The white goat appeared prominently in last year’s publicity photos, and remains an impressive specimen, quite literally. Dozens of jack-o-lanterns, too many to count, surround the goat. Their black eyes glitter, absent candles, and the expressions range from surprised O’s to menacing grimaces. Volunteers came on Wednesday to carve pumpkins, and we see them everywhere, especially in the Crystal Ballroom. I notice that the white goat went to the taxidermist with an impressive set of testes, and these, too, have been lovingly preserved for the ages. He stands proudly atop a mount of candy corn, and his muzzle feels as soft as the velvet when I stroke his face. I can’t help myself.
Everything here has a tactile quality. The velvet drapes, the wallpaper. We find another room, this one full of tall tables draped in black. Each one holds a tall glass jar of wrapped saltwater taffy. I may or may not have stolen three taffies. If I did, and I’m not admitting anything, they tasted like caramel corn.
The gala hosts 450 revelers a year, and the organizers strictly enforce the costume requirement. All guests must dress up, and the rules for costumes require a little more effort than you might put into attending your neighbor’s backyard party. While Theatre Bizarre exists for an all-too-brief two weeks in fall around Halloween, the event has steadily become one of Detroit’s best new traditions. And none of it exists without the very real people who haunt the Masonic for six weeks beforehand, or who dedicate months and years to making an event with a very well-deserved reputation for opulent spectacle.
Last year, over 4,500 attended, and this year’s numbers should only increase, given the added second weekend. Artistic director Dunivant told Metro Times last year that the show might not go on. “[It’s] putting me in debt,” he said. The event has no corporate sponsors, which Dunivant said allows it to remain a purely expressive event. And the Masonic, while beautiful and dramatic, has old wiring and innumerable rules that make staging Theatre Bizarre challenging. We're hoping the show goes on for years to come.