One of my favorite shows of the early HBO golden years was a short-lived series called Carnivale. Created by Daniel Knauf, a relative HBO newbie at the time, the series was a supernatural historical fiction set around a traveling carnival in the 1930s Dust Bowl era of the United States. It explored the theme of good versus evil, turning the concept on its head to offer the audience an interesting point of reflection.
Sixteen years later, that series still haunts me... in a good way. The images of hoochie coochie dancers, fortune tellers, bearded ladies and more have painted a vivid picture in my mind of a unique and evocative universe where all is not what it appears to be and nature's freaky side deserves its time to shine. A motley crew of performers, oddities, outcasts and more traveling town to town, erecting temporary temples of entertainment with their stages and tents, and bringing wonder, awe and excitement to an inquisitive, adventure-seeking audience… these images have always piqued my curiosity
That reflection of what is considered a “freak”, “weirdo” or “outsider” has always lingered with me. What other people saw as strange or bizarre, I always found unique and exciting. I guess that's why when I watched Tod Browning’s movie Freaks for the first time, it stuck with me. The famous line “one of us” is kinda how I always felt. Now mind you, I don't have a beard or a third leg, but there was still a 'freak-streak' in me, that I knew needed to come out!
In the years after watching the series, I found a way to embrace my inner freak... I became a hoochie coochie dancer, aka a burlesque performer. Although its origins are quite varied, burlesque saw and still sees a lot of crossover with the circus, carnival and sideshow worlds. The often funny, yet always colorful world of glitter, rhinestones and feathers is a feast for the eyes, inspiring intrigue and often symbolizing latent taboo desires dormant in many of us. It's freaky to get up on stage and take your clothes off in front of people - how dare these wild women (and men) do that?!
The answer is pretty simple: once you decide that your freak deserves its place in this world, there's nothing you can't do. The freedom of embracing that which others deem weird allows you to come out fully into this world and play wholeheartedly. I know this is easier said than done, and I don't mean to diminish anyone suffering from difficult physical and mental challenges. But for those who are able and willing to explore the deeper realms of their human nature, there's beauty (and potentially fun) to be found!
So when it came to creating our latest universe: The Amazing Traveling Imaginarium, we knew what we had to do. With thoughts of Carnivale and Freaks in our minds, we figured it was time to bring to life what we love about these two worlds, embrace the fantastic freaks that we are and help bring that freak out or amplify it in others so that everyone can freaking shine!