Hello Dickens Fair performers and aspiring performers!
The Dickens Christmas Fair is a bustling theatrical environment, combining the magic of the traditional holiday season with the writings of Charles Dickens and the rich tapestry of Victorian England. The Fair is a combination of stage performances and improvisational acting in the streets of our London, always involving the audience and encouraging them to feel part of the show. Even if you're just strolling off to get lunch, you are your Victorian character doing so, which is what makes our event such an involving one.
If you'd like to become part of this grand ensemble cast, you need to belong to a stage show or other performing group, or work in a booth or an ale stand. This page focuses on what you need to do to become a performer. Some performers appear in stage shows; others portray Dickens characters or historical personages. Each becomes a person from the Victorian age, with the clothing, language, and personality of someone from that era. Since Queen Victoria reigned for over sixty years, we have chosen the 1840s-1860s as our historical focus.
On this page:
- Stages & Performing Areas - Shows & Groups
- Proposals for New Shows & Groups
- Requirements for Performers - including Workshops & Costume Approval
- Paperwork: What You Will Need to Get Your Pass
- Entertainment Staff Information
- Special Note for Caroling Groups & Other Single-Day "Special Performance" Groups
The entertainment at the Dickens Fair is divided into shows, environmental areas, and performing groups. Audition announcements will be posted in the email newsletters; see information about "Missives" below.
(Each of these stages has individual shows which are auditioned by the directors. Please see last year's stage schedules for the type of shows on each stage.)
- Fezziwig's Warehouse (Ballroom Dancing & More)
- Victoria & Albert Bijou Music Hall (Family & Musical Entertainment until 5:00; then "Dickens After Dark")
- The Father Christmas Stage (Children's Entertainment and Father Christmas!)
- The Christmas Carol Stage (Scenes from Dickens' novels & other entertainment)
- The Silk Road Stage (Music & Dance from Around the World)
- The Paddy West Stage (All Things Sea Faring & More)
- Mad Sal's Dockside Ale House (Slightly Scandalous Lower-Class London)
Seven Environmental Areas
- The Green Man Public House
- The Adventurer's Club
- The Dickens Family Parlour
- Fagin's Den
- Flockmocker's Workshop
- The Great Exhibition Stage (Crystal Palace)
- Paddy West
Characters from Dickens' Books
- A Christmas Carol
- Oliver Twist
- Pickwick Papers
- David Copperfield
- Bleak House
- Nicholas Nickelby
- Our Mutual Friend
- Little Dorrit
- Martin Chuzzlewit
Other Street Groups
- Christmas Keepers
- Coster Mongers
- Coventry Carollers
- Inspector Pearce's Mystery Tours
- Jeremy's Escort Service
- Miracle Sweeps of London
- Miss Twinkleton's Academy for Young Ladies
- The Peelers
- The Society of Criminal Underclasses at Mad Sal's (SCUM)
- Temperance Union
Show & Group Proposals for the 2018 Dickens Fair are due to Entertainment Director, Cat Taylor by May 31, 2018. You can reach her at [email protected].
Please keep the following in mind if you are proposing a show:
- No fire performances
- No prerecorded music/audio, video/animation
- Costumes, language, sets and props must be appropriate for mid-19th century London (not Renaissance)
- No modern performance styles (no aerial silks, etc.) or obvious modern (vs. Victorian) technology
- Able to fit on available stage sizes
Please consult all of the information on this performer's web page before proposing a show. Thanks.
#1 Sign up for the Missive List
Go to Cat's Performer Missives Page and use the link to join the Missive List. In the months preceding the beginning of workshops, you will receive an email missive approximately every one to two weeks, informing you about workshops, performing opportunities at the Fair, and other useful information. Just before we get to workshops and the Fair itself, the frequency will increase to approximately once a week, sometimes more if there's a lot of news. We do not do physical mailings to our performers; the Missives are the only way to stay apprised of all the important information about performing at the Dickens Fair. Missives from previous years, along with current information can also be found at http://www.cattaylor.com/missives.html.
If you spend much time commuting, listen to some of the Dickens books on tape or CD, to further your knowledge and fire your imaginations. Patrick Stewart's Christmas Carol (the audio version) is fabulous and so is the Oliver Twist read by Dick Cavett (no kidding). All of the Dickens books are downloadable for various PDA and mp3 formats, there are fabulous websites with entire books (accessible from the missive website), and there are movies galore; especially notable is the 1951 Christmas Carol starring Alastair Sim. Of course, you could also actually read the books...
Think about what you would like to do (dance in Fezziwig's, sing with the Carolers, portray a Dickens character) and watch the missives for auditions for that group or character. If you would like to propose a show or know a part in a show you would like to audition for, email Entertainment Director Cat Taylor at [email protected] and tell her your idea, or ask to be connected to the director of the particular show.
Once you have an idea of what you'll be doing at the Fair, start putting your costume ideas together. There's lots of information on this website, so you can start looking around for appropriate garments. Remember, what you wear is determined by who your character is, so make sure you get the part you're auditioning for before you finalize your costume. Your costume will also have to be approved by the costume department for appropriate fit, style and materials before you will receive your gate pass. For information on costumes and costume approval, please read BOTH "Great Dickens Christmas Fair 2013 - October Missive #2 - The Great Costume Missive!" and “Great Dickens Christmas Fair 2014 - October Missive #3 ~ Workshops” at http://www.cattaylor.com/missives.html.
Feel free to contact Liz at [email protected] at any time throughout the year with your costume questions.
