It's all about openness at the Circle City Aerodrome. You can come as you are to A Dark Victorian Romance, an immersive steampunk weekend at the Columbia Club replete with DIY corsets and racing dirigibles, an intimate cabaret and a grand masquerade ball.
"There's a no sneer guarantee; that's our equal opportunity statement" says Kat Alyst, the chief liasion officer for the local steampunk collective. "Steampunk is all made up, so it's completely open to interpretation." Wear your peacock outfit or utility kilt. Shoot from the hip with your Wild West steam-powered gun. Try out a different personality — or gender.
That openness goes both ways: Alyst has heard all the jokes about steampunk ("It's what happened when goths developed the color brown"), and has dealt with those "hard-core historical re-enactors who abhor it because it's retro-futurism." But if you put aside the snark and slavish concern with historical accuracy, you have a unique chance "to dress up and have fun," to "park your airship at the Crossroads of America" for a night.
Alyst stresses that it's an "extremely low-pressure weekend," and that "unlike at GenCon where you feel like you have to see everything," you can buy all ticketed events a la carte, and there's plenty to see for free. Passersby can check out a vendors' area on the balcony overlooking the Columbia Club's lobby; a steampunk-inspired art show located offsite at Fountain Square's New Day Meadery; a variety of panels, lectures and demonstrations on topics such as airship construction and self-publishing; and a salon (hosted by the well-traveled Madame Belle) featuring tea dueling and performances of a live Penny Dreadful.
We ought to define our terms. Tea dueling, described as a "challenge of skill, technique and wits" by the founder of the American Tea Dueling Society, goes a little like this: First you dunk your cookie in a cup of tea to the count of five. Then your goal is to outlast your opponent — in other words, to be the last person to eat your cookie before it breaks or otherwise falls into the teacup. Call it a other-dimensional, non-violent alternative to actual dueling, though A Dark Victorian Romance will also offer a two-part course on dueling with genuine swords and pistols (or safe derivations thereof).
And as for the Penny Dreadful, think of it as a step up on a murder mystery at a dinner theater. You may recognize the term as referring to as a lurid, grotesque type of serial fiction published in during the late 19th century. The Circle City Aerodrome is presenting that same type of story in a live-action fashion, performing pop-up, improvised scenes throughout the Columbia Club; Alyst calls it "a holistic theatre experience."
There are plenty more elements to talk about, but because this is NUVO's sex issue, we ought to mention the key role that Katie Angel of Angel Burlesque is playing as entertainment coordinator. She has her hands in the salon and Masquerade Ball, but her key event is Friday night's steampunk cabaret, titled Absinthe Makes the Heart Grow Fonder, and described as a night of "music, dance, mesmerism, hilarity and the classic art of striptease." And the good news: After selling out in record time, it was moved to a larger ballroom space within the Columbia Club, meaning tickets are still available as we go to press.