The 2020 Great Dickens Christmas Fair has been cancelled.
Note: This page contains overall performer information. Recently updated information will all be found on Cat's Dickens Fair Participants Page, including recent Missives.
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 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.” One of the keys is that we always involve the audience and encourage 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. This is the essence of the technique we call Theatrical Living History, an educational and performance experience created by the Living History Centre (LHC) beginning in the 1960s.
Every performer at the Fair is part of the LHC College of Performing arts (aka The Workshops) that take place for 3 weekends prior to each Fair season. The Fair itself is the recital as well as a continuous learning experience, whether you are in your first season or your 30th season with us.
If you'd like to become part of this grand ensemble cast, you need to complete the LHC Workshop requirements, then be cast in a stage show or accepted into a performing group. One may also work in a booth or a beverage stand. There is a separate page for how to get a job at the fair (Working at The Fair). This page focuses on what you need to do to become a performer. In addition to stage shows, you may be portraying characters 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. Since Queen Victoria reigned for over sixty years’ of significant social and cultural changes, 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 Pennygaff Stage (Variety Entertainment and Scenes from Dickens' Novels)
- 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)
*including Special Performance groups. These are often community groups who may only be joining for a single day.
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
Most Fictitious Characters are from the following Dickens Books*:
- A Christmas Carol
- Oliver Twist
- Pickwick Papers
- David Copperfield
- Bleak House
- Nicholas Nickleby
- Our Mutual Friend
- Little Dorrit
- Martin Chuzzlewit
*Characters from the works of other famous Victorian novelists may occasionally be considered based on their relevance to the event, for example Lewis Carroll. Portrayal of the novelists themselves is always welcome.
Street Performance Groups:
- Christmas Keepers
- Coventry Carolers
- Jeremy’s Escort Service
- Miracle Sweeps of London
- Miss Twinkleton’s Academy for Young Ladies
- The Peelers
- The Royal Family
- The Prince's Posse
- The Other Ranks
- The Society of Criminal Underclasses at Mad Sal’s (SCUM)
- Temperance Union
Show & Group Proposals for the 2021 Dickens Fair are due to Entertainment Director, Cat Taylor by May 31, 2021. 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. Thank you.
#1 Sign up for the Missive List
Go to Cat’s Dickens Fair Participants page at http://cattaylor.com/dickens-fair-participants/ 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. Just before we get to workshops and the Fair itself, the frequency will increase to 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 last season along with current information can also be found at http://cattaylor.com/dickens-fair-participants/.
If you spend much time commuting, listen to recordings of Dickens' books, to further your knowledge and fire your imagination. 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 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. You are heartily encouraged to actually read the books, too...
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. 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 information on costumes and costume approval, please read the 2017 Great Costume Missive at http://www.cattaylor.com/102517.html; there will be a 2019 version available soon. Feel free to contact Liz at [email protected] at any time throughout the year with your costume questions.
#5 Required Workshops and Rehearsals
The 2021 Workshops begin on October 30th at 10:00AM at Oceana High School in Pacifica. The Workshops are presented by the Living History Centre. The Living History Centre Education Director is none other than the illustrious Robert Young. More workshop information and exact schedule will be announced in forthcoming missives.
- 2021 LHC Workshops will be held at Oceana High School on October 30 and 31st, and November 6 and 7, and at the Cow Palace on November 13 from 10:00AM to 5:00PM.
- Workshop Registration Forms, updated workshop schedules and descriptions, and an Oceana High School workshop map are up on the missive site at https://cattaylor.com/dickens-fair-participants/.
As always, there will be a 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 13 and 14) 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 the two above meetings; they're our only chance to have all of our performers in one place, all at the same time.
GENERAL WORKSHOP REQUIREMENTS FOR 2021
All performers at the Great Dickens Christmas Fair are students of the Living History Centre College of Performing Arts (COPA). Based on the number of years you have participated, you will have different Workshop requirements.
- Apprentices (1st Year) are required to take 7 workshops.
- Journeymen (2 to 5 Years) are required to take 5 workshops.
- Masters (6 Years or more) are required to take 3 workshops.
Apprentices (1st Year) are required to take the following seven 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
- An Improv/Acting class (will be marked with an “A” on the class schedule)
- A Social History class (will be marked with an “S” on the class schedule)
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.
Journeymen and Masters (Dickens Fair Veterans)
Journeymen please take these five workshops:
- 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)
Masters please take three workshops*:
- 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).
*You are encouraged to take more workshops. Support and model for newer participants, and give us feedback on the workshop.
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.
NOTE: We further encourage Journeymen and Masters to plan to take Workshops on Week 2 and not try to complete all their requirements on Week 1. The Week 1 classes need to have room for new folks too! Week 2 Workshops very often have plenty of room.
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.
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.
#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 requirements)
#5 (Optional) The Cow Palace offers run-of-fair Participant Parking Passes to REGISTERED Fair participants ONLY. These are provided at a discounted rate, and will be available at workshops or the Pass House. We expect the price to remain at $30 for 2019. 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
Please see the Dickens Fair Participants page at http://cattaylor.com/dickens-fair-participants/ for details.
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 IF STILL AVAILABLE (the Cow Palace provides only a limited number). If you do not have a parking pass, the Cow Palace parking staff will charge you $12.00 per day.
Cat Taylor: Entertainment Director:
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 any group, please contact her at [email protected].
Robert Young: Living History Centre Education Director & Dickens Fair Street Theatre Director
In his capacity as Living History Centre Education Director, Robert oversees the pre-Fair LHC Workshop program. As Street Theater Director, he will wear two (top) hats, one where he will work with the LHC teachers and Red Barn directors to continue the training process in Theatrical Living History for all performers throughout the course of the Fair, the other where he will oversee the entire tapestry of how all of the performers interact when performing in the streets. 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.