and six months later they found themselves at an open mic in a Cuban restaurant.The rest, as they say, is history.

Please join us in celebrating and sharing the stories of these longstanding varieté performers in the age of flash in the pan novelty. Long time friends of Moisture Festival, The Bobs have delighted our audiences year after year with their creativity and technical ingenuity. Described by the Seattle Times as “a musical equivalent of a Gary Larson drawing,” using just their voices and body percussion to fill a room with an orchestra of harmonious sound The Bobs have left an indelible mark on the Moisture Festival line-up. 

Date: Monday, March 27th
Time: 7:30 pm

Location: Hale's Palladium 
Cost: FREE

Reserve your free tickets!

January 31, 2017

70 Years Young!

Moisture Festival Artistic Director and head of the lovingly nicknamed 'Von Tramp Family' Ron W. Bailey is celebrating a milestone this year, 45 years of making music in Seattle. Making his way to Seattle from Norman, OK with his band Rose & The Dirt Boys in the early 70's, Ron was a mainstay in the Seattle music scene well before becoming one of the founding minds behind Moisture Festival.

Celebration is a family affair for the Baileys which is why Ron is coinciding his 70th birthday party with the release party for his daughter Caela's Bailey's first studio album 'Gospel of a Gutter Queen.' Caela brings her father's words and music to life in collaboration with 50 of Seattle's finest musicians and members of bands such as Industrial Revelation, Fly Moon Royalty, The Dusty 45's, The Gorgetown Orbits, Mother of Pearl, Wiscon, and more.

The evening of March 3rd will begin with a set from Ron W. Bailey and The Tangents. A local legend with over 40 years of writing and performing in Seattle, Ron is a founding father of the Royal Famille DuCaniveaux and has spent 13 years at the helm as Artistic Director of Moisture Festival. In addition to his role as producer, Ron has been a driving force behind the creative direction of the festival. In addition to being our fearless leader (someone has got to jump first!) as well as being our outstanding liaison with the press, it is Ron's discerning eye that's helped to shape the media materials and marketing to suit the vision of Moisture Festival.

The night will continue on with the bewitching Caela Bailey accompanied by many of the folks who played on the album and incorporating a cast of Seattle artists she has collaborated with over the years. Expect the unexpected with this family! The show takes place in Seattle's Central District at the historic Washington Hall. Cabaret, vaudeville, burlesque and more combine to create a night you will not soon forget!

Bar proceeds will be donated to the Moisture Festival! (helping to keep art weird in Seattle)

Date: Friday, March 3rd
Time: 8 pm
Location: Washington Hall
53 14th Ave Seattle, WA 98122
Cost: $20 ($22.23 with fees)


January 13, 2017

Nine Weeks and Counting!

The holidays have come and gone, hopefully leaving you stuffed with good tidings and more goodies. Here in the Moisture Festival office, the booking elves have been hard at work combing through applications and putting together a vision of the festival in store for you ahead. 2017 promises to be a year of sweets and treats for anyone looking to indulge, whether it's high flying thrill, raucous laughter, or tantalizing visuals. With the start of the New Year and the official nine week countdown until festival begun, it's time to start revealing the acts that have us buzzing with excitement.

Blanche DeBris made her burlesque debut on the Moisture Festival stage in 2008 and will be back in 2017 to emcee a handful of Libertease Cabaret shows at the Broadway Performance Hall. Since 2012 she has been an emcee at the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekender as well as bringing down the house worldwide with her signature "Rubber Ducky" and "Sound of Music in Six Minutes" acts. Blanche is also an instructor, having taught classes in emceeing and character/act development at BurlyCon and all over the country.

Moisture Festival is the world's largest comedy and variete festival in  the world, bringing in  over 200 performers from stages across the country and around the world in addition to incubating local talent. Each year our booking team strives to create the perfect mix of returning acts and new faces, giving our audience a grab bag of music, magic, comedy, circus arts and more in every show. Five - eight shows per week, four weeks each festival, 14 years running and no two shows the same.

With a growing pool of world class performers to choose from, it's a balancing act bringing together old and new, past favorites and new blood. This year we're happy to confirm both Avner the Eccentric (Week 1) and Al Simmons (Week 4) will both be back on stage at Hale's Palladium. Al brings his never ending storehouse of comedy props and costumes and Avner is a legend in street to stage theater; helping birth the New Vaudeville movement in the 1970's by taking his street performance across the country as a one man show.

We won't just be saying hello again to festival favorites this year, we'll also be saying goodbye (for now.) After 35 years, 16 albums and eight Bobs, the Bobs are in the midst of their Farewell Tour and will be joining us during Week 2 of the festival. It will be sad to say goodbye but the Moisture Festival Family is lucky to look back on so many fine performances over the years and we wish Angie, Dan, Matthew, and Gunnar all the best for the new chapters ahead of them.

Too much history for a single blog post, if you would like to learn more about The Bobs you can read about their journey starting with The Great Sand Fransisco Singing Telegram Depression of 1981 through today.

It's a spectacularly difficult decision for our booking team to choose which new performers to bring to the festival each year. Between invitations and applications they work hard to create a line up that features local talent, national and international headliners, and deliver a one of a kind show each and every night. These are just a few examples of the world class acts that will be performing in the 14th annual Moisture Festival, many more to be announced in the weeks leading up to Opening Night. Tickets have gone on sale and are available for all show dates. Early Bird Pricing will continue for another through February 14th so consider a pair of tickets for the love bird in your life. With weekdays, weekends, matinees, and late night shows there is something for everyone and every budget.

Purchase Tickets Now ➳

December 19, 2016

A Celebration of the life of Sam Williams, aka Smerdyakov Karamazov

A Celebration of the life of Sam Williams, aka Smerdyakov Karamazov, will be held at Hale's Palladium on Sunday January 29th, 2017, between 2:00pm and 9:00pm.

Because Sam was beloved to so many, this will be a ticketed event to ensure that there will be space for family and close friends. Tickets will be free, but advance tickets will require a code to reserve. Tickets will become available with a code as of the second week of January, 2017.

If you feel like you should have a code, but have not received one by January 3rd, please email to Sam at MoistureFestival dot org with your name and your connection to Sam, and a code will be sent to you.

If some tickets remain available closer to the event, the code will be removed, and the remaining tickets will become available on a first-requested basis.

Thank you for your understanding and cooperation. More details will be posted to the www.moisturefestival.org website after January 3.

In the meantime, here's a bit from our November eNews published 11/22/16:

Sam Williams 1953-2016

photo: Cornicello Photography
Last week we said an unexpected goodbye to our dear friend and fellow partner in laughter Sam Williams aka Smerdyakov Karamazov

Longtime performer with The Flying Karamazov Brothers (1981-1999) and Moisture Festival Family, whether on stage or behind the lighting board, Sam always had twinkle in his eye and a silly joke at the ready.  

He will be greatly missed.

 Media coverage:


Photos & video:


Photos: Cornicello Photography & Michelle Bates Photography
Video: Mr Roger's Neighborhood, air date August 25, 1997