#5 Required Workshops and Rehearsals
2017 workshops begin on October 28th at 10:00AM at Oceana High School in Pacifica. The illustrious Robert Young will once again be coordinating the schedule. More workshop information and exact schedule will be announced in a forthcoming missive.
- 2017 Workshops will be held at Oceana High School on October 28th and 29th, and November 4th and 5th from 10:00AM to 5:00PM.
As always, there will be a mandatory meeting at 10:00AM on the first day of workshops. This meeting is always a lot of fun and a little crazy; announcements are made, staff, directors and workshop leaders are introduced, and there is general amusement had by all. Some of the directors will still be looking for people; they will announce whether they are. Read the missives and look for groups that interest you. You must be part of a group to work at the Fair, whether it's caroling, dancing at Fezziwig's or being a Dickens character. Don't be shy; ask questions of the directors and see if it's what you want to do and might be good at.
- The third weekend of workshops and rehearsals (November 11th and 12th) will be held at the Cow Palace, with a limited number of workshops taught on Saturday. No workshops will be taught on Sunday; that will be dress rehearsal day, which will also include a 10:00AM morning meeting.
Please plan on attending these meetings; they're our only chance to have all of our performers in one place, all at the same time.
General Workshop Requirements for 2017
New folks are required to take the following classes:
- Orientation I: A Beginner's Guide to Life And Times in Our London
- Orientation II: All You Need to Know about Dickens Fair - A Survival Guide
- Either Victorian or Cockney language (Irish or Scots may be substituted for those whose characters specifically require these)
- Physical Characterization
- The "How to Pass Costume Approval" class
We would also like you to take a Character Lab or Improv workshop (Marked with an "A" on the schedule), if possible. Please note that Physical Characterization is a prerequisite for the Character Lab and other improv/acting labs. Please do not try to take the labs if you have not yet taken the Physical Characterization workshop.
Dickens Fair Veterans
Dickens Fair Veterans please take:
- A language workshop
- An in-depth character or acting/improv workshop (Marked with an "A" on the schedule), AND
- A social history workshop of your choice (Marked with an "S" on the schedule).
Further workshops are highly recommended and encouraged!
Class Size Limitations
Some classes can only accept a limited number of people at one time in order to functionally teach their class. Please arrive at that class early if that is the only time you can take it. If any of the teachers turn you away because their class is full, please do not argue, but come back at another time.
Take Lots of Workshops!
We encourage you to take as many workshops as possible, they are meant to be both fun and educational and will help you make your way more credibly and enjoyably through the streets of our London.
I know it may seem like old hat to some of you, but to have a real ensemble cast, we all need to work together and remember that we really are creating our version of Victorian England and should be representing our characters *ALL THE TIME* when in front of the audience. Workshops are the best way to make that happen and we are offering some new ones to keep it interesting. You veterans can be a real help to the new folks in the classes.
#1 A completed, printed online registration form with:
#2 Your director's or booth owner's signature
#3 Costume Approval from the official costume department
#4 Sign-offs from the appropriate number of workshop teachers (see above)
#5 (Optional) The Cow Palace offers run-of-fair Participant Parking Passes to Fair participants at a discounted rate; these will be available at workshops. We expect the price to remain at $30 for 2017. We are allowed only the same limited number of these special passes from year to year, so please carpool as much as possible!
0-17: Registration form, w/ all appropriate signatures and approvals, plus guardian information.
18-up: Registration form, with all appropriate signatures and approvals.
Online Participant Registration
This year we are again using the EventBrite system for participants in all categories. Once you have registered on Eventbrite, you will be emailed a receipt form from Eventbrite that you will need to print out and bring to workshops. Please see Cat's Performer Missives Page for details, including the link and password for online registration.
Your name must be on a cast list at the office, and your director must have signed your registration form before your pass will be issued. Directors will only sign registration forms after all appropriate workshop classes and costume approval have been completed.
Note on Parking at The Cow Palace
We recommend that ALL PARTICIPANTS who will be parking in the Cow Palace parking lot purchase a parking pass for $30.00 per car (exact amount subject to change by the Cow Palace). This is our cost, so do not lose it as replacements will cost $30.00 as well. If you do not have a parking pass, the Cow Palace parking staff will charge you $12.00 per day.
Entertainment Director: Cat Taylor
Cat is the Entertainment Director for the Great Dickens Christmas Fair. As a show director, musician, and event producer, she understands performing from both sides of the equation and endeavors to create a supportive and exciting, creative environment. Cat also founded and administers the Missive List, keeping everyone informed about workshops, auditions, and various details of our version of Victorian London. If you are interested in creating or performing in a stage show or other group, please contact her at [email protected]
Street Theatre Director: Robert Young
In addition to portraying Charles Dickens, Robert will once again be our Street Theatre Director. In that capacity he will not only oversee the performers playing specific characters whether historical, built 'whole cloth', or from the books, but also the entire tapestry of how all of the performers interact when offstage. This includes the stage actors who must remember whom they are portraying when they leave the stages. He will also be coordinating the special performance groups who come in from dance troupes, schools, etc. for special one day performances. You can reach him at [email protected]
Do you have a costumed caroling group or other Victorian-appropriate performing group that would like to perform at the Dickens Fair for one very special day? Please contact Robert Young at [email protected] and be prepared to send in a picture, an audio or video recording, and a 19th century-appropriate repertoire list. Please have a first and second choice for the day you would like to attend.