Thursday, May 26, 2011

Heidi Wunder Brings Belly Dance to the Dallas-Fort Worth Steampunk Stage

Heidi in full tribal regalia
Heidi Wunder is just as her name suggests...a wonder!  She not only performs and teaches Tribal Belly Dance, but also lives the concepts that she teaches.  She has a deep love of music, dance, nature, and of people.  She is bringing all this and more to the stage on June 4th as the fictional "Delegate" from Persia in a supporting role in a "steampunk" Murder Mystery Play at a new event called the "Difference Engine" in Fort Worth, Texas. 

In fact the entire event is a celebration of the performing arts in all it's forms as they intersect with the facinating and exotic world of Steampunk Fiction.  Heidi will also be bringing real world performances of Tribal Belly Dance to that same stage later in the day as one of the main performers for the event.  I was recently honored to interview her about her dance, her influences, and her impressions of performing in the Steampunk Community. 

  1. How would you define your dance style or genre?
    1. I am an American Tribal Style Belly Dancer, and I have mostly done more of the world/gypsy type genre

  1. What artists do you think most influenced your current style or styles?
    1. Carolena Nericco, as being the creator of ATS, but there are too many Tribal dancers to name that have influenced me in some way, either dance technique or costume. I also take inspiration from the Ghawazee tribes of Egypt and the Berber tribes of North Africa

  1. What types of music do you use, and how do you use them in different types of dance?
    1. I use a lot of ethnic music that has drum rhythms from the middle east and India.  I also use some more modern Techno, and groups that infuse techno with middle eastern and Indian rhythms.  When I am using the more ethnic music, I tend to be doing traditional movement, the modern techno, I tend to be more expressive, and carry the energy of the music through out my dance.

  1. What was your first exposure to this style of dance and what effect did it have on you then?
    1. I am active in Amtgard, and have been since I was a teenager, there is where I was first introduced to Tribal by some friends who wanted to create a dance troupe. They needed a third person, and told me I had no choice!  It looked cool, the way the costumes looked, the way the dancers danced just reached into my heart and grabbed it.  I knew instantly this was the dance for me!

5  When did you decide to focus on this as a form of performance art and what influenced that decision?
                  I had danced ATS since I was 17, but wasn’t until I was 24 and moved here to Texas, that I decided this was going to be my path.  I had just moved, so I didn’t have job, and my husband was super supportive of me exploring this more.

6  What sort of expereince do you have in terms of public performances, paid performances, and/or teaching dance?
I have been dancing the style for 11 years, and teaching and performing for 4 years.  I have taught in dance studios and yoga centers.  I have performed at festivals, restauraunts, open mic nights, and stage shows.

7    When did you first encounter people in steampunk attire that was distinctive enough to really draw attention and what effect did it have on you?
                  At a local meeting, is when I saw folks in the flesh in Steampunk attire, I have seen many movies, folks on the internet, and even Steampunk in the Tribal Belly dance culture.  It captivated me as it was different, and funky, and just plain cool.  I knew I had room to integrate this cool style and culture into my dance.

8    What percentage of your music do you consider to be Steampunk related?
                  I say about half of the music I use is steampunk related.

9  What do you think about the influx of steampunk fashion into dance performances?
      Over the past 5 or so years, as I have seen more and more steampunk fashion, and it has been an alternative to the traditional tribal garb.  I enjoy the Steampunk fashion, and what it has done for Tribal Belly dance

10  Do you think there is such a thing as Steampunk Dance at this time and why?
                  For Belly Dance, I see mostly Tribal genre dancers wearing Steampunk fashion.  I know that the costume really helps shape the way you dance, your character while dancing, so I do believe there is an evolution of Tribal into a Steampunk Belly dance.

