by Kirby Lindsay Laney, posted 30 March 2015
Over its 12 years Moisture Festival has brought vaudeville back to life and into the mainstream of Fremont entertainment. Moisture Festival, a four-week showcase of varieté comedy and burlesque held in early spring, has also brought some of the world’s greatest living vaudeville and burlesque performers onto our doorsteps.
Welcome To The Kinderstube
‘The Last Laugh’ stars Hacki Ginda, a German clown and one of the many incredible, international talents Moisture Festival has introduced to Fremont audiences. ‘The Last Laugh’ feature several other Moisture Festival finds, particularly Charley Castors, the fifth in six generations of one of Europe’s most famous clown families.
When asked why he returns, year after year, to the Center of the Universe and Moisture, Ginda answered simply, “It’s friendly. Fremont people, they are different.”
Both performers said they were drawn by the atmosphere. “Such a good team,” Castors observed, “When you come here, it’s fun. They trust you,” he further observed, “You can try new material.”
“This is like the kinderstube (nursery) of the American vaudeville scene,” Ginda said. Moisture provides a safe, accepting place where performers can gather and learn from one another, about their acts and about their far-flung industry. As Ginda explained, on his extensive travels, “I’m getting asked for contacts [to get in to] Moisture Festival.” Performers want to come here.
“When you create the market, the people come,” Castors agreed. As part of a family of performers – his son will be clowning with him at Moisture Festival this year – Castors knows that it can be just as important for audiences to grow up with vaudeville as it can for generations of performers to have places where they pass down their talents and knowledge.
“It’s like a pizza,” Ginda joked about the magic of Moisture Fest, “everything is on it, all the ingredients. And it’s in a brewery!”
From Neighborhood To Neighborhood
This year is the tenth, or so, Moisture Festival for Ginda, who joined the showcase in its second year. For Ginda, the appeal of the vaudeville model, particularly in the Palladium, is, “because it is really close to the people,” he explained, “close communication with the people.”
“I’m one of the people that restarted the vaudeville scene after World War II,” explained Ginda, “there were more than 200 varieté halls before the war. This was neighborhood varieté, where people would get their news, you could bring your babies, beer was not very pricey and you knew your neighbors.” According to Ginda, performers traveled from neighborhood to neighborhood, hall to hall, giving the MC the challenge of linking together a random collection of acts…much like at Moisture Festival today.
In addition to restoring vaudeville to Germany, Ginda also provided one of the original inspirations for Moisture Festival. In 1996, Ginda launched a comedy/varieté festival in Berlin, drawing in performers from around the world – including California’s Tom Noddy and our own Ron Bailey. The performers gathered every morning, over the three weeks, in Ginda’s flat, for breakfast and conversation.
Ginda encouraged copies of his festival, and he saw similar events spring up in France, Spain and another in Germany. Bailey invited Ginda to come ‘play’ with his Du Caniveaux company at Oregon Country Fair; and again in 2004, when Du Caniveaux, Fremonster Theatrical, Fremont Players and Tim Furst launched the first Moisture.
Ginda has been a part of the show nearly every year, provided he could get a VISA to travel here. When in Fremont, in addition to performing, Ginda also lends his considerable talents at set decoration and carpentry to enhancing the entrance, the stage and the hall of Hale’s Palladium, and to slowly transforming the former keg warehouse into a performance space.
Everyone Can Play
Ginda didn’t start as a performer, like Castors. His first time on stage took place at age 29, but being a quick study, he’s become embedded in the world of circus, having launched his own for a while, and having brought his son and now his grandchildren onto the stage.
He likes to teach the next generation his own laws of humor – no handicap jokes, no animals and the humor has to be smart. For his acts at Moisture Festival, he has stuck to basics. “They don’t have space here,” Ginda said of the many acts he’s invented. Some of his performances take too long for the 8 – 12 minute window MF can give performers, and some are just too complicated. This year at Moisture, Ginda will introduce his 3D screen, with glasses, and stretch the accommodation abilities of the Festival producers.
“I have suitcases at home that have a whole hour show in them,” Ginda said, “I have acts that work in Germany, France, South Korea but don’t work here.” In 2013, Ginda literally toured around the world. When accepting a booking, he decides which suitcase to take along, “but sometimes I take the wrong suitcase and do a different show…”
Ginda has been able to perform extensively in part because he has acts that require no speaking. “I did not learn any South Korean,” he said of his recent world tour, “I’m not a stand-up comedian,” he said, but “I can talk, and be funny.”
Ginda gave up festival producing, and running his own circus, years ago. Today he travels, performing at other’s shows, and at street festivals. “Again,” he said about being on the street, “you are closer to the people.”
Yet, there are Festivals springing up around the world that Ginda, and Castors, have no interest in: the competitions. In this model, venues and performers compete for audiences and festival judges – a model Moisture Festival hasn’t adopted. For Castors, this is part of the appeal of Moisture. “It’s a festival without competition.” With no stars or divas, everyone can play.
Get Your Brain Fed
On April 18th, audiences get another – possibly last – shot at seeing it all. For ‘The Last Laugh’, these two performers that came to the U.S. on a VISA will perform once more before heading out – and who knows when they will get back here again. “So many performers want to come here,” Ginda observed, “but they can’t because of the VISA…” Moisture Festival volunteers have learned the VISA process, and help performers as much as they can, but even performers welcomed around the world can be denied.
So, if you have, or haven’t, taken in a Moisture Festival show this season (and why haven’t you?!) make sure to buy tickets now to ‘The Last Laugh.’ “You will spare a visit to the doctor,” Castors said, “Come with the family and everyone will have fun!”
Purchase tickets to both the final weeks of Moisture and ‘The Last Laugh’ at MoistureFestival.org “It’s brain food to the people,” Hacki Ginda said, and then, ‘auf wiedersehen’…
- Smooth Operations At Moisture Festival
- by Kirby Lindsay, March 24, 2015
- Juggling With Moisture
- by Kirby Lindsay, March 24, 2010
- Love Among the Clowns
- by Kirby Lindsay, March 20, 2008 in the North Seattle Herald-Outlook
- Support The Moisture Fest Phenomenon
- by Kirby Lindsay, December 19, 2014
©2015 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.