2018 Richmond Times-Dispatch Virginia Folklife Stage and Area Theme 


Photo by: Pat Jarrett

Photo by: Pat Jarrett

October is a month that has long inspired the impulse for disguise. Often our masquerading is purely frivolous in nature—our chance to try on new personas for the day, briefly live out our fantasies, make spectacles of ourselves, or perhaps disappear unnoticed. The peculiar joy in “playing dress up” seems virtually ubiquitous in childhood and stubbornly persistent into adulthood—a uniquely human activity that transcends historical time and cultural context.  

And while the act of masquerade can prove itself distinctly pleasurable, it also carries with it the powerful potential for communities to expressively articulate their deepest values and aesthetics, carry out their most sacred rituals, playfully challenge previously accepted truths and power structures, reify and perpetuate their own cultural identities, and reconnect and reinvigorate their beloved connections to home in new, unfamiliar lands.

For the 2018 Virginia Folklife Area’s theme Masquerade, we will explore various costuming and adornment traditions in Virginia, including the intricate and delicate ceremonial ensembles from Virginia and the region’s Cambodian masters, the deeply expressive handcrafted Buddhist t’sam ceremonial masks of Northern Virginia’s vibrant Mongolian community, and the truly spectacular, colorful, and labor-intensive Carnival costumes of the mid-Atlantic’s Caribbean community. These and other costuming arts are not meant to be simply displayed but donned, and thus all our featured master crafters will be joined by a cadre of dancers, stilt walkers, contortionists, and revelers.  

And of course, no costume party is complete without great music, and the Virginia Folklife Stage will once again deliver the finest in Virginia traditional styles, such as bluegrass, old time, gospel, and blues, as well as some exciting new additions, such as jazz and swing. We are particularly excited to present what are likely less familiar musical traditions from vibrant Virginia-based communities originating from such places as the Middle East and Vietnam. Our version of masquerade is less about what we hide, and more what we reveal about who we are and what it means to be a Virginian.