11.  How would you define or describe what aspects of music, wardrobe, instruments (acoustic versus electric for instance), styles, and lyrics, make you think “Steampunk” when you see another band perform or when looking back at your own performances?
                  When I think Steampunk, I really think a melting of classic with electric.  A Mandolin with an electronic beat box, or out of this world sounds.  I see classic Victorian garb with a hint of mad scientist tinkerer, or Lightning pirates.  This crazy alternative look that has become more prominent is what makes me jump to think “Steampunk”

12  What was your first exposure to Steampunk as an actual subculture.  (as opposed to say Steampunk movies or fiction books)
                  Actually Ramon and Radha of Kali’s Hourglass.  They open my eyes to “steampunk”

13   Can you talk a little about the difference in general dance styles that you like and how this works together to make your own approach?
Well, I am only trained in American Tribal Style, which has a set dance vocabulary, but when dancing solo, I try to be as expressive, but still maintain the tribal look, it works great for me

14  What can you tell us about the local Steampunk Community close to where you live?  Is it very active and in what ways? In other words what sort of events do they set up, are they involved in charitable, political, or educational projects?
                        Well I know a little bit, the Steampunk community seems to be pretty active, I am not to well entrenched yet to give a detailed answer.

15.  How deeply are you involved in these events, and do you always perform musically, or do you sometimes interact there in other ways?
                  So far I have only performed, but would love to have more interaction!

16.  What sort of public performance art, classes, or other activities have you not done so far, but that you would like to try in the future?
                  Well it something I have not done a lot of, but would like to, is play doumbek for a solo dancer, I am not too bad, but I don’t get to do it with my troupe, cause I am usually dancing

17.  How much difficulty do you face getting event organizers to understand the needs of performers for adequate compensation for time, travel, lodgings, and wardrobe costs?
                  Generally event organizers have no clue about all the time and effort a performer puts into his or her trade, but that is just generally, there are some folks I have worked with that are really great about this.

18.  Would you like to share any information with our readers (and potential hiring clients) about typical compensation levels for performances of different types or would you prefer to keep that something discussed on a case by case basis?
For Performance, I would like to always talk with somebody interested in hiring me, as situations vary, but I can be reached by going to

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Sarasvati Bodhisattva (aka Summer Spillman) Grants an Interview

1.   How would you define your musical style or genre?

My style and genre are both eclectic. They say that variety is the spice of life and I wholeheartedly agree. In life as well as music I love creating each day differently. I am a constantly changing being and anyone who listens to me perform live multiple times will see this if they are paying attention to the subtleties in the energy. Each song is its own animal no matter how many times it is played, and no song will ever sound *exactly* the same way twice because the energy present during the song is never exactly the same way twice, even if a musician is singing and playing the same notes every time. Each moment in life is unique and this carries throughout everything we do, even if it is not obvious to us.

2.   What artists do you think most influenced your current style or styles?

Everyone influences my music, whether they are artists, plants, animals, or universal archetypes. As far as human music goes, I love Danny Elfman, Neko Case, Jamie Reeves, The Cure, Interpol, The Demigods, Marquis of Vaudeville, Muse, Nina Simone...too many to list. I feel very lucky that many of my favorite musicians are my friends. Nature plays a HUGE role in influencing my music. If I listen to the plants and animals and as they tell me their stories, they will sing their way into my music. Spider is really, really good at telling stories. Little Miss Muffet would have benefitted from the proverb about having two ears but only one  other words, not speaking, even internally, but listening and absorbing. Ghosts influence my music as well as time travelers, gurus, shamans, and each and every person I meet as they all have stories to share which, to me anyways, are divine. I have been told that some of my music seems very dark by various people, but this is in fact not the case at all. The darkest music I have played have actually been the rare covers that I play. Just because I sing about a fly or a bat or a spider does not make the music dark. This is all a matter of perspective. To me these creatures are teachers and allies. I shun pesticides like vegans shun bacon.

