By MIKE CHAIKEN
What if the future happened in the age of Queen Victoria instead of the 21st century?
Well, you can find out on Jan. 9 when the Brass Ring Academy and Cabaret returns to the New England Carousel Museum for another celebration of everything known as Steampunk.
The genre has been bubbling in the underground for years. But its profile has been raised lately thanks to the hit BBC television show, “Doctor Who,” which began borrowing elements from Steampunk for its costumes, characters and sets. And then GSN launched “Steampunk’d,” a competition show that pitted a variety of creative types against each other in a competition to create all things Steampunk. The show’s pop culture notoriety was boosted by its host Jeanne Mai, who started off in the Style Network’s, “How Do I Look,” then had hosted the Miss Universe pageant (prior to Steve Harvey), and hosts the daytime TV show, “The Real.”
Clearly, Steampunk has upped its cool quotient.
And it’s returning to Bristol.
Lauren Grover of Meriden is the organizer of the Brass Ring Academy and Cabaret, which is a benefit for the New England Carousel Museum. And Grover said the museum, with its myriad of carousel horses and carousel memorabilia, is the perfect place for the event.
“Modern people live in a world where nearly everything is mass produced and all looks the same,” said Grover. “Steampunk is about letting the individual’s creativity out, using the Victorian theme as a jumping-off point.”
“To be surrounded by all the gorgeous carousel horses is lovely in its own right, but it also gives us a sense of how the details in a thing really make that thing special, no matter what it is,” said Grover. “It encourages us to dream, and then to make that dream real.”
The location also offers additional appeal, said Grover.
“I can’t say enough good things about the (The Museum of Fire History at the Carousel Museum). We could not ask for a better example of how to do high-tech stuff with only brass gears to work with. I learn something every time I go in,” said Grover.
The guests for the past two years also found the Bristol museum a perfect spot for the event, said Grover.
“Everyone loves it,” said the event’s organizer. “The Carousel Museum lends us an atmosphere unmatched by any other Steampunk festival I know of. It feels immersive, like we’ve gone back in time.”
“And it’s not just for Brass Ring, either- at least two sets of attendees have come back to hold their wedding there,” said Grover.
Grover said, “We draw people from all over. Many are locals, who aren’t necessarily into Steampunk per se, but come to support the museum. Many are from Connecticut, but we draw a lot from the rest of New England, New York, and New Jersey. We have a few from the south or the west coast every year, and we expect to continue to pull from a larger area as we grow.”
Aficionados and newcomers to the world of Steampunk will find the event appealing, said Grover.
“Our original concept for the Academy (day event) was to take people who like to play and create in the genre, but don’t have a lot of facts, and bring them together with people that have great historical knowledge, but don’t get to actually use and have fun with it,” said Grover. “This has worked better than I could have hoped. We have some of the most well-known names in both Steampunk and Victoriana coming to share with us. Even if people don’t think of themselves as already liking these genres, I bet almost everyone actually does.”
Grover continued, “As a short list of examples, if you have interests in chocolate, or pirates, or martial arts, or dance, or music, there’s a class just for you, plus several musical performances.”
“That’s just the daytime,” said Grover. “The evening cabaret has some incredible musicians, from local favorites like Them Damn Hamiltons and Venus Lens Cap, to regional acts like The Eternal Frontier, to international stars like our headliner, Aurelio Voltaire, and genres from rock to electronica to geeky singer-songwriter. We also feature the best dramatic burlesque troupe in the world, White Elephant Burlesque Society.”
Besides the academy and entertainment, Grover said, “We have an amazing set of vendors. Everything is handcrafted, so we’re part art gallery, part craft show, and part magical bazaar.”
As for what’s different this year compared to last, Grover said, “Our classes are almost all new this year, with many new presenters, performers, and vendors, plus returning favorites.”
Plus, she said, “We’re having a tea party. A classic Victorian afternoon tea, with scones and lemon curd and lots of other fun snacks.”
“We are also partnered with a local media convention, Your Minicon (which will be held) in Meriden. They have moved all their Steampunk programming to Sunday, and if you buy your ticket on our website, you get $5 off the price of both,” said Grover.
As for returning events, Grover said, “This year’s fashion show, hosted by Redfield Design, is going to be amazing. We have eight designers, some local and some coming from as far away as Atlanta, to show us all sorts of different looks. People will see a lot of diversity in models as well as styles, which is great for those of us that never see ourselves on the runway. Live music will be performed by Psyche Corporation.”
The Brass Ring Academy and Cabaret will be held at the New England Carousel Museum, 95 Riverside Ave., Bristol on Saturday, Jan. 9.
The Academy is open to all ages and doors open at 10 a.m. Classes start at 10:30 a.m. The event closes at 6 p.m.
The Cabaret, which is open to ages 18 and up, starts at 7 p.m. and goes to 11:30 p.m.
Tickets for the academy are $20 for adults, $10 for ages 11 to 16, and free for children under 10 accompanied by a parent. The cabaret is $20. You can buy a $35 ticket for both the academy and cabaret.
The MiniCon, a local media convention, will be held in Meriden on Saturday and Sunday. For more information, go to YourMinicon.com.
If you buy your ticket online of the Brass Ring Academy and Cabaret, there’s a special gift at the door. Prices go up Jan. 1. For tickets, go to www.brassringct.com/sample-page/tickets/
Costumes are encouraged but not required.