The Great Dickens Christmas Fair and Victorian Holiday Party
Nov 20-Dec 19, 2021 Cow Palace Exhibition Halls, San Francisco
The Great Dickens Christmas Fair and Victorian Holiday Party

Banner-Vendors and Performers

The Great Dickens Christmas Fair is a bustling theatrical environment, combining the magic of the traditional holiday season with the writings of Charles Dickens and a rich tapestry of Victorian England. The Fair is a giant environmental theatre, one of the largest and most complex in the world, involving a combination of stage performances, environmental areas, and improvisational acting in the streets of our “London.” 

There are two ways to participate as a performer:

  1. As a professional actor, band, singing group, or performing troupe, hired by the Fair’s producers, Red Barn Productions, LLC.
  2. As a volunteer performer for the non-profit Living History Centre.

Every performer must complete the Living History Centre College of Performing Arts Workshops, then fit into one of the two categories above.

The Living History Centre College of Performing Arts (aka The Workshops) take place for 3 weekends prior to each Fair season. For all who complete the LHC Workshops, and are then accepted into a performing group, the Fair becomes a continuous learning experience, whether it’s your first or your 20th season.

In addition to stage shows, you may be portraying a character you are given or that you invent. Most performers portray fictitious characters directly out of Dickens’ novels, or real personages from the pages of history. Each becomes a person from the Victorian age, with the clothing, language, and personality of someone from that era. We have chosen the 1840s-1860s as our historical focus.

Stages & Performing Areas ~ Shows & 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.

Proposals for New 2021 Shows & Groups

Instructions: Please download and fill in the below PDF form. If you fill it out by hand, please write legibly, scan, and email. Illegible forms will be returned for editing. Completed proposals should be emailed to [email protected] Thank you!

Show & Group Proposals for the 2021 Dickens Fair are due by/on August 15, 2021.

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 (see Show Proposal Form)

Requirements for Performers – including Living History Centre Workshops & Costume Approval:

#1 Sign up for the Missive List

Go to Cat’s Dickens Fair Participants page at to sign up for 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. 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.

#2 Research!

We recommend audiobooks. For example, if you spend much time commuting, listen to recordings of Dickens' books, to help further your knowledge and fire up your imagination! Patrick Stewart's A Christmas Carol (the audio version) is fabulous and so is the Oliver Twist read by Dick Cavett (no kidding). All of Dickens' books are downloadable for different formats, and there are fabulous websites with entire books for free (accessible from the Missive website), and many wonderful movies; especially notable is the 1951 Christmas Carol starring Alastair Sim. You are heartily encouraged to actually read the books as well, of course!

#3 Audition

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 our Entertainment Director, Cat Taylor, at [email protected] and tell her your idea, or ask to be connected to the Director of the particular show. Auditions happen before, during and after Workshops, so you will have plenty of time to find a show or group. See #5 below.

#4 Costume Approval

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 general information on costumes, please read the Victorian Costuming Guidelines. Costume approval requirements will be communicated on the Participant Portal. Contact Liz at [email protected] at any time throughout the year with your costume and costume approval questions.

#5 Required Workshops and Rehearsals

The 2021 Workshops begin (Date TBD) at the Cow Palace and are presented by the non-profit Living History Centre. The Living History Centre Education Director is Robert Young. Robert can be reached via email: [email protected] Please visit to learn more about the history and programs of the Centre.

All detailed workshop information and schedules will be announced in the Missives, so be sure you have signed up for the Missive email list (see #1 above).