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The 1849 GOLD RUSH has invaded downtown Oakland this fall, the Barbary Coast invasion is a true delight. Uptown Oakland who some say is the Wild West still in 2018 welcomed the 12,000-square-foot circus tent. The Vau de Vire Society Presents THE SOILED DOVE, an immersive, dinner-theater experience complete with acrobatics, whores, comedy, aerial performances, and burlesque dancing. The tantalizing, piano power provided by the JAZZ MAFIA is a full size non stop band. A “Soiled Dove” is a loving term for a prostitute and the many women and men we meet who sell their charm, make this one of the best pre holiday parties on the North Coast through November 17th at The Tortona Big Top in Uptown Oakland.

Mike and Shannon Gaines, a local couple from San Francisco, founded the Vau de Vire Society in 1997, and have collaborated with everyone from Cirque du Soleil, the San Francisco Symphony and Calvin Harris. The Gains also produced the annual Edwardian Ball in both San Francisco and Los Angeles. Mike Gaines says “The Soiled Dove harkens back to this "lawless, crazy, debaucherous, free-for-all kind of environment." The couple did their first run in Alameda "We loved it and it's so close, but it's not in the city," said Gaines. The next DOVE landed in Oakland this fall; “The intent is providing Oaklanders with a slice of something "light-hearted and campy" during a politically and socially tense time - We're really here to give people an evening of escapism and immerse them in a creative environment that is just revelry" said Gaines.

The Bay Area EXPRESS reported; “After occupying a spot in San Francisco's Mission district for eight years, the Vau de Vire Society found themselves displaced when a developer bought their entire block in 2016. Rents were too high for them to relocate elsewhere in the city, so the Gaineses decided to search for the perfect tent that they could pitch anywhere. After finding said tent just outside of Milan, Italy, they pitched it.” They searched for a new home in the East Bay, hosting events including the Soiled Dove as well as a steampunk masquerade and art installations at the Richmond Peer and now in the hip new improved Uptown Oakland.

The company found an opportunity to move to uptown Oakland, next to the famed FOX THEATRE and the tent was pitched. The Tortona Big Top now rests at 1911 Telegraph Avenue. SOILED DOVE has sold out most of their weekend shows including a jazz hands Halloween romp, but they close their fall run in Oakland this month. The actors, singers dancers and entertainers are 40 strong and most of them are from the East Bay or nearby. Vau de Vire worked with local nonprofits and community groups during their two month run and included the Vespertine Circus and Oakland's Kinetic Arts Center based out of West Oakland.

The San Francisco's Barbary Coast, and its icon red-light district was a Gold Rush titillating the American Dream. The power house Jazz Mafia provides the rocking blues, swing band fronted by an Oakland rapper. “It's a Cirque du Soleil in fishnets," said Gaines. I found it a bit of task to park when I visited the DOVE, but their are a few city lots that lower their prices for evening events. The dinner show begins at 7:30pm and the adult audience begins lining up 30 min to show time since most seats are open and not reserved. The audiences are encourage to dress for the era, and at all the other Vau de Vire events the fans become part of the color of the party. The dinner audience enters the Tent at 7:30 and is immediately greeted by the costumed cater staff offering up some very tasty caramelized figs stuffed with Point Reyes Blue Cheese and Sherry gastrique, wild fennel with Shrimp Escebeche Toasts. The well dressed servers turn out to be performers later in the night and tips not required.

The food is created by San Francisco-based green catering company, WORK OF ART. The Soiled Dove guests find a seat and greet others roaming the busy space. Food hawkers are easy to find and there is plenty of food always arriving, I liked the Curry Butternut Squash Bisque. For the main course I was served Smoked Pastrami Beef Short Ribs and Anson Mills white grits, yellow corn, maitake mushroom, scallion, a basic fancy Pot Roast that cut with a spoon. As the dinner was served the show begins with unexpected dancers and circus romps whisking past my Coconut Lime Mousse. A lot of cleavage passes your table and show girls live up to the SOILED DOVE theme.

The real crazy racy show begins after dinner, the doors open and another 100 or so people squeeze into the 12,000-square-foot tent. Non dinner seats are 60.00 and mostly standing room since the dinners seem to sell out. The 9 pm show begins with theatrical themes of whores, ghosts, freaks and “avant-cabaret” entertainment. The burlesque energy is campy keen and full of pre “Me Too” themes that will not shock your average Bay Area fan, but would upset the Church Lady. Emcee Vegas J. Jenkins opens the real show with a roaring “Anthem Welcome” number, with his army of whores and bouchery. The the fun really begins with a bawdy selection of freak acts, such as spinning hoops of girls and men with strap ons who contort and make you ahh. Striptease pole dancing is a sure bet to steal your heart or clear the table you sit at. The immerse circus happens all around you and Vegas J Jenkins keep the evening lively.

