Congress of/for Curious Peoples 2012

Coney Island, if you were a blanket I would wrap myself in you.  You are a perfect living, breathing embodiment of the obtuse, the intelligent, the whimsical, and the frivolous nature of New York City’s fair citizens. Your epic history, your tumultuous present, and your unknown future should be celebrated equally, so that all fully understand what lurks behind each shadow and shines against each ocean wave.

Aaron Beebe of the Coney Island Museum and Joanna Ebenstein of the Morbid Anatomy Library bring you their annual celebration of all things strange, amazing, and remarkable, The Congress of Curious Peoples!

…The Congress of Curious Peoples is a 10-day series of lectures and performances devoted to curiosity and curiosities broadly considered. If features sideshow acts, lectures, performances, and a 2-day scholarly-yet-popular symposium called The Congress for Curious Peoples, which is produced by The Morbid Anatomy Library in tandem with The Coney Island Museum.              -From the Morbid Anatomy blog

Courtesy of the Morbid Anatomy Library blog.

Read ahead for the full schedule, or visit The Morbid Anatomy blog for a listing with full links! 

Saturday and Sunday, April 21st and 22nd


11:00 – 12:00: Keynote Addresses

  • Joanna Ebenstein, Morbid Anatomy Library
  • Aaron Beebe, Coney Island Museum

12:00 – 1:00: Lunch

1:00 – 3:30: Immersive Amusements: Cosmoramas, Cycloramas and Panoramic Illusions: Panel discussion moderated and introduced by Aaron Beebe, The Coney Island Museum

  • Suzanne Wray
  • Sara Velas, The Velaslavasay Panorama
  • Jessica Routhier, The Saco Museum
  • Errki Huhtamo, UCLA
  • Russell Potter, Rhode Island College
  • Denise Blake Oleksijczuk, Simon Fraser University

4:00 – 5:00: The Business of the Dead: Frederik Ruysch as an Entrepreneurial Anatomist, Lecture by Daniel Margocsy, Hunter College

5:00: Christmas in America: Miss Velma and the Evangelist Spectacle: Screening of “Christmas in America,” an early 1970s television special by Miss Velma, early TV evangelist, introduced by Daniel Paul


11:00 – 1:00: Religion and Spectacle: A panel with discussion moderated and introduced by Joanna Ebenstein,Morbid Anatomy Library

  • Paul Koudounaris, author of Empire of Death
  • Shannon Taggart, Photographer
  • The Venerable Tsering Phunstok
  • Colin Dickey, author of Cranioklepty

1:00 – 2:30: Lunch and Sideshow Visit

2:30 – 3:30: Traveling Ethnographic Shows and Human Zoos, a lecture by Elizabeth Bradley

3:30 – 5:30: Theater Rethunk: An Alternative History of the Theatrical: A panel with discussion moderated and introduced by Chris Muller

  • Amy Herzog, Queens College
  • An as-of-yet unnamed representative of Sleep No More
  • Chris Muller, New York University
  • Dick Zigun, Founder of Coney Island USA

And now, for the full 10-day Congress Schedule:

Friday, April 13
Opening Night Party featuring The Lizard Man and the annual inductions into the Sideshow Hall of Fame.

Saturday, April 14
Alumni Weekend at Sideshows by the Seashore (Continuous Admission, Tickets at the door); Colonnade of Curiosities in the Freak Bar.

Sunday, April 15
Alumni Weekend at Sideshows by the Seashore (Continuous Admission, Tickets at the door); Colonnade of Curiosities in the Freak Bar

Monday April 16th
7:30 – (Lecture) Amy Herzog: Architectural Fictions: Economic Development, Immersive Renderings, and the Virtualization of Brooklyn
9:00 – (Performance) Shea Love and the Circus Emporium

Tuesday April 17th
7:30 – (Lecture) Philip Kadish: “Pinhead Races and the White Man’s Burden”
9:00 – (Performance) The Squidling Bros Sideshow

Wednesday April 18th
7:30 -(Lecture/Performance) ‘An Evening of Fate, Chance and Mystery’ with Lord Whimsy and Les the Mentalist
9:00 – (Performance) Jo Boobs

Thursday April 19th
7:30 – (Lecture/Performance) Erkki Huhtamo: “Mareorama Revisited”
9:00 – (Performance) The Curious Couple from Coney Island

Friday April 20th
7:30 – (Performance/Reading) “Venus,” a play by Suzan Lori Parks
9:00 – (Performance/Lecture) Sideshow Legend Jim Rose

Saturday April 21st
Super Freak Weekend at Sideshows by the Seashore (Continuous Admission, Tickets at the door); Colonnade of Curiosities in the Freak Bar
Congress For Curious People (Day 1 of a 2-day Symposium)

Sunday April 22nd
Super Freak Weekend at Sideshows by the Seashore (Continuous Admission, Tickets at the door); Colonnade of Curiosities in the Freak Bar
Congress For Curious People (Day 2 of a 2-day Symposium)

Women circus performers and the Suffrage movement in NYC

The Bowery Boys have just published an interesting article that tickles my fancy in so many respects! It’s an amazing collection of women’s rights, New York City politics, New York City history, AND CIRCUS HISTORY. Oh man, I’ll read anything that relates to the circus.

These guys know their stuff, too. Enjoy, and be sure to follow their podcast (which is excellent), and keep tabs on their Facebook, Twitter, and blog.

The famed Barnum & Bailey's presented an elaborate Cleopatra-themed stage show during its 1912 season, featuring over 1,500 performers. The show had debuted just the week before at Madison Square Garden. Courtesy of The Bowery Boys blog.

As the Barnum and Bailey troop traversed through New York city en route to their Big Apple performance space at Madison Square Garden, they became aware of the political bustling around them. The Women’s Suffrage Movement was creating quite a stir with the city’s women of power, and B&B’s female staff could not help but become enthralled by their activism. When word got out to the public that there was a stir at the circus, the public was less-than-enthusiastic for their support.

Modern women activists of the day were happy to see any headlines relating their cause, as long as the environment was a respectable one. The circus was not one of those environs. Then consider that most newspapers were operated by men and read by men. While some progressive sheets supported suffrage, several chose to cast the cause in a satirical light where possible. The ladies of Barnum & Bailey gave reporters a particularly ripe opportunity for a little spoofing.

Clearly flustered by the appearance of the press — the society ladies of the suffrage movement did not consider a circus ring an appropriate political venue — Jones repeatedly asked the ladies if they were serious, then dispensed advice on how to conduct themselves as standard-bearers of the roving suffragist cause.

Men working against women; women working against women–and why? Social respectability and grace? Good thing there were some ladies that saw through the code of manners and understood that they needed to work together for the greater cause!

From Walt Disney’s Mary Poppins, 1964

Read more on The Bowery Boys blog, and celebrate history with a dash of excitement! Thanks, guys!