The Moisture Festival is the world’s largest Comedy/Varietè festival, running for four weeks every spring in Seattle.
The festival is produced by a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, whose board of directors are Ron W. Bailey, Tim Furst, Maque DaVis, Jennifer Wensrich, Phil O’Brien, Katherine Bragdon, Sandy Neale, Thomas W. Hillier, Marv Osterhout, Mike Bailey, Bob Greco, Charly Castors, Amanda Lee, Shirley Thom, Dan Shih and Ted MacGovern.
The Moisture Festival’s mission is to enrich the community by presenting an affordable annual festival showcasing the art of live comedy/variete performance.
The Moisture Festival encourages the contemporary creativity that is constantly emerging in this field and strives to educate people about the rich history of this genre.
What is Comedy/Varietè?
Comedy/Varietè is an intriguing assortment of entertainment. It is highly skilled performance mixed with many bizarre talents, often humorous, with no limit to the imagination. Presented as a variety show, each act or artist performs their routine within a 3-15 minute time slot while being accompanied by a live show band.
Aerialists, jugglers, magicians, comedians, dancers, rope acts, bubble acts, clowns, acrobats, can can girls, strong women, strong men, tap dancers, drill teams, musicians, the weird and the wonderful all keeping the tradition of Comedy/Varietè/Vaudeville alive.
The festival’s Comedy/Varietè home and main theater is Hale’s Palladium, in the Hale’s Brewery warehouse located between Fremont and Ballard at 4301 Leary Way NW. Libertease Cabaret shows are presented at Broadway Performance Hall on Capitol Hill.
At the 2005 Moisture Festival we thought it would be fun to have a burlesque show as a late night attraction. Several variety artists were also part of the booming Seattle burlesque scene and they invited other artists to perform for these special late night shows. The energy sparked by their talent began a wonderful relationship and a festival tradition. It is interesting to note that there was a time in American vaudeville houses when burlesque was an element in the Varietè shows, but it was decided that a larger audience could be had if the shows were “cleaned up” and made respectable for the general public. That is history. We thought it was high time that burlesque artists were welcomed back for some adult oriented Comedy/Varietè infused Cabaret shows.
Seattle’s burlesque stars are famous nationwide, they tour internationally and they hold numerous honors from the Miss Exotic World Pageant in Las Vegas. We are delighted to present the festival’s Libertease Cabaret shows at Broadway Perfomance Hall, a wonderful venue for the Moisture Festival on Capitol Hill.
We are very dedicated to giving back to the generous community we are a part of in Seattle. .
In past years the Moisture Festival has proudly donated benefit shows to”Aerlift” an aerial show presented by The Aerial Army of Love, B. F. Day School Foundation/ B. F. Day Elementary School, Backbone Campaign, Cascade Leadership Challenge, Circus Contraption, Clowns Without Borders, Experimental Education Unit, Fremonstor Theatrical, Fremont Arts Council, Hands for a Bridge, Phinney Neighborhood Association, Room Circus Medical Clowning, SANCA (School of Acrobatics and New Circus Arts), The New Old Time Chautauqua, Vashon Youth & Family Services, and Youngstown Cultural Arts Center.
The financial structure of the Moisture Festival reflects the philosophy of its producers, and differs in many ways from other festivals around the world. The purpose of the festival is to present live Comedy/Varietè performance in the upper left-hand corner of the United States, to give performers a chance to interact with each other, and to educate audiences and performers about the history of Comedy/Varietè from its roots in Europe through American Vaudeville to its present-day resurgence. The festival is organized by performers – for performers and their audiences.
To view our most recent IRS Form 990, please visit The National Center for Charitable Statistics.
One of the things which makes the festival’s financial structure unique is the “share” system, wherein all the performers receive the same amount of money per show ($40 per share last festival). For each show in which someone performs, they accumulate one share.
The festival finances are dealt with as a whole, not on a show-by-show basis. Thus the total income of the festival is pooled, and after the expenses have been paid and some money is put aside for the coming year, the balance is divided among all the performers on a per-share basis. One result of the system is that the amount of each share is determined by the overal financial sucess of the festival, and each performer receives the same size share whether they perform in a sold-out Saturday night show or a casual Wednesday show.
For a more in-depth look at our share system, read our blog post here.
The festival is incorporated in Seattle, Washington, as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. As a community-based organization, it depends on the generosity of volunteers and seeks sponsorship from local businesses to help defray the production costs. Moisture Festival also dedicates some shows as benefit shows to raise money for other organizations.
