by Kirby Lindsay Laney, 5 April 2016
The season of Moisture Festival has arrived in Fremont, and the four-week showcase of vaudeville and burlesque will end soon. Each year Moisture brings stunning, sensational and side-splittingly funny entertainers to Hale’s Palladium, and other venues around Seattle, to the delight of its astute audiences.
To bring on the Moisture, Festival producers must mobilize an army of volunteers. The 200+ people, most of them passionate about the arts, live theater, vaudeville, burlesque, or some combination of them all, give generously of their time, often year after year.
Moisture Festival provides a valuable forum for talented artists that travel here from every corner of the world, including Portland and West Seattle, but without its volunteers, Moisture could not happen. From the people that sell tickets in the box office, to the door babes that get people into seats, to the lighting, sound and rigging folk that make the acts visible, to the stage hands that set the specific mics, tables, rugs, or 80 lb. slab of granite the performers call for, to the free hands that clean up the rose petals, confetti, popcorn, spilt beer, bubble soap or whatever left behind on the stage, and in the seating area, Moisture wouldn’t be able to happen without their indispensable efforts.
‘Being Shy Was Boring’
One of these volunteers is Angela Parisi. She’s been with Moisture since its second year, when the Festival moved into the keg warehouse at Hale’s Brewery – and Parisi was aged 11. She found the Festival when, “my dad was consulting,” she recently explained. Her dad, Al Parisi, an event organizer who ran the Fremont Fair quite successfully for many years, had raised her around festivals, and volunteer work. Through him, she had previously met some Moisture Festival producers, through the Oregon Country Fair and the Royal Famille du Caniveaux.
Parisi started with Moisture as a Door Babe. “There were no other volunteer positions,” she said. So she came back, year after year, to take tickets, hand out programs, distribute donor cards, sweep and straighten chairs. As a minor, she couldn’t work in the box office or hand out beer, but also, in those early days of Moisture, things were a lot simpler. “It’s gotten bigger,” Parisi allowed, “with new venues, adding shows. It used to be mostly local acts.”
Yet, her hardwork and diligence didn’t go unnoticed. Around age 16, another hardworking, long-time volunteer, Christina Bruce asked Parisi to help with the artist liaison work. “I was very shy,” Parisi said, “it gave me something to do.” As an artist liaison, Parisi had to talk to performers, some of whom she knew and some she didn’t. When asked if she is still shy, after six years of liaison-ing, Parisi admitted, “No. I decided being shy was boring.”
This year, Parisi is now the Artist Liaison, a contract employee for Moisture, leading a team of volunteers. Their job is to arrive early for every show (all 58) and check-in performers, to make sure they signed a waiver, presented their insurance information, been given their gift, and connected to everyone (housing, transportation, sound, lighting, rigging, etc.) that they need to make the most of their time at Moisture Festival. “It is stressful,” Parisi agreed, “because you are the point person. I’ve had people that get overwhelmed by it all.” For Parisi though, it is a matter of delegating the problems. “It’s easy,” she explained, “until something goes wrong. Then, you take them to the person that can fix it.”
Best of all, as each week passes, and Festival performers arrive for their third, fourth or fifth show of the season, it gets very, very easy. ‘I’m here,’ each performer will say as they walk into the venue, and a check mark goes down beside their name.
‘We’re Not Scrambling As Much’
After 12 years, for Parisi, Moisture Festival keeps getting better. “I think, in the last few years, things are going smoothly,” she said, “We’re not scrambling as much as we used to.”
She does have some concerns. Like many long-term volunteers, Parisi is finding it difficult to give as much time as she used to. Unlike the others, it isn’t age that is slowing her, it’s life. “I can’t go to every show. I have full-time work,” she said. Before, she gave time to Moisture while going to school, but now that she is working, and paying her own rent, she needs to find new volunteers to take on more of the work. “I’m worried because I don’t want to be there every night,” she said, “I’m working. I don’t live in Ballard anymore. I don’t have a car.”
Parisi has a strong history of volunteering. “I like to go to events,” she explained, “so I will volunteer to get a ticket.” She knows how to volunteer, (“expect to do a lot of work,”) and working with volunteers. Yet, she knows what draws her and others to volunteering. “I want to hang out, and have fun, and meet people,” she said, and volunteering gives her opportunities to do just that, while before and after the hard work.
“The issue is retention,” Parisi said of volunteering, “and making sure the volunteers feel like they are wanted.” She pointed out that some organizations put their expectations too high on volunteers. “Someone runs the gate at an event,” Parisi said, “You’re not going to chase them down when you are a volunteer.” For her own volunteer team, “I’ve found the people that are top notch,” she said of her team, “with the new people, I don’t assume they are going to be good,” until they prove themselves.
She believes in giving incentives, but agreed that a t-shirt might not always be the ideal thing. “Volunteers are people who love the organization, and/or who want to see a show,” and it’s important to keep that love alive. “You need to make volunteers feel a part of the team. Moisture Festival does that.”
Moisture Festival gives their volunteers appreciation in several ways, including gatherings and parties, like the Volunteer Party Talent Show, held during the Festival, and the ‘After After’ party that has taken place just after it all ends. They serve volunteers free food and entertainment, but the gatherings also build up a sense of community among the Moisture producers, performers and volunteers.
‘A Dumb Name For A Festival’
Parisi started with Moisture at a young age, but she is surprised to find she still doesn’t see her current age group represented – among the volunteers or the performers. “I’ve targeted the people I know like events,” Parisi said of recruiting volunteers, “but people don’t understand what Moisture Festival is. No one has heard about it,” she acknowledged about Moisture Festival. If they have, according to Parisi, they say, ‘what a dumb name for a festival.’
“My generation is not well represented,” Parisi said. She knows the producers work on inviting younger, newer talent. “I think they recognize that they don’t have that many people my age on the stage,” she acknowledged. Yet, the producers also bring in better and better talent every year. “They are shaking it up, and getting better stuff,” Parisi praised, “but people don’t know it is happening.”
As far as Parisi is concerned, “You are never going to understand it until you see it. The people are weird, and great!” Parisi resists referring to this as vaudeville, burlesque or varieté. “I don’t think that resonates. You can’t make it resonate until you go. It is a spectacle!”
A ticket though won’t give you the view Parisi enjoys. “We have people juggling backstage, balancing each other,” she said. As a volunteer, she can sit on the side – after liaison-ing the artists – to watch the show among the professionals.
Volunteers are always needed to help make Moisture happen. For those interested in helping out, this year or next, click on the volunteer link on the Moisture Festival.org website.
Tickets are also still available to attend the show, and see what happens thanks to the 200+ volunteers, like Parisi. Purchase tickets to Moisture Fest through the website, and see the spectacle while you still can!
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- by Kirby Lindsay Laney, March 24, 2015
- Tim Furst: Juggling With Moisture
- by Kirby Lindsay, March 24, 2010
- Festival Expert (And Local Legend) Al Parisi
- by Kirby Lindsay, June 4, 2010
- Randy Minkler Answers Questions On Godfrey Daniels
- by Kirby Lindsay, March 18, 2011
- Moisture Festival Presents Libertease, An Artful Dialogue
- by Kirby Lindsay Laney, March 23, 2016
- Support A Million Laughs At Moisture Fest
- by Kirby Lindsay Laney, February 27, 2016
©2016 Kirby Laney. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.