3.   What instruments do you play, and how do you use them in different types of music?

All instruments are a tool that become an extension of the artist's soul. I am known for playing the sitar, which I use as a vehicle to transport myself and the listener to a higher frequency of being. I have witnessed many intense moments with this instrument, however those moments are constructed via intensive focus and meditation, not necessarily by the tool itself (sitar). In other words, the levels in frequency can change using any instrument. It's the musician, not the tool. And yet, the musician IS the tool. Funny how things work! ;-)
The vocal chords are an amazing gift. Their sounds can be used for healing and transforming. But again we come to the purpose behind the sound, and the frequency of the musician, who when doing things properly becomes the Tool.
I play the mandolin but usually as accompaniment to other artists such as Blaming Grace, Luna Solarium, The Demigods, Jamie Reeves, and The Pirate Tramp Orchestra. Every now and then I will perform a folk song on mandolin or banjo, but this is a rare event. I like to play the guitar with alot of my songs, but will sometimes adapt the songs with other instruments. I love to have many versions of my songs because I find I learn more about them that way. I also play Piano, Drums, French horn, Trumpet, and various ethnic instruments, such as the churango.

4.   What was your first exposure to Steampunk as an actual subculture.  (as opposed to say Steampunk movies or fiction books)

My first exposure to the culture was June 20th, 2009, when Marquis of Vaudeville did their first show at the Curtain Club. It was a wonderful night and very magical.

5.   When did you first encounter people in steampunk attire that was distinctive enough to really draw attention and what effect did it have on you?

When I first encountered all of the costuming (which was at the 2009 Marquis show) I became captured by the magic of it. My mind shifted to other times and places and reveled in the sense of past and future intertwined into N O W. Which, when you strip away the illusion of our calendars and watches, is a truth in more ways than one.

6.   When were you first exposed to music that you believed was directly linked in some way with the Steampunk subculture, and what effect did that have on your own musical styles?

Truly, I owe a lot to Marquis of Vaudeville. My music style is different from theirs in many ways, but they are an enormous inspiration to me. They are the ones who brought me into the Steampunk community. I can't say enough good things about them. Their music is exquisite and they are some of the kindest, most humble crew you will ever meet. I recently completed a collaborative track with Bryan Geddie, their guitarist, and Karen Morales, my percussionist. If you are reading this and you haven't heard their music, please download immediately. ;-)
7.   What percentage of your music do you consider to be Steampunk related?

I suppose about 80% could be considered Steampunk related, and this would likely be due to the fact that I am a Storyteller and love to tell Stories, especially when they have actually happened right before my eyes.

8.   How would you define or describe what aspects of music, wardrobe, instruments (acoustic versus electric for instance), styles, and lyrics, make you think “Steampunk” when you see another band perform or when looking back at your own performances?

The costumes certainly play their role, but when I think of Steampunk music, I think of Stories. I think of music that will take you into another world altogether. Ethnic instruments are widely appreciated in Steampunk music. A percussionist I work with has all kinds of interesting tools she uses in her percussive ensemble.

9.   While many bands have clearly stated that they do not want any rigid definition for Steampunk Music, your personal opinions about this topic are still of great interest to your fans.  Has your own definition of what is “Steampunk Music” changed over time, and if so how?

Steampunk Music is music that makes magic. My definitions of Steampunk Music changes with my levels of awareness. As I travel deeper and deeper into the white rabbit's wormhole, I understand the stories from a different level altogether. The stories have meaning, and just like you would learn something new from a sacred text the more you examined it (and sometimes the less you examine it), the meaning of the stories grow deeper into a Universal understanding. Glean what you will of these stories...they are no less important or pertinent than the Epic of Gilgamesh, Homer's Odyssey, or even the Bible in some cases, though many may (or may not) disagree with me.

10.  Can you talk a little about the difference in general musical tastes among members of the band and how this works together to make your unique sound?

So far, what I have done with other musicians in my sets has been the result of backwards engineering. I want a certain sound for certain shows, and sometimes I will use many musicians and sometimes will perform solo. I suppose at some point my nature of going with the flow will take me right into a more stable performance crew, with a different name.

