"Shocked and Amazed Presents:ToddRobbins'

Carnival Knowledge"


The Shocked and Amazed show series at Artisphere provides a prodigious look at the modern masters of the Sideshow and Vaudeville community.


Hand selected by producer, Alex Doll ("Shocked and Amazed", Ripley's Believe It Or Not!), and sideshow historian James Taylor (Shocked and Amazed: On and Off the Midway), you won't find such a well curated and distinguished display of this caliber of talent on stage anywhere else in DC.  

The series, titled after the world's only journal devoted to chronicling the carnival sideshow and novelty entertainment business, was born from the ashes of the now defunct Palace of Wonders (last known as the Red Palace, on H St in NE DC).  Since its conception in January of 2013, it has spawned five large-scale sold out events, with audiences ranging from age 18 to 80, all eagerly in attendance for a unique look inside the world of the weird and unusual.   

The show's producer, Alex Doll, had this to say about the series:
"When the journal's creator [James Taylor] and I went into this, we did so as two people who regularly research and document the history and origin of this business and also as patrons of the industry's modern incarnation.  After the closure of the [Red] Palace, I wanted to create an environment within the realm of sideshow that offered a reverent look at what this business had been in its Golden Era and what it is capable of being, today. We made a lineup of the kinds of acts and performance that we felt would accomplish this, without limiting it, geographically or otherwise- basically our performer "bucket list". We wanted to make show history here, but also spoil ourselves and our audiences in the process.  

Supporting and elevating the local community was also a big part of our focus, and as such, every event integrates regional talent with award winning performers from around the globe. The availability of the caliber of shows we've brought to the stage was practically nonexistent in the market after the [Red] Palace closed its doors.  It was important to us that when people think of "sideshow" they have a polished image of what the business is capable of being, in a safe and professional theater setting.  Through the partnership I've developed with Artisphere's Program Director, Josh Stoltzfus, I've been able to bring this concept to life in the DC area.  I feel very blessed to have the opportunity to do so, especially in the case of our latest event, featuring the incomparable Todd Robbins."  

In the "Shocked and Amazed" programs you are likely to see almost anything on stage- from fire breathing to sword swallowing, to unicyclers juggling machetes. Incorporating the traditional sideshow arts while placing a modern and unique twist on them has become synonymous with the flow of these events.  This go around, however, had an even more exceptional history behind it.  

The latest incarnation of the off-Broadway hit, "Carnival Knowledge"- the brainchild of the show's host, Todd Robbins- took the stage once again, 10 years after its last successful run in New York.  A legendary member of the community, Todd has reared a majority of the notable talent in the industry today through his professorship at the Coney Island Sideshow School in Brooklyn, NY.  Most recently known for his starring role in "Play Dead"-  a throwback to spook shows of the 1930s and '40s, which he co-wrote with Teller (of Penn and Teller fame)- Todd Robbins is a veritable Jack-of-all-trades.  His extensive career is filled with fascinating anecdotes, from his stint as the ringmaster for the Big Apple Circus, to his moonlighting as a pianist in Woody Allen's jazz band at the Cafe Carlyle in NY.   With his smooth and approachable everyman demeanor, but larger than life presence, Todd is the embodiment of a true showman.  

Artisphere's audiences were treated to the revival of Todd Robbins' theatrical concept this past weekend, as they sat amidst banners from the famed artist, Johnny Meah (who served as a historical consultant for HBO's "Carnivale").  The elevated stage was positively brimming with beautifully crafted classic sideshow props, looming in the background, each called upon during the show's run to demonstrate the magic and wonder of the traditional 10-in-1.  From the electric chair, to the blade-box, to the bucket full of broken glass, the audience received a uniquely exclusive education in the sideshow arts.  For the price of admission, patrons were granted a peek inside the carnival tent, cringing and swooning as Todd Robbins chomped down on light bulbs, regurgitated cockroaches and literally played with fire.  He invited members of the assemblage on stage to take part themselves, creating impromptu performers of unwitting patrons who would light torches on fire with the tip of their tongues, or magically suspend in mid-air through the clever arrangement and support of their peers.  For one night, everyone was "with it", which, in the parlance of the sideshow, means to be a part of this strange and extraordinary world.

Also featuring the sweetheart of the sideshow, the sword swallowing Lady Aye, and the ultimate rockabilly Vaudeville magician, Cardone, as well as burlesque talent, courtesy of DC's own Reverend Valentine, and the Baltimore based, Maria Bella, the show was a blinding success, leaving audiences, mesmerized and mystified, and, as promised, "shocked and amazed".  


For more information on future events and information related to the carnival sideshow arts, visit www.shockedandamazed.com (


Photos by Katherine Gaines






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