Ticket sales cover roughly half the expenses of the festival. This reflects our desire to keep ticket prices affordable. Our tickets range from $11 to $30. As a result Moisture Festival relies heavily on fundraising and community support. To donate or sponsor click here.
History Of The Moisture Festival
The seeds for the festival were planted at the Oregon Country Fair, and the vaudeville/circus/music/burlesque scene in Seattle added the Moisture that made it grow.
In 1996 Tom Noddy – the “Bubble Guy” and a regular vaudeville performer at the Oregon Country Fair – brought Ron W. Bailey to a comedy/varietè festival in Berlin, created by Hacki Ginda, a notorious German clown. Every day and night there was unique and wonderful entertainment in two tents, one large theater known as “The Chameleon” and several smaller venues in mid-town Berlin. Tom, Ron and Hacki dreamed about someday bringing a festival like that to the people in Seattle.
Enter Maque DaVis of Cirque de Flambe, The Fremont Players and ex-President for Life of the Fremont Arts Council. Maque had helped organize the Fremont Solstice Parade and created “Trolloween”. He and Ron had often talked about bringing some acts from the Oregon Country Fair to Seattle. In 2003 they joined ideas. Understanding the grand scope of producing a festival they brought in Tim Furst, aka Fyodor Karamazov of The Flying Karamazov Brothers, along with Sandy Palmer and Simon Neale of the Fremont Players to help organize the event. In 2004, with the help of Fremonstor Theatrical, Du Caniveaux and the contributions of many artists and sponsors, they created “The Moisture Festival” to bring comedy/varietè to the center of the universe and the greater Seattle area.
Today, organizers who work diligently year-round to keep the festival going are Jennifer Wensrich, Tim Furst, Maque DaVis, Mike Bailey and Ron W. Bailey with help from Randy Minkler, Cathy Sutherland, Martha Enson, and David Crellin.
The first festival was only five days long and was held in a tent in Fremont, rented at a discount from His Reverend Chumleigh. Fortune was on the festival’s side when many of the organizers favorite artists responded to their call to perform and christen the first shows. It has continued to be the generosity and willingness of the comedy/varietè/burlesque artists and musicians that keeps the festival alive. There have always been many gracious, hard-working volunteers who share in the fun of making it happen.
Local small businesses and individual sponsorship played a major role. That very first year, an unassuming guy delivering the kegs from Hale’s Brewery to the tent turned out to be Mike Hale. After bringing his wife Kathleen to an evening show, they offered to help in any way they could. This led to the brewery’s warehouse being converted to Hale’s Palladium. The Palladium has served as the home of the festival ever since. Additional sponsors have continued to come onboard because they like the sense of joy the festival brings to the community.
In 2005, Cathy Sutherland invited the Seattle burlesque community to perform in some late night shows at the festival, giving birth to our extremely popular cabaret/burlesque series. It became known as Moisture Festival’s Libertease Cabaret 2006. These shows traveled to ACT – A Contemporary Theatre in downtown Seattle. We consider ourselves fortunate to have collaborated with ACT, under the fun loving artistic direction of Kurt Beattie and his staff.
In 2008, Moisture Festival celebrated its 5th anniversarry and achieved 501(c)(3) nonprofit status.
In 2009 (through 2012) another new collaboration was born with The Seattle International Film Festival. Together we created a film program that ran during Moisture Festival and highlighted films in the comedy/varietè/burlesque genre, with a festival artist performing live before each film.
In 2010 two new venues presented varietè shows. On Vashon Island, Open Space for Arts and Community, a beautiful 400-seat warehouse space transformed into a flexible events venue and in Georgetown, one of Seattle’s great arts-oriented neighborhoods, the festival presented shows at The Georgetown Ballroom, a truly gorgeous venue tucked away next to the railroad tracks with its own mini villa. In 2011 we produced a late night Burlesque show for Georgetown’s April Fools weekend.
In 2012 the Libertease Cabaret shows debuted at Broadway Performance Hall on Capitol Hill. Moisture Festival has continued as Libertease Cabaret on Broadway to the present festival.
In 2016 Moisture Festival travelled to Glasgow, Scotland to help raise funds for the restoration of the world’s oldest surviving Music Hall – the Britannia Panopticon, where Stan Laurel debuted.
2018 marks the 15th anniversary of the festival.
Moisture Festival has always believed in the good will our festival artists bring to the community, a treasure shared by the artists and the audiences alike. Those of us at the heart of this theatrical adventure very much appreciate the way in which the Seattle community has embraced Comedy/Varietè/Cabaret at Moisture Festival, our month long, one-of-a-kind celebration of spring and the variety arts in the great Northwest.