11.  The following questions will related more to Steampunk Community where you live and perform, your own style of interacting with them, and how this affects you as a group.  First off, do you use any sort of Steampunk Character personae that affects your choice of clothing and self expression at performances?

I am Sarasvati Bodhisattva. Teacher, Music-Maker, Entrancer, Scientist, and Awakener. What she wears depends on what articles of attire find their way to her. There's that backwards engineering thing again.

12:  Are you involved in local Steampunk Events?  

I performed with Marquis of Vaudville at a private concert and again as an opening act for them at Allcon 2011.  Additionally I performed at Clockwork Wonderland 2011, Carnivale of Creatures, and at the Aetherfest (first ever for Texas) Steampunk convention in April 2011.  I will also be the Headliner musical performer for the Difference Engine Summit, Steampunk Murder Mystery Event on June 4th, 2011.

13.  Do you always perform musically, or do you sometimes interact there in other ways?

Sometimes I dance during my sets. I have been belly dancing for over ten years now, and integrate other styles of dance into my Egyptian belly dance background. I am also a merchant, though when performing there is not a lot of time for me to interact with the public as much as I would like.

14.  What sort of public performance art, classes, or other activities have you not done so far, but that you would like to try in the future?

There are so many...and many of my plans I prefer to keep secret, lol. I would admit however, to a wish to be an avid hoop dancer.

15.  What aspects of the various activities you, or affiliated support crew, do publically, other than music of course, do you enjoy most.  Examples could include demonstrating Steampunk fashion, modeling, posing for pictures, spontaneous character acting, rehearsed character skits, answering general questions about Steampunk lifestyle, teaching classes and/or holding panels, or vending goods, fashions, weapons, goggles or other things you or your crew have made?

Right now I've been creating Steampunk Art. I recently fell through the floor of an old 1800's house floor digging up Steampunk supplies. Now I have some interesting scars on my leg, but also a story to go with them. ;-)
My family has been in the franchise business for a long time. I am developing a concept for a Steampunk-related Franchise...which to my knowledge would be the first steampunk franchise in history. More info here:

16.  How much difficulty do you face getting event organizers to understand the needs of performers for adequate compensation for time, travel, lodgings, and wardrobe costs?

I have learned to be flexible in all situations and to live in the moment. If something doesn't go the way I would prefer, I trust that there is some sort of reason for it, even if I may not yet be aware of it.

17.  (optional of course) Would you like to share any information with our readers (and potential hiring clients) about typical compensation levels for performances of different types or would you prefer to keep that something discussed on a case by case basis?

It's all case by case my dear! ;-)

18.  Is there anything else you would like to add about any aspect of Steampunk Performance Art or about Steampunk as a lifestyle?

I love Steampunk because I feel that there is an element in it that teaches sustainability. Turning trash into treasure. Creating exquisite beauty while keeping things out of the landfills. Landfills and trash should not really exist...what a silly human invention.

Monday, May 23, 2011

New Film Suggest Ada Lovelace May Not have Died of Natural Causes!

A research assistant working for the Difference Engine Foundation found an early form of film in a secret vault in a home that belonged to Charles Babbage, the historical inventor of the Difference Engine. It appears to show the last moments of the Countess Ada Lovelace (his assistant and inventor of computer programming) right before her death. She supposedly died of medical issues at home, but this film suggests otherwise!

Please click on the link:     Last moments of the Countess Ada Lovelace

For more information see:

NOTE: The song at the end "I Am Stretched on Your Grave" is a translation of an anonymous 17th-century Irish poem titled "Táim sínte ar do thuama".[1] It was translated into English several times, most notably by Frank O'Connor.[2] It was put to music by musician Philip King in 1979.[3] Two verses of that song were blended with a custom written verse and sung by Ramon Leon Del Mar and added to the end of this video before it was posted to cyberspace.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Press Release for The Difference Engine Steampunk Event June 4th, 2011

A Steampunk Event

The “Difference Engine” is an event that will immerse you in the creative world of the retro-futuristic imagination.  This will be an interactive “Steampunk Adventure” from the 19th century blending science fiction and old world charm, elegance, and adventure. 

