Get the Inside Scoop on Seattle's Moisture Festival

Learn the story behind this annual extravaganza of offbeat variety acts, now in its 15th year.

Seattle's Moisture Festival—a showcase of comedy/variety entertainment—celebrates its 15th anniversary this year, when it returns to Hale’s Palladium March 15 through April 8, 2018.

Ron W. Bailey, one of the festival’s founders, tells us what has made it such a hit.

What can the audience expect from the shows?

They’ll be surprised and often amazed by what they see. There’s always enough humor to get the audience comfortable and relaxed so the skill acts like aerial, tight rope, contortion or acro-balancing are all the more impressive. Because the Moisture Festival has worked diligently to present quality shows, providing good lighting and sound, many world-class variety acts have been attracted to the festival and the audiences have truly benefited. They’ve been impressed by how many different kinds of acts there actually are out in the world. And the artists are always looking for a stage on which to do their act. The Moisture Festival has provided that stage. We’re still the only festival in the world dedicated to presenting the best in variety entertainment and giving it the respect it deserves.

What's kept Moisture Festival going for so many years?

The reason this festival has continued to flourish is the same reason American vaudeville was the most popular form of entertainment across the country for more than 50 years. It’s entertainment of the people, by the people and for the people. It’s certainly not regarded as high class, rather it is embraced for allowing all sorts of acts, some traditional and some bizarre, that are the result of individuals or groups perfecting skills that they can perform within a brief time slot. In American vaudeville, the 12-minute rule was strictly enforced, to the point where if you violated the rule it would be difficult to find work on any stage. While the Moisture Festival isn’t quite that strict, the importance of doing your best stuff in a condensed period of time is definitely emphasized. This method of presenting acts is what makes for a magnificent variety show.

How do you organize such a large festival?

Another truly phenomenal aspect of the festival is that it is fueled by volunteers who manage to cover hundreds of shifts and joyfully do the necessary work it takes to have shows run smoothly, the box office function efficiently, the artists fed, the theaters cleaned and reset. Each year attracts new recruits and many of our volunteers return every year. Their dedication is awe-inspiring. It is the main reason the festival has gone on for 15 fun years.

What can you tell us about the festival venue?

Hale’s Palladium is the former warehouse of Hale’s Brewery. The magic of this space our producers created is another key element of the success of the festival; it’s the epitome of elegant funkiness. With its plywood walls and old growth fir beams it amplifies the audience’s laughter and applause like no other theater in Seattle. Plus, families can sit together, mom and dad having a beer while the children eat popcorn. The room takes on an old-time circus atmosphere. When the live show-bands kick in, the anticipation grows among the audience, the lights come up, the MC takes the stage and one of 50 festival shows begin.

Lara Hale
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