I got to the Sunday session of the Sideshow Gathering a little early, because I was hoping to get to say hi to Sally the Cinch like I told her I would on her blog. I had seen her briefly the night before, but never got a chance to talk to her. According to the published schedule, I should have had a good forty-five minutes before the sideshow acts started. But when I arrived, I noticed two things immediately:
1. The performances had already begun, as Doc Wilson was onstage. Well, not really onstage; he was doing close-up magic, and was at a table in front of the stage, with an audience member participating in the routine.
2. Sally the Cinch was there! She was in civilian clothes again, this time speaking to a group of people who were eating at one of the tables just behind the seating area.
I caught Sally's eye and introduced myself. She told me that I had just missed her performance, and the whole Cheeky Monkey Sideshow, including the Swami Yomahmi, who I had seen last year. We chatted briefly, and I'm a little worried I had that whole psycho Internet stalker vibe going on. Which is fair, I suppose, up to a point. (Wait, no, not really!)
I mentioned to Sally how lucky everyone at the show was that they got to spend an extra hour of their lives in Northeastern Pennsylvania, since the clocks had just changed that morning. I am wondering if the show was still running on Daylight Saving Time rather than Standard Time, which would explain the entire schedule running early.
One thing that takes some getting used to at these gatherings is the fact that so many of the people in the audience are actually performers themselves. The crazy-looking guy with the wistful look in his eye that I noticed on Saturday was onstage doing a routine on Sunday. So I was not that surprised when, after Dr. Wilson's piece had ended - with an inspirational talk that followed him using a dollar bill to cut a pencil in half, followed by a call for everyone to pony up one small dollar for the blow-off "Strange Thing," all of the proceeds from which would go to the Sideshow Gathering general coffers - a performer in the audience was essentially drafted to do an impromptu comedy juggling routine. (I never got his name, nor did I get the names of several other performers later.)
After that was over, the stage was turned over to The Magic of Steve Hyde and Melanie. A relatively local act out of Montoursville, PA, their routine began with classic stage magic acts. As in all classical stage magic, distraction and misdirection were key to the performance; in their case, that distraction and misdirection came in the form of the lovely Melanie.
Note the bloodstained tablecloth in the background. Some of that blood may be real. Melanie stated that she needed five stitches after the show.Steve Hyde pulls an impossibly large array of objects
out of a small box which had earlier been shown to be empty
and tosses them into an umbrella held by the lovely Melanie.
After some audience-participation magic it was time for another classic - sawing the lady in half. Only Steve Hyde used an electric drillsaw to cut through Melanie's lovely midsection. Fortunately, she was unharmed. Or at least unbisected.
Nor was she killed by the sword thrust through a yoke strapped around her neck. Which was good, because then she was able to perform her next trick - escaping from a straightjacket while locked in a canvas bag. Could she do it? For this trick Steve Hyde required the assistance of a member of the audience - who, it turns out, was also named Melanie!
The acts came fast and furious after that, so quickly that I am forced to review my too-dark-to-post photos to try to piece together who did what when. Several performers came on so quickly I wasn't able to catch their names - though
...mainly, that it will cause you to spontaneously slip into a Renaissance Fair accent. (He finally decided to stop fighting it and just run with it. In the end we gave him a resounding "Huzzah!") His act was either preceded or followed by the Cheeky Monkey Sideshow's Amazing Trinket, clad in civilian clothes and fuzzy bear-claw slippers, who sang a song she had written for all of the sideshow performers.
Next up - I think - was the Olde City Sideshow, who did a rapid-fire tour though a number of sideshow bits, including sword swallowing...
...and the dreaded eye hook lift AAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH OH MY GOD THAT GUY HAS HOOKS IN HIS EYE SOCKETS AND HE'S LIFTING THINGS WITH CHAINS ATTACHED TO THEM AAAAAAAAAAHHHH MAKE IT STOP OH GOD MAKE IT STOP!!!!!!!!!!
After that the Crispy Family Carnival was back up, this time in a slightly truncated version; the tooth problem that had been troubling Fauna the night before had now apparently floored her entirely. But the show must go on. The Professor started off by snacking on a light bulb.
Light bulbs also played a role in the performance with The Machine, which (if all had gone well) would have had Flora lighting things up just by putting them in her mouth. Unfortunately, while Flora did her part, The Machine was derelict in its duties. I trust the Professor gave it a stern going-over with a wrench once they got back to the Crispy home base.
Finally, Flora gave a delightful performance of her dexterity as she squeezed through a Wilson tennis racket (minus the strings.) She somehow managed to avoid any wardrobe malfunctions along the way, to the disappointment of some of the gathered crowd.
And that was the end of that.
Dr. Wilson, who was filling in as M.C. for Aye Jaye, who was travelling to another gig on Sunday, gave a brief wrap-up speech. He thanked everyone for coming, and for keeping the sideshow tradition alive, and he left everyone looking forward to next year's Gathering.
I missed quite a bit, as I gather from the photos on both the Sideshow World site and Professor Jason Mundie's Flickr page. The Lucky Devil Thrillshow, the Knotty Bits Sideshow, the full Olde City Sideshow, the Cheeky Monkey group...Sally the Cinch's routine, the Swami Yomahmi's striptease...I saw so much, but there was so much more to be seen! Next year I'll just have to make more time for the show!
I'd like to thank everyone who performed at the show, and all the wonderful creative and performing artists who have kept this fantastic form of entertainment alive into the twenty-first century. Special thanks (of course) go to Franco Kossa of Marc's Tattooing, the founder of the feast, whose hard work and personal sacrifices have brought these talented people to Wilkes-Barre year after year.
I can't wait 'til next year!