This one-day event will feature a Steampunk Murder Mystery Play, musicians, comedy acts, a variety of “Topic Panels”, a vendors area, a gaming room, photography in Steampunk Attire, and a “Steampunk DIY Fashion Show”.   Following all the events of the day there will be a formal waltz followed by a Darkwave dance to finish off the evening.

The “Difference Engine” will take place on June 4th, 2011, at the Radisson Fort Worth North, located at Meechum and I35 W.    

Doors open at 10am and the final event closes at 2 am.  The cost is $20.00 and tickets are available at

If you would like more information on this topic, to request press passes, or to schedule an interview, please contact us at  or call Tina Amyett at 214-546-5584.

Contact: Tina Amyett               
Telephone: 972-270-0752
Cell phone: 214-546-5584

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Steampunk Canada's First National Steampunk Exhibition

This convention looks like it was an amazing amount of fun!  It was also very heavy into the science and fully functional or partially functional art and professional grade prop making areas which is somethign others ususally cannot provide!  In fact this event may well become a Mecca for others to travel to in order to learn more about these special and fabulous areas of Steampunkery!  Bravo!

Please click on the link below to read a review by Kris Abel:

Steampunk Canada's First National Steampunk Exhibition

For the event website to see all that was actually offered there go to:

For photos go to:

For other articles on this topic see:

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Wooden Gears For Sale at

One of the great challenges of Steampunk fabricators and designers is the dearth of available brass gears and the difficulty and expense of making functional, or even decorative ones of your own.   We bought a cutter that cuts lovely ones from metal foil, but getting a good backing so they have some depth and getting them to stay glued down well enough that a cog doesn't pull loose and start cutting people requires a lot of time and special procedures making it almost too much trouble.  A new solution has been found using the earliest and most traditional form of gears.  They are made of hardwood and come in much larger sizes than are normally available in brass at any price we can afford.  They appear to be precision cut by some sort of computerized equipment from half inch thick Oak plywood for excellent strength and functionality without the usual cost (in the hundreds) for gears of this size if cut from brass.  Take a look at their site by clicking the link below:

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Aetherfest Teaches the Culture of Steam in Texas!

I was extremely happy to see that Aetherfest, the first all Steampunk Convention in Texas, was so well received and that attendees really focused in on far more than just the ensembles, the guns, the creations, but really got a healthy look into the culture itself.  Bravo!

I looked at many reviews or comments, but the one that touched me the most was in the link below where some hard core, but somewhat disillusioned anime convention addicts attended Aetherfest and were deeply impressed by the culture of steam as something far more than just a new form of anime (as they had always previously believed).

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Sunday Driver Going to Great Lengths to Raise Funds for a New Music Video

Help us make an amazing music video, get exclusive releases in the process - this is especially cool for those of you attending the world steam expo... we will come and play in your hotel room!

We're coming to the World Steam Expo in Dearborn this May. Supporters of the band have offered to shoot a music video for us!

Interview With the Absinthe Minded Professors

I was recently privileged to  interview one of my absolute favorite Steampunk Performance Art Troupes, the Absinthe Minded Professors.  I expected it to include more than a few surprising, and possibly even baffling, responses as they are routinely as eccentric as they are entertaining and talented.  They did not disappoint!  Here is how it went:

         What was your first exposure to Steampunk as an actual subculture.  (as opposed to say Steampunk movies or fiction books)

Joshua: I wasn’t aware of steampunk as a subculture. Until Michi suggested we work on a steampunk project together. I had seen people dressed in the clothes but never them together in mass. So my first exposure to the subculture was a gig.

