The Soiled Dove Review – a scandalous historic circus extravaganza

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The Soiled Dove takes place in downtown Oakland, California, inside a magical twelve-thousand square foot circus tent, the Tortona Big Top, which was brought from Italy and  recently erected to showcase an immersive dinner theater experience like none you’re ever dreamed of.  The Soiled Dove hearkens back to the Gold Rush days of San Francisco’s infamous Barbara Coast.



Inside the tent is an immersive, circus-infused culinary extravaganza set in San Francisco’s notorious Barbary Coast. Inside you will find a city reminiscent of the infamous red-light district remembered for its dance halls and saloons that offered concerts, jazz, and variety shows, which ultimately would influence American culture to this day. Along with the clubs from Portsmouth Square to the docks at Buena Vista Cove were a plethora of gambling dens and denizens of characters, misfits, and the ladies of the “Red Light District.”

Stepping through the entry of the Tortona Big Top is to step back into another world, inspired by the Bay Area’s notorious Gold Rush & Barbary Coast era. A fully built-out 19th century outpost of decadence and delights, a replica of a 19th century Oakland saloon and dancehall, replete with all its characters and performers.  You will enjoy an evening filled, with decadent culinary creations served alongside world-renowned performances.  A 10 piece live orchestra with surprise musical-guest cameos each evening sitting in the mezzanine and overlooking the curious and ribald guests. Director/Producer, Mike Gaines says, “The Soiled Dove features over 40 performers and musicians collaborating to help transport guests back to the Barbary Coast circa 1890.”

The Soiled Dove is presented by The Vau de Vire Society, co-creators of the world renowned Edwardian Ball (see my previous Articles here in SPLASH MAGAZINES,) Lagunitas Beer Circus, Phantasm Halloween, New Bohemia NYE and a decade of The Bay Area’s most creatively outrageous nightlife events.

You will be immersed in a circus-infused, scandalous and historic dinner-theater experience that will titillate your every sense. The Soiled Dove graces downtown Oakland September 28th, with shows every Friday and Saturday evening’s through November 17th…under Vau de Vire’s massive 12,000 sq. ft. Italian Big Top.

Guests arrive to depart from the mundane, to enjoy and explore a scandalous and sexy chapter in Bay Area history. Attendees are encouraged (but not required) to wear period costumes and to submerge themselves in the revelry by putting a little (or a lot) of effort into their attire. Costume styles that cover many era’s and themes, including: Victorian, Edwardian, 49er, and of course Harlots of the Red Light District. One lady having a particularly good time told me that wearing her costume just got her into the mood, and allowed her to be free and have more fun.

Inside the Tent City are high tables where early guest (with reservations) can partake of a most delicious 4-course meal, which I highly recommend. The Soiled Dove guests are treated like royalty by the most enticing courtesans on the Barbary Coast serving up an innovative food experience by the Bay Area based, produce-focused, Work of Art catering collective. Work of Art’s forward thinking and sustainable menus will be paired, with bespoke tantalizing libations at the Soiled Dove Saloon. And for those guests partaking of the Meal, and the courtesan’s attention, you may remain in your seats to watch the evenings show.

Inside the Tortona has been built an intimate and exciting depiction of a Saloon & Dance Hall, set in Oakland, circa 1890’s. The ginormous tent is adorned with multiple performance stages, a 50’ ceiling offering the canvas for an array of aerial feats, a tent-wide gallery of local artisans, sprawling lounges, craft vendors and an expansive libations bar perfectly designed for illicit escapades.

The Stage performance began after the evening’s meal. There was something happening everywhere imaginable throughout the evening. There are salacious singers, voracious villains and hapless heroes.  Gyrations broke out numerous times on bar-top of the Soiled Dove Saloon with masterful musicians and delicious dancers. Oakland’s acclaimed Jazz Mafia performs nightly. There is a sense of time travel living in a bygone era of questionable behavior, loose morals, and all manner of other delectable indulgences. Oh so much fun !

You will see and experience some of the best performers and performances ever!  There are Acts-On-the-Ground, and Aerial Acts, Fire Performances. There are Jugglers, Roller Girls, Snake Dancers, and Characters roaming throughout all evening. Ballerinas and Pole Dancers abound, along with the naughty Burlesque on the main stage. Of course there is a Bearded Lady, a Sword Swallower, and Tarot Readings. And don’t miss the Living statues as part of the Living Art Installation.

For the photos in this Article I tried to imagine what The Soiled Dove would look like with pictures from back in the day. The daguerreotype was a one-of-a-kind image produced on a sheet of copper coated paper, and was popular from about 1863 until 1888. Then George Eastman came up with a better idea. Eastman developed cameras for “amateurs” who didn’t want to carry around lots of gear and equipment. His cameras were preloaded with a roll of flexible film.  Purchased at drug-stores and five-and-dimes, the users would return the cameras after taking their pictures, for which they would be returned small prints, along with a camera refilled with a new roll of film.

 Today those images appear as grainy black and white prints, often with amber or sienna color (Sepia), due to time and the chemicals’ used in the film processing as well as in the papers used for making the prints. I offer my digitize version of what those images would look like today, taken at The Soiled Dove.

 The Soiled Dove is a tantalizing evening full of frivolity and bawdy delight. It’s a Must See and Experience night to take your lover, and a few friends. Do not plan on getting up early, the next morning.


Where: Tortona Big Top in Downtown Oakland, 1911 Telegraph Avenue, Oakland, CA 94612

When: Every Friday & Saturday, September 28th through November 17th, 2018, 7:30pm (Dinner & Show) & 9:00pm (Show.) Check out the website, as ever weekend offers something new. Such as the eleven hour Halloween Soiree on October 27. Get your tickets now.

Tickets: $53 Show to $137 Dinner & Show (includes 4-course dinner) –  The Soiled Dove is a unique immersive 21+ experience where patrons move freely through the venue. Seating is first come, first serve. You should arrive by 7:00 PM for the dinner which begins at 7:30. The Main Show begins at 9:00, that is, if the rowdy naughtiness has been quelled. The Stage show begins at 9:00 pm  come, first served.

Remember this is in the heart of Downtown Oakland.  There is a nearby Bart station and there is street parking for those who get there early, or who get lucky. There are nearby parking lots which I saw charging $30.00.  Sandy and I got Lucky!

Connect with me, Greg Autry,  on Facebook  @CGAGreg,  and Instagram   @gregautry.cga . There are always more pictures!

*Photography by Greg Autry @gregautry.cga  ©2018GregAutry ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 

About Greg Autry 50 Articles
Greg is a Photographer and Writer specializing in Fashion, Art, and Editorials. He covers Luxury Brands for Splash Magazine including: Fashion Shows, Fine Art, Charities, Stage Performance, Travel, and all manner of Events. Promoters and Producers ask for Greg specifically and repeatedly because his Articles and Photography are the highest of quality and are often picked up in National Media. Greg is also available Freelance for assignment. Writer - Magazine Articles and upcoming Bio-Novel about artist Julian Ritter. Photographer - Commercial Fashion and Editorial Photography. Artist - Oil Painter

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