COURTESY MARCO SANCHEZ”San Francisco’s bawdy Barbary Coast era comes alive in Vau de Vire Society's “The Soiled Dove."

‘Soiled Dove’ evokes S.F.’s wild Barbary Coast days

Fans of interactive theater and living history who want to commune with their inner Edwardian in a raucous, Barbary Coast bordello atmosphere need look no farther than Vau de Vire Society’s “The Soiled Dove.”

A dinner-entertainment event that’s similar to – but more raunchy and informal – than the late, lamented Teatro ZinZanni, “Dove” is less about spectacle and more about ambiance.

The brainchild of local impresarios Mike and Shannon Gaines, who founded VdV in 1997, the event comprises a four-course meal, courtesy of Work of Art, served sporadically throughout a lively two and a half hours.

Guests, who stand at small, high tables (there are also some couches along the walls), eat, drink, flirt with the 40 or so performers (mostly women in varied bodice-and-garter ensembles, who mingle among the crowd) and watch circus-style acts and sexy dances (choreographed by Shannon Gaines) that take place on a small stage, on table tops, on the bar and just about every place else in InnerMission/Cellspace, a 10,000-square-foot, multi-level Mission District warehouse that’s been jazzed up with chandeliers, low light and a suggestion of an old Western street scene on an upper level.

“We’ve been enamored with the Barbary Coast since moving to San Francisco,” says Mike Gaines. The idea for “The Soiled Dove” — a name discovered during

research, referring to the harlots of the era – started when they walked along the Embarcadero reading fragments of waterfront history on pavement placards. The project has been in the planning stages for years. “The reality of that time is crazier than fiction!” exclaims Gaines.

The performers, all members of VdV’s ongoing troupe, some of them veterans of Cirque du Soleil, are accompanied by two local musical ensembles: Jazz Mafia, whose two sets are mostly drawn from their album “Tales from the Barbary Coast,” and the quartet Squid Inc., which deconstructs modern pop hits.

The opening night crowd of approximately 160, almost all in elaborate period costume, watched entertainment that included a contortionist, a tissu act, aerial hoops, trapeze work, skits (an attempted impromptu hanging, among others), pole dances and fan dances, with a master of ceremonies at the helm.

Although the Gaineses, who’ve been operating the venue for five years, expected to be there for 10, the landlord recently sold it. VdV, which also produces the annual Edwardian Ball (Jan. 16 and 17 at the Regency Ballroom), wants to continue its unique dinner theater concept and is currently looking for a similar-sized space.

IF YOU GO

The Soiled Dove

Presented by Vau de Vire Society

Where: InnerMission-Cellspace, 633 Florida St., S.F.

When: 8 p.m. Dec.11-13

Tickets: $120 (includes multi-course dinner)

Contact: (415) 310-9238, TheSoiledDove.com

/div>artsMike GainesSoiled DoveVau de Vire Society

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Asian American youth report anger, sadness and fear over surge in racist behavior

Survey finds about 80 percent experienced bullying or verbal harassment

Court prevents Trump administration from blocking WeChat pending hearing

Late Saturday night, a federal judge in San Francisco issued a preliminary… Continue reading

San Francisco Symphony, Opera musicians settle contracts

Performers’ salaries modified due to inability to play live

California’s troubled unemployment agency needs immediate overhaul, report says

By Patrick McGreevy Los Angeles Times California’s antiquated unemployment benefits system requires… Continue reading

In Brown Type: New survey finds engagement and trend to progressivism among Asian American voters

The 2016 election and ‘Trump effect’ have fired up the voting bloc

Most Read