Vaudeville was the great American force of entertainment going way back to the tail end of the 19th Century.
Strong men. Magicians. Singers and dancers. Jugglers and clowns. Actors and acrobats. Vaudeville was the original traveling circus, barnstorming through cities and rural areas alike, launching the careers of Harry Houdini, Al Jolson, WC Fields, the Marx Brothers, Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy, and Rufus Thomas, who would go on to launch the career of Chaka Kahn.
And I think it needs to come back.
Think about it: A whole generation of hipsters has embraced a simpler way of life, evident in their use of manual typewriters, their penchant for homemade clothes and their taste for vinyl records. They’re looking for an analog experience in this digital world, and it doesn’t get much more real than vaudeville.
This same generation has already embraced burlesque, old-school freakshows, weird music, dangerous magic and boutique performances, all of which are part of the vaudeville experience. There’s even a vaguely steampunk aspect to it, which means it’s hip!
I bet you could throw together a semi-decent vaudeville lineup from 20 random hipsters grabbed from Krankies or College Hill.
A typical neo-vaudeville slate would include a small rock band, some spoken-word poetry, modern dance, a comic, a burlesque set, a juggler or unicyclist, somebody escaping from an underwater tank and maybe a guy with a magnificent beard.
Load them into a van and put them on the road, playing venues like the Garage, the Idiot Box, the High Point Theatre, the Crown, maybe even the old Reynolds Auditorium, which was a reliable station on the original vaudeville circuit.
I’d see that for a dollar!
Seriously, this may be the best idea I’ve had all year. It’s so spot on, I wouldn’t be surprised if a bunch of kids in vintage dresses and porkpie hats weren’t doing it already.