By MIKE CHAIKEN
The future that could have happened yesterday is returning to Bristol on March 9.
And when the future of days passed returns, the Jolly Roger will be flying high, wrapped up in a corset, and sipping tea.
The annual Brass Ring Academy and Cabaret will offer up a day of Steampunk-inspired classes and merchants, and an evening of Steampunk-friendly music.
Steampunk has been described as what life would look like if the Victorians tried to invent today’s technology. However, rather than microchips and smartphones, the Victorians would have used steam and pneumatic tubes; rather than high impact plastic, they would have used brass and copper.
For this year’s event, there are a couple of classes at the academy with nautical themes: “Piracy in the Age of Steam– A historical overview. With Captain Elias” and “Sailor’s Valentine Shell Art Accessories Workshop.”
“Steampunk is, at its heart, a literary genre. Since many of our inspirations come from Jules Verne, Arthur Conan Doyle, and the like, we tend to focus on the ‘adventure’ aspect of history,” said Lauren Grover, organizer of the event. “Since the age of steam overlaps the age of sail to a considerable degree, that gives us a lot of people who like to play with the romanticism of piracy.”
Captain Elias, an amateur historian who loves all things about the sea, will lead the discussion on Victorian pirates “and how they did it plus all sorts of fun and fascinating details about naval travel in general,” said Grover.
Rhode Island artist Melonie Massa will offer a class in the Sailor’s Valentines, which are “seashell collage creations made by sailors on long voyages,” said Grover.
“[The sailors] would collect exotic shells in new ports and arrange and glue them in decorative patterns,” said Grover. She said she had no idea such a “beautiful” item existed until she met Massa. Massa will teach some history about the Sailor’s Valentines and help the attendees create their own.
Ladies unmentionables will take the spotlight at the Brass Ring Academy in “An Entirely-Too-Brief History of Corsets-With Nikki Cohen” and “Practical Corsetry.”
“Corsets were a standard undergarment for women and some men throughout the Victorian age in Europe and America,” said Grover. “They changed in shape, size, and compression level depending on the fashions of the day, but they were almost always worn.”
Most Steampunk aficionados will arrive in costume at events such as the Brass Ring.
“If you’re wearing period-inspired clothing, it won’t look right without [a corset],” said Grover.
“They’re not just undergarments anymore, with many Steampunk outfits using them as decorative tops outside of clothing,” said Grover of corsets.
Speaker Nikki Cohen of Mayfaire Moon has been making corsets for 25 years.
“In addition to helping people choose and wear a corset that suits both their body shape and their outfit, [Cohen] delights in debunking corset myths,” said Grover. For instance, “If the corset fits properly, it will give you a lovely shape while letting you breathe fully, dance, and bend.”
There also are classes about Victorian teas at the Brass Ring Academy: “Splendid Teapot Racing” and “Tea Duelling.” There also is an afternoon tea itself (for a separate $15 fee).
“Victoriana and Steampunk fans enjoy a classic afternoon tea for the same reasons we like pirates- the romanticism of the age,” said Grover. “Nothing takes you out of the modern world like the iconic tea, with little crustless sandwiches, lemon curd, scones, and polite conversation.”
Tea Duelling, said Grover, “involves tea, tea biscuits, and a viciously polite battle of wits. It’s presented by Dolly and Birdie of Hudson Valley Steampunk.”
As for Afternoon Tea, the website for the Brass Ring Academy and Cabaret (brassringct.com) explains it will be presented by the Guild of Extraordinary Gentlewomen with “all the itty bitty snacky things you expect… We will have at least three kinds of tea, plus spirited yet relaxed conversation.”
Brass Ring Academy and Cabaret will be held Saturday, March 9 at the New England Carousel Museum, 95 Riverside Avenue, Bristol.
The Academy is from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and is open to all ages.
The Cabaret is from 7 to 11:30 p.m. and is open to those 18 and up. Bands performing are: Platform One, The Eternal Frontier, Them Damn Hamiltons featuring Marc Casslar calling dances, and White Elephant Burlesque, presenting The Zoo.
Tickets for the academy are $27 for adults, $22 for those 16 and under, and free for 11 and under with a paying adult. The cabaret is $27. Tickets for the academy and cabaret together are $47.