Theatre Bizarre Is Back: 'House Party, Burlesque, Dance Club, Fashion Catwalk'

October 12, 2016, 9:00 PM by  Alan Stamm

Theatre Bizarre guests last October. (Facebook photos by Trever Long)

Clowns at John Dunivant's upcoming events at Masonic Temple won't be the cheesy, prank-pulling kind in headlines lately. That doesn't mean they won't look creepy, though.

Dunivant is co-founder of Theatre Bizarre, a legendary Detroit blowout that has climbed from cult status to slick magazine coverage.

Over-the-top understates many of the elaborate costumes and makeup.

"Book a flight to Detroit for what may be the best costume party of your lifetime," says Travel + Leisure, calling it "the world’s most spectacular masquerade party.

The new article, with seven photos, is by Metro Detroit native Christopher Tkaczyk (Allen Park High, Class of ' 95; University of Michigan, '99).

The bacchanalia (expanded to two weekends this year) is so popular that all $260 tickets to Friday's opening gala are gone and the closing night may be full soon, a Facebook post late Tuesday indicates: "Tickets for the Oct. 22 show are close to selling out." Admission that night and this Saturday is $95. A second gala Oct. 21 is $260.

Costumes are mandatory. More than a few attendees wear professional makeup and theatrical costumes. (Tickets are available here.)    

Another 2015 reveler at Theatre Bizarre.

Here's how the New York-based travel writer describes the colorful bash:

Theatre Bizarre, which bills itself as “the greatest masquerade on Earth,” is equal parts giant house party, burlesque show, performance art piece, immersive theatrical spectacle, multi-story dance club and fashion costume catwalk.

The party unfolds simultaneously in painstakingly detailed rooms on eight floors of a gigantic neo-Gothic building that is home to the world’s largest Masonic Temple. It’s the realization of an adult child’s imaginative, playful, abstract dark carnival world. . . .

Thousands of masqueraders—some coming from as far as Japan, New Zealand and the U.A.E.—have devoted months and hundreds of dollars to devising an original look to compete with the legions of faithful revelers who return each year. 

Tkaczyk (a Polish name pronounced teh-KAH-chik) traces the event's underground roots "as an illegal bonfire and homemade amusement park built alongside crack houses near the Michigan State Fairgrounds."

Dunivant began producing Theatre Bizarre in 2000, when he and a group of friends got together to create artistic decor for a Halloween party at a friend’s house. Eventually, the event grew so big and popular that it had to find a permanent home.

Live music will be provided by the Gabriel Brass Band and David J, performing as M.C. Nightshade, and the Theatre Bizarre Orchestra.

A public preview by that latter act takes place Thursday from 7:30-11 .m. at Third Man Records, 411 Canfield. 

More from last year's Masonic Temple bacchanalia, which spanned just two nights.

Read more:  Travel + Leisure

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