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See a downtown show upstate, in an opulent big top


Photo: Mari Baranova

For a brief period from 2006 to 2008, a stained-glass and mirrored circus tent was installed at the old Fulton Fish Market in the South Street Seaport. It hailed from Europe, as all of these vintage tents do–speigel is German for mirrors, and there are only a handful left from their heyday in the 20s and 30s, when they served as dance halls. At night in its new home, it became a cabaret venue, filled with wild acts like a man pulling nails from his nose and topless fire dancers. At least I think that’s what I saw–my memory is fuzzy on the details, I just recall it being an amazing vaudeville/burlesque performance.

Speigelworld has since moved on to Vegas, but there is another Speigeltent set up near Bard college in the Hudson Valley, which has been a regular part of their annual SummerScape programming. The lineup is filled with divas and downtown icons, and this summer I’m finally making the trip to see a show there: John Cameron Mitchell reminiscing about the making of Hedwig. I don’t know if it will inspire the exact same feeling as I had walking into that gorgeous big top over a decade ago, but I am sure the night will be just as memorable.

Spiegeltent at Bard SummerScape runs from June 29 to August 17; shows include Mx. Justin Vivian Bond, The Hot Sardines, Susanne Bartsch, and dance parties Friday and Saturday nights.

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