I was transported to San Francisco’s red light district, and notorious Barbary Coast, with naughty entertainers, criminals, carpetbaggers, and Judges and Queens. The costumes are sizzling and inspired by the 1850s but sometimes you see that goth millennial feel. You might even be at a First Friday Uptown Oakland festival.

The show is non stop and when it's over - it does not end as the audience is encouraged to stay as the Bar stays open til Oaklands last drink call 130 am. It is a fun evening and as perfect as THE SPEAKEASY in San Francisco's North Beach. The final weekends are just about sold out but the 9 pm guest seats still have some openings. The SOILED DOVE is sure to reopen in 2019 and become a staple of Uptown Oakland.

Vau de Vire Society Presents


Must Close November 17th

Toronta Big Top,

1911 Telegraph Ave.,

Oakland, California 94612

21 and over

Running time: Till last call at the Bar

Tickets: $60-$140

*Mike and Shannon Gaines interviews courtesy EAST BAY EXPRESS

The tales of The Soiled Dove are set in the Bay Area's Barbary Coast, the famed Red Light District filled with brothels, saloons and dance halls. Defined by lawlessness, gambling, vigilante justice and overrun with wild-hearted ne'er-do-wells, the Barbary Coast would eventually transform into a hub of innovative culture.

About the Vau de Vire Society

Founded in 1997 by husband and wife team Shannon and Mike Gaines, the Bay Area-based entertainment company Vau de Vire has been titillating crowds around the world with its unique brand of interactive and thematic art, dance and circus productions while the performance ensemble, Vau de Vire Society consists of classically-trained dancers, some of the nation’s most acclaimed acrobats, aerial artists, sideshow acts, fire-performers, thespians and beautiful circus freaks. The group has been cross-pollinating genres by collaborating with an eclectic variety of world-renowned musicians and DJs in the creation of original stage shows.

Notable collaborators include The Edwardian Ball (SF & LA) Cirque du Soleil (Corteo), San Francisco Symphony, Bassnectar, The Dresden Dolls, Calvin Harris and The Madd Vibe Orchestra…with live support performances for James Brown, Primus, 50 Cent, Wyclef Jean, Velvet Revolver, The Cure and many other highly respected international artists. In addition to producing the annual SF/LA Edwardian Ball since 2005 and SF’s premier NYE event New Bohemia NYE, Vau de Vire is most widely recognized for their numerous music and arts festival commissions, having curated live-music stages and multi-day variety entertainment amidst their custom built environments. Past and ongoing festivals include: Symbiosis Gathering, Outside Lands Festival, Bumbershoot Festival, Download Festival, Lightning in a Bottle, Exprescion on Alcatraz, Burning Man and Super Village at Super Bowl XLV.

About Jazz Mafia

Providing the musical genius throughout the night are virtuosic Oakland natives Jazz Mafia. Led by musical director Adam Theis, dance/musical liaison Shaina Evoniuk, and lyricist Dublin. Theis has produced and co-written music for notable artists such as Lyrics Born, Zion-I, Rebelution, Latyrx, Galactic, Ledesi, Blackalicious and many more.

As a sideman, Adam and his horn section have created eclectic collaborations with a wide range of top level artists including: Bobby McFerrin, Roy Ayers, Chali 2na, Booker T. Jones, Spearhead, Zigaboo Modeliste, Zap Mama, Eric Lindell, Dead Winter Carpenters, KRS One, Wax Tailor, The New Master Sounds, Peter Rowan, Coultrain, J Boogie’s Dubtronic Science, The Velvet Teen and dozens more. Jazz Mafia provides the musical means for audiences to travel back in time to when the streets of San Francisco were covered in dirt, mud and sometimes, a bit of blood.

About Oakland Central

Oakland Central is the lifestyle and destination marketing campaign of the Downtown Oakland and Lake Merritt Uptown District Associations. It is designed to promote Downtown Oakland as a destination and support local businesses and attract patrons to Downtown Oakland’s Central Business District. To learn more about Oakland Central visit and to learn more about the work of the associations please visit: Oakland Central Presents is the events production side of the Oakland Central marketing campaign that produces 3rd Thursday at Latham Square, and will support the production of The Soiled Dove. To learn more about Oakland Central Presents, visit

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