Michi – my husband’s LARP friends had a group called “Steam Century.” They were dressing up in old military uniforms and putting on mystery murder games for the public to play at conventions and such.  They described it to me as “starting with the past and creating a fictional future.” I was intrigued, and felt it was more interesting than attempting to ‘reenact’ history.
The first ‘official’ steampunk event I went to was a “Darke Carnival,” where I met a husband & wife sword-swallowing duo ( and performed with various musicians ( ( The Steam Century people were running carnival games like “Shake hands with the Devil.”  People were wandering around in pith helmets and bustles.  After growing up inside the weird alternative culture that is renaissance festivals, I felt right at home.

         When did you first encounter people in steampunk attire that was distinctive enough to really draw attention and what effect did it have on you?

 I entered this genre, as I do with most things, from the stage.  Looking out at the Chicago steampunks from our stage at the Bristol Renaissance Festival, I saw two female mad hatters, crave-worthy gowns and dashing adventurers, and some lovely creations like a bandolier full of variously colored liquids. I loved the fantasy and forethought people were putting into their costumes.  It wasn’t just the attire though – I enjoyed the fact that most of these people were changing their speech patterns a bit. “How civilized,” I thought. “Everyone is ‘ma-am’ing each other!”

Joshua: I’ll second that  the first time I was really layed out was on Steampunk  invasion Day at Bristol Renaissance Faire. Mannerisms more than clothes. And I get a kick out of always being referred to as “good sir.”

         When did you first decide to develop a fictional Steampunk Character Personae, and what do you think motivated you to do so.

Here’s the basic conversation I had with Joshua:
Michi: “We should work together.”
Shua: “Sure, you could play some celtic fiddle tunes for me.”
Michi: “Ummm….I prefer Slavic. Got any Babi Yar fairytales?”
Shua: “Not really.”
Michi: “How about this thing they call steampunk? I don’t really know what it is, but I can wear my corset.”
Shua: “Ok!”

I remember it a little differently. I remember thinking we could do Celtic stories together on automatic and Michi expressed that she would be bored with that.  I was commenting on Facebook I was going back to my Victorian Science Fiction roleplaying game campaign. Michi said hey we should do steampunk. I told her I didn’t have any steampunk tales and she said “it occurs to me that you could write them and the 19th century is the era for the violin” And we were off. Suddenly I became more excited about writing these monologues than any stories I had ever written previously.

         What prompted your choices in development of your personal character?

Joshua:Because we decided on the name the Absinthe Minded Professors I decided to be a somewhat dignified but surreal scientist. I decided on an absence of gear as is expected in Steampunk. I wanted to look efficient and not burdened with junk as a storyteller its important to be somewhat of a blank canvas. I decided every piece of gear on my person I would use in our show. Our tales have also helped dictate character choices. 

Michi: See conversation above. Next, came choice of clothing. The “Alice in Wonderland” movie came out around the time of our very first performance, and Shua said “You could be an urchin I found on the street.” So I went to Salvation Army and bought the largest pinafore I could find. However, I felt a schoolgirl wasn’t very believable as a “professor” – and I didn’t want people laughing through our piece about Jack the Ripper – so I went with a more serious tone and a longer skirt, and started tying brass knobs and drawer pulls onto every available inch.

         In what ways is your character like you, and how are they different?

I don’t speak onstage. My husband would say that’s very unlike me.

Joshua: Well both of us are absent minded and have a tendency to have acute and lack of observation. My character is a snappy dresser and I’m kind of a slob. I remember running into some steampunks at a Rasputina show in my Civies. Looks of dissappointment ensued.

         How are these similarities helpful?  Do you ever find them unhelpful as in making it more difficult for your fans to notice that you shifted into the "in character mode" to perform or entertain?

Joshua: I think the steampunk like any imaginitive subculture [are divided] between those that are into the make believe aspect and those that aren’t. Sometimes a character division is beneficial and sometimes it isn’t. When performing for the lay public, which we do just as often as Steampunks, we have found it beneficial to introduce ourselves and then go into character.

