Vaudeville Returns to Columbus
By Kate Liebers
Have you been to the Peach District? Possibly, but you may not have realized it. The cutesy-fruitsy phrase refers to the area between Neil Avenue and High Street, and from Ninth to Fifth Avenues. One day, a man, whom the Peach District group members refer to as a “hipster socialite,” just made it up.
From its cerebral beginnings as a performance art piece of “area branding,” the Peach District has grown into a platform for the active revitalization of the Columbus area – or at least that section of Victorian Village. With various festivals, events, and gatherings, the Peach District is regarded by its members as empowering a progressive youth.
“In fact, our motto is ‘Do Stuff,'” said Zachariah A. Baird, 26, one member of the Peach District group.
This January, the “stuff” Peach District is “doing” entails a compilation of 11 shows, known collectively as The Greatest Show. These performances, scheduled throughout the upcoming months, present an array of artistic talent – from comedy, music, and fine art, to dance troops, trivia, and DJs – unknown to much of Columbus.
The Greatest Show is produced by Baird, who plans to co-host several performances with Andy Gallagher, 25, the show’s stage manager.
“We’re two analytical people with backgrounds in math, running away in the worst economy in the century,” said Baird. Rather than embrace the mainstream, he and other Peach District-ers have proclaimed themselves the creative leaders of this mid-sized Midwestern city of Columbus.
Both expressed their interest in propelling the careers of artists with underexposed talent. They – and the event doorman Zach Henkel, 27 – are opening the doors for anyone interested in supporting the city’s local talent. (Henkel quite literally, in fact.)
“Initially, this whole idea started with the hope that we would find an easy way to bring in different types of artists in Columbus and get them collaborating – comedians, dancers, musicians – and also find a way to funnel money into these groups,” said Baird.
“There are a lot of very good performers in Columbus who never get paid to do anything, who deserve to get paid for something,” he added.
The venue itself shares this local love, and is a major factor to making The Show possible, explained Baird. The shows will be staged at Dragonfly’s Neo-V studio space, a Peach District restaurant located on King Avenue, which Baird described as one of the most self-sustaining business models in town. Similar to the restaurant, which uses locally grown ingredients, Baird’s show feeds all the profits from the cover money back to the Columbus performers.
“That’s why we work with businesses like this,” Baird said. “It’s supporting a local culture.”
Prior to all of the shows, art will be featured in the gallery space. These pieces will be open to the public, with $1 wine tastings from 5-8:30 p.m. The featured shows will begin at 9 p.m., with a $5 cover charge that goes directly to the performers. A DJ and an open dance floor will close out most shows from midnight to 2 a.m.
While the full Greatest Show line up has not yet been finalized, January kicks off with “Anarchy and Community Development” (January 8th). Comedians Dan Wilburn, Laura Sanders, and Aesop Jones will keep the crowd rolling between band performances – including Marvin the Robot, the Jelly Hearts, and Swamp Leather. DJ Andy Robertson will close out the night.
“The Speak Easy” is scheduled for January 15th, followed by “Show and Tell” on the 22nd, and “Improv Democracy” on the 29th.
“To me, that’s the most important thing that’s going on – the collaborations between different types of artists to create a new kind of art scene,” said Baird.
Not only for entertainment, but also to improve the neighborhood at large.
“The Peach District is not a one-trick pony,” said Baird. “It’s important: bring in a lot of different people, lot of different talents, and get them doing things.”
Gallagher added that it is about creating an avenue for local artists.
“If this Peach District idea works, it’s completely mutually beneficial for everyone,” he said. “And that proves that if you don’t like where you live, then do something about it.”
Working not-for-profit, Baird emphasized that the goal of the Greatest Show is revealing the array of creative talents Columbus holds. While some might think they have to go to the East Coast or a different city to be recognized, the Peach District provides a starting point right here in Victorian Village, he says.
“That’s what I enjoy: helping people do what they want to do and follow their dreams. I don’t know if that pays, but I don’t really care. It makes me so happy.”