In Arts & Entertainment

Celebrate an anniversary anachronistically.

The Steampunk Circus celebrates 40 years of the Milwaukee Public Theatre

"So is this a show?"

"No, this is a party," said Ashanti Cook, auction coordinator for the "Steampunk Circus of Metamorphosis," a 40th anniversary benefit celebration for the Milwaukee Public Theatre. The event, happening on Friday, Sept. 19 from 6 to 10 p.m. in The Shops of Grand Avenue, 275 W. Wisconsin Ave., will feature live performances, a fashion show, activity tents, costume contest and silent auction.

The event is meant to be the kickoff of the company's "40 for 40" campaign. According to its website, Milwaukee Public Theatre's goal "is to raise $40,000 for our 40th anniversary, and we'd like you to join us in kicking off our campaign in this most fantastic celebration!"

"The Milwaukee Public Theater is a free-to-the-public theater," said Cook. "We don't have a season with shows that happen on specific dates, but we do a lot of performances around the city, especially with children. We try to do performances and activities that teach kids good things, like promoting diversity and openness." One such program is called "Food for Thought," which teaches kids about healthy eating habits through connections to local food co-ops.

The Circus of Metamorphosis celebration is themed with a Steampunk style. Steampunk is essentially a Victorian alternate reality in which electricity was never discovered, but steam-powered clockwork-based technology continued to move forward regardless. Thus the fashion show should feature gears, glass and leather laden corsets, top hats and other Victorian-esque paraphernalia.

"We're going to have roaming performers for most of the night and a number of performers on stage. They will be 10-20-minute performances that come and go." Entertainment includes music, dancers, stilt-walkers, clowns, mimes, magicians, fortune tellers, puppeteers, and face painters, with more features continuing to be added.

Guests are encouraged to embrace the night's theme and participate in the costume contest, but costumes are not required.

"I'm working on mine right now," said Cook. "We have very good connections with the Milwaukee Steampunk Society; many of them will be involved. My outfit is probably going to be in the middle. I'm not super steampunk but I have a cute mini top hat, I already have my corset and I'm looking for some nerf guns to spray paint into steampunk artillery."

If you want help victorianizing your outfit, there will be a "bonus" hat making workshop the weekend before the event on Saturday, September 13th from 9AM-Noon at the Shops of Grand Avenue.

The silent auction will feature baskets of donations from individuals, areas businesses and plenty of tickets to area theaters and performance groups. "Those will all go into baskets which we'll be auctioning off to raise money for the theater."

One such auction item is a custom mirror that is 4x2-feet handmade by Scátháin in the Victorian style.

"I don't know how they did it, but if you were to look back in history and ask how they made a mirror back then, this is how they did it. It's beautiful," said Cook.

"We also have a lot of really nice art. One of our board members is an art collector and he's donating a number of pieces for us."

If you would like to donate anything to the auction, you can do so via a donation form on the Milwaukee Public Theatre's website.

Tickets include parking, food and activities.


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