I realized early on that thanks to the vague setting of the 1890’s, it’s a great excuse to re-visit all those classical tunes I learned as a kid and completely screw them up. I can just channel the visage of the snobbiest musicians I knew in orchestra days. They really haven’t changed since the 1800’s anyway.

         At what point did this Steampunk Personae become more than just a guide for wardrobe development and begin to be a character you acted out or used as a personality pattern to guide your responses or behaviors in a public setting.

Michi:I would say it hasn’t crossed over into my ‘real’ life – but my friends might answer you differently on that. I’m having so much fun I talk about it all the time.

Joshua:I agree with my partner. The Professors may be on my mind frequently but I have perhaps too many other fictional personas to make it a way of life.

         When and with what basic plan did you decide to make character acting in a public setting a significant part of your steampunk existence?  Or if you do not do character acting much at this point, what other roles do you most often perform in the crew.

Joshua: It’s the other way around for me. I am a character actor as a professional storyteller. I’ve most often told stories as a character. So steampunk became part of my character actor existence and not the other way around. The roles I play as a storyteller are every character that enters the story. The base though is the professor and for that reason we don’t consider ourselves a crew but a faculty.

Michi: As a musician, I have an unfair advantage in that I’ve never had to think much about character. Working with a storyteller is giving me a great opportunity to develop physical comedy, facial reactions, and other things I don’t get to do with my band – such as using space to make an effect, and little references to classical or popular tunes as “musical jokes.”

         When you are at Steampunk, Anime, or Scifi events, do you often use spontaneous method acting?  In other words, is it common for you to suddenly drop into character in order to respond in an entertaining way to questions, or start into a familiar "in character" interaction with a crew mate, or even draw them into the act of telling war stories about adventures on the airship, road, sailing ship, vampire hunting etc.?

Michi and I have a lot of fun wandering the streets playing our characters as a method of hawking our shows to get people to various spaces. I should tell you that we don’t solely work steampunk events and playing with the general public and giving them a quick education in steampunk as our characters. This is a lot of fun as we are way out of their world.

Michi: I had the most fun at Dorian’s Parlor, wandering around after our shows with my gas mask on and playing my kazoo at people. Given what I do onstage, I suppose that’s as ‘in-character’ as it gets. Tho to be honest (and I’m not sure even Shua knows this!) while killing time at the Midway Village museum, I did give a demonstration on how to turn a violin into a trumpet – by using the conical bore of a teacup.  Everything we do is spontaneous – and ever-changing.

         When doing character acting, do you more often get into character and then simply respond to events and conversation that spontaneously occurs "in character" or do you more often use a pre-set multiple person script, prepared situations with accomplices, or prepared monologue.  (as in telling tall tales as a Steampunk story teller)

Joshua: We will often use set hooks to engage people. And then they will throw us delightfully off guard. Treating interuptions as invitatons but never expecting them.

         Do you do more character acting in video or in person and what do you think are the advantages and disadvantages between the two?

Joshua: I’m a live performer and I hate watching myself on video. There are people that are personally engaging but are not made for the camera. Playing  in the 19th century I consider this an advantage. Also the sort of entertainment is interactive and involves the perceptors. The idea of a camera generally creates a third wall of glass.

         What training, formal, informal, or recreational (such as fantasy role playing games) do you think has helped you to learn to "get into character" sufficiently to believably portray your Steampunk Personae?

Joshua: My formal training I suppose would include my schooling. I went to film school for screenwriting which is certainly beneficial since creating characters is name of the game, I went [to the] Ringling Clown College and that has helped the mad scientist prop maker in me. Interesting that you mention fantasy role playing games because they played a large part in my genesis as a storyteller. Most professional storytellers I know have never dabbled in fantasy roleplay. I find this odd because it is interactive storytelling. Regardless it makes it difficult for most of my colleagues to understand my life and the venues I work in of imaginitive subcultures.

