SaratogaArtsFest Throws Inaugural Masquerade Ball

Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf?

Me, before I figured him out.

Admittedly, he was scary. As I stood sipping my ultra-icy whiskey smash, he was on the prowl, pacing the lobby of the Canfield Casino, wearing a black velvet jumpsuit, a red colonial frock coat and a furry hat with ears. Every time he passed me, he sneered.

“This wolf is really creeping me out,” I murmured to my companion.

We moved into the other room to find elegantly dressed guests hidden behind fanciful masks, marveling that they didn’t even recognize each other. One woman was covered in leaves. One was covered in feathers. One couple came as Alice in Wonderland and the Mad Hatter. This was no ordinary masquerade ball: it was an All Hallows’ Eve Dark Faerie Tale Masquerade Ball, put on by SaratogaArtsFest Oct. 26.

The inaugural event was to benefit Arts Fest Fridays, a series of family-friendly arts experiences that introduce people to the visual and performing arts, held four times a year by SAF. The upcoming Arts Fest Friday is “You Oughta Be in Pictures,” at Skidmore College Nov. 10. The 200 available tickets to the ball sold out, and SAF met its fundraising goal.

“There are galas in Saratoga left and right,” Masquerade Ball Chair Tas Steiner told guests during the sit-down dinner. “But we decided to do something different.” He said later that he and the SAF board figured “the masquerade ball would give guests an opportunity to express their artistic sides by creating wonderful costumes, and be introduced to a theatrical immersive experience through actors, dances and singers.”

And immersive it was. Earlier in the evening, a sword fight between the big bad wolf and Little Red Riding Hood had broken out, a sullen Cinderella had dusted every table in the Casino, and the sounds of crows filled the high-ceilinged, dimly lit rooms—all before dinner!

But the immersion didn’t stop when the three room-length tables were laden with food. Even the appetizers were dressed: an olive-topped mozzarella eyeball floated in my bowl of tomato soup.

“Many people approached me during the ball and afterwards, stating that this is the most unique fundraiser they have ever been to,” Steiner said. “They were amazed at all the twists and turns, from the pop-up performances, the décor by Simply Sidney Floral Designs & Home Accents, the food by Lily & The Rose.”

My tablemates, Dustin and Alicia Skidmore, were no exception.

“It was so immersive,” Alicia said. “The sword fight? I had to step back! All your senses were turned on.”

“The entertainment was great,” Dustin added. “All the characters—they were in character all night.”

Dinner entertainment included an opera performance by Sylvia Stoner and a ballet duet by Dora Law and Alexandra Nicolaus, who pliéd down two isles and up to a couch on stage. They removed a sheet from the couch, revealing a sleeping beauty. “How long has she been up there?” Dustin whispered.

Luckily, a Prince Charming was on hand to awaken the princess with a kiss. Their reunion didn’t last long, though, as— you guessed it—the big bad wolf entered. He scared the prince and princess away, snarling at the alarmed audience.

Cue “Thriller” by Michael Jackson. The wolf, played by Michael John Gilbert, couldn’t resist, and broke out into dance, inviting guests up to join him. The night dissolved into a dance party, and suddenly, the wolf wasn’t so scary— he was just misunderstood.

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