Invoking the spirit of the 1920’s garden parties commonly thrown by Minnie Untermyer (wife of prominent layer and civic leader, Samuel Untermyer) at her scenic estate overlooking the Hudson river, this updated version contained both a vintage and current vibe. Throughout the late afternoon and into the evening, one could hear live performances from a Slavic brass-band, a string-based soundscape, a world-renowned theremin player, and a groovy house/nu-wave/disco sounding band.
The gardens were decorated with lovely mood lighting, and guests were scattered throughout the grounds (many dressed in some version of period attire), picnicking on blankets while dancers frolicked about and water nymphs played in the garden waterfalls. As part of the event, purveyors and demonstrators (including a bug whisperer) were set up around the grounds for guests to happen upon serendipitously.
At sunset, there was a ceremony involving dancers carrying lit torches and some chanting, before more drinking, music and merriment.
The Suitcase of Wonders was set slightly back from a gravel path that surrounded one of the “lower gardens.” Nicely manicured with more than adequate tree cover for summertime shade, the lawn attracted several small parties of guests who set out their picnic wares over their blankets.
Since it was a walled garden, my back was to an iron gate set into the long ivy-covered wall. The Suitcase theater faced the garden, where I set up two comfortable chairs for people to watch Smallini’s performances.
I was happy that guests would have to wander a bit in order to find me. I loved the idea of them happening upon this miniature magic show theater during a stroll. And that’s exactly what happened throughout the late afternoon and into the evening. Every so often, guests (mostly couples) would stop on the path and look curiously at the theater, and me leaning against the gate “smoking” a cigarette (see Fake Cigarettes entry earlier in this Diary).
After inviting them to have a seat for a brief performance of two or three minutes, I began the show. Most guests did not know what they were going to see, although some people did seek me out after noticing the listing in the program (described as a miniature magic theater, featuring Smallini, the World’s Tiniest Magician).
The performances went splendidly, with very few minor glitches. I was especially prepared for this event, knowing I would be outdoors and performing for three hours (with a half-hour break).
Reactions from the guests couldn’t have been better. They were charmed, amazed, and delighted. My new introduction by Smallini on the apron of the stage at the start of each trick went over well, I thought. After flicking on a switch just under the handle of the Suitcase, a red light came on and Smallini began by introducing himself and welcoming you to the Garden Party, in his recorded Houdini-sounding voice. This automaton simulation (controlled by my fingers behind the curtain), worked as a nice opening before the curtain was raised for the magic performance.
I cycled through my repertoire of a current half-dozen tricks several times throughout the course of the event. My one new trick, The Princess and The Guillotine (working title), was exciting to perform for the first time, and I was relieved that it went over well.
Daytime monarch butterflies that fluttered around the foliage as I performed gave way to evening fireflies that blinked and glowed around my audiences - a slight that was truly special. As the sun set, a black cat ran across my path during one performance.
It was also during dusk when I thought as I spied the initials “DB ‘69” carved into the wall next to the gate behind me. It gave me chills to think that the infamous Yonkers serial killer might have been at this spot years ago.
As the picnickers rolled up their blankets and headed for the upper garden to listen to main musical act, I was left alone for the remaining thirty minutes of my scheduled time, presiding over the theater, which now had its orange-tinted exterior lights turned on. Before wrapping up a few more guests wandered by (they saw the theater lights from a distance) and I performed in the dark for them. The Suitcase theater has its own lighting so the stage is clearly visible.
All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed performing at this throwback Garden Party in a hidden treasure of a location. The Atlas Obscura people were professional and a delight to work with. Reflecting on the event after a couple of days, my only regret was not applying a little mosquito repellent :)