Michi: I’m an accountant. I need a fantasy life. Seventeen years of classical violin lessons do come in handy sometimes.

         Have you made significant changes regarding your level of involvement in character acting recently, and if so, what prompted this.  What are your plans for this in the future?

Joshua: The commitment has not changed just the roles. I will tell you that I’m more enthusiastic about the Absinthe Minded Professors than anything I’ve done previously

See above about all the fun new things I get to try onstage. I’m having a blast.

         Do you have any comedy experience in the past, and how has this affected your current work?

Joshua: A professional storyteller is a comedian of sorts. He or she is just not focused on the punch line just delivering the punch of the situation. I.E. he or she does not operate on one liners but many liners that build. Storytelling is what stand up used to be. Bill Cosby may be called a comedian but he was a storyteller.

Michi: Folk music. Enough said.

         Do you have any training in sleight of hand or magic tricks and if so, have you worked that into the act?

Joshua: I have been a magician on and off since I was eight years old and have learned from some of the greatest in the world I’m forty three now.  There is magic in the Absinthe Minded Professors show but less so than any of the other surreal magical personas that I play. Over the years I have made my life as seven different personas most of whom use magic as a tool. For the professors Magic is used as a little visual spice along the way to keep us in the realm of mad science The true magic is in our mind twisting stories.

Nothing but fiddling, my dear.

         As you and your crew are known for creation of Steampunk Ensembles, accessories, and special devices for your performances, what would you like to share about background or previous experiences that you think helped you to develop these talents in steampunk design and fabrication?

My largest and most popular prop “the mechanical bustle” was quite literally taken off the wall at a wedding. Our friends were the last wedding to occur at a foreclosed log cabin venue – the owners were there and willing to sell anything, so being the good geeks we are of course the groom had the proper bit for the cordless drill to remove the decorations from the walls. It went from a wedding to a garage sale in no time flat. My husband got a WW1 helmet.  I saw this huge thing on the wall that I thought was a coffee grinder (turns out – it’s a grain distributor). I turned the crank and it made a big rusty noise. I had to have it.  Of course, I’d played the music for the wedding so in thanks the groom bought it for me. So you could say, I went to a wedding with my husband and took home a big old cranky thing.
I brought it to the “skylab” when Shua & Misti were rehearsing and we started making plans to incorporate the grain distributor into our act. I think this is a good example of how things have developed in this act – instinctively.

Video Demonstrating the above mentioned prop and one of their acts! 

Joshua:Accident is the mother of invention. My greatest inspiration as a fabricator of mad scientist junk is my brother. He’s a pupeteer that makes most of his reanimations out of garbage.

         Are any of your members experienced in juggling, gymnastics, or similar physical skills, and if so, how is that used in your performances?

Joshua:  I am an experienced juggler and balance artist but don’t use that for this character he is too dignified for that sort of thing. I use these things in my performances as other characters such as the Raven who walks on a ball and uses martial arts fans for his wings.

Not me, but we have been considering hiring a clockwork bellydancer….

         Do any of your fellow crew members currently or have plans to do any singing related to their Steampunk character or storyline at Steampunk or related events?

Michi: Misti is the singer. I only scream.

Joshua: Yeah we don’t want to do much singing. We want to make it clear that we are not a band. We tell musically accompanied stories. In time we may add more singing to utilize Misti’s awesome talent in that regard. 
The Absinthe Minded Professors newest faculty Misti Bernard

         Do any of your fellow crew members currently or have plans to do any dancing related to their Steampunk character or storyline at Steampunk or related events?

Misti and Shua did some lovely dancing at the Ball last summer in Milwaukee.

Joshua: I plan on dancing with Dr. Bernard every chance I get but no performances of dance.

         Additional:  Is there anything else you would like to add about any aspect of Steampunk Performance Art or about Steampunk as a lifestyle?

Michi:I am utterly pleased at the proliferation of this genre. I really hadn’t imagined it taking off like this. The geeks really have taken over the world!