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Happenstance Theater Presents




A theatrical collage collaboratively devised by the ensemble.




Mark Jaster, Sabrina Mandell, Gwen Grastorf, Sarah Olmsted Thomas, Alex Vernon, and guest musician Stephanie Baird


Music composed and arranged for original production by

Karen Hansen


Additional Music and arrangements by

Stephanie Baird


Lighting Design

Kris Thompson



Sabrina Mandell

Note from the Artistic co-Directors

In 2010, Happenstance Theater premiered its first CABARET MACABRE inspired by the works of Edward Gorey. Its success launched a series of 3 more Gorey editions and a cinematic homage, CABARET NOIR. The 4th CABARET MACABRE (which you will see now) garnered 3 Helen Hayes Award nominations, was a sold-out hit at the New Orleans Fringe, played the Baltimore Theatre Project twice, returned to Louisiana for another tour, and travelled to St. Mary’s College. We are frequently asked when we would be doing the show again, so thought it was time to resurrect this favorite collage of darkly comic vignettes. So here it is for you to devour. Our long-time musical collaborator, Karen Hansen retired in 2018, and so we welcome guest musician Stephanie Baird to play with us among the shadows.


Performance is approximately 75 minutes without an intermission.

We dedicate this show to the Deceased. Memento Mori. 


Amphigorey, Amphigorey Too, Amphigorey Also, Amphigorey Again

Edward Gorey


Karen Hansen

Swiftly Fades My Life Away

Ludwig von Beethoven


Who Killed Cock Robin Quartette

Music Jack Sparrow (1880) Lyrics Traditional English


Twa Sisters 

A traditional ballad common among many Northern European cultures, rendered for our production by Mark Jaster


Zweites Dreigroschenfinale (What Keeps Mankind Alive?)

Music Kurt Weill, Lyrics Bertolt Brecht


The Bells of Farewell 

Scottish Skipping Song


Little Drop of Poison 

Tom Waits


La Triviata 

Karen Hansen


Dancing the Devil Away 

Music Harry Ruby, Lyrics Bert Kalmar, Otto Harbach


The Shadow Waltz

Harry Warren


Der Tod und das Mädchen (Death and the Maiden)

Franz Schubert  (translated by Mark Jaster)



Stephanie Baird


Danse Macabre 

Karen Hansen



Happenstance Theater is a professional company committed to devising and producing original, performer-created visual, poetic Theatre. With the simplest means we elevate the moment when performers and audience meet, to lift the encounter beyond the daily and pedestrian into the realms of dreams, poetry, and art. Meaning is often found by happenstance.


GWEN GRASTORF is a performer and actor based in the DC metro area.  She has been spending devious evenings with Happenstance Theater for many years, and has been a permanent company member since 2012.  She is also the Social Media Maven for Happenstance. Gwen has worked locally with Constellation Theatre, Taffety Punk, We Happy Few, Rorschach Theatre, Faction of Fools, the Tarot Reading, Washington Revels, and others. Gwen was raised in Frederick, Maryland, and got her degree at the University of MD, College Park.

MARK JASTER (Artistic co-Director of Happenstance Theater), has appeared in all Happenstance Theater productions since its founding, winning the Helen Hayes/Robert Prosky Award for his performance in Impossible! A Happenstance Circus. He served as teaching assistant to Marcel Marceau, and now regularly teaches and consults on movement issues. He’s performed for over 30 years at the MD Renaissance Festival as a Fool named ‘O,’ and is again honored and humbled to haunt the shadows with this beloved ensemble.


SABRINA MANDELL is the Artistic co-Director, general manager and visionary tornado of Happenstance Theater. She is a visual and performing artist, deviser of Theatre, and poet who loves art history, collecting images and summoning Victorian ghosts. She is overjoyed to be shrouded in darkness and the Macabre for a spell.

SARAH OLMSTED THOMAS is a fifth generation performing artist. She has been a company member with Happenstance Theater since 2012. She is also half of the award-winning puppet theater company Alex and Olmsted which has toured festivals around the world. Sarah trained with the Pig Iron Theatre Company in Philadelphia and Le Samovar, École de Clowns, in Paris. B.A., Sarah Lawrence College.


ALEX VERNON has been a Happenstance company member since 2012. He is a DC based actor and puppeteer whose previous work has been seen with Constellation Theatre, Pointless Theatre, Imagination Stage, Adventure Theatre, WSC Avant Bard, and Washington Revels. He is also the other half of Alex and Olmsted, with which he creates original puppet works that have toured internationally.

STEPHANIE BAIRD (Guest Musician) is thrilled to be making her theatrical debut with Happenstance Theater. She is a Baltimore-based pianist, teaching and performing throughout the greater Baltimore area. Stephanie is passionate about chamber music and collaboration, and has worked with the Peabody Institute, Morgan State University, and Interlochen Center for the Arts. She received her masters degree from the Peabody Institute in vocal accompaniment.



Special Thank You to the MORGAN FUND, THE SHARE FUND, THE NORA ROBERTS FOUNDATION, April and Jerry Blum, Nancy Rodrigues, Nancy Mendez, Sandra Thomas, William D. Ling, Karen Hansen, Soups On Restaurant, Round House Theatre, Washington Revels and thanks to all those who have donated to Happenstance Theater through Fractured Atlas.


Are you inspired?




Happenstance Theater is a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization. Your donation helps us continue to bring you new works, pay our performers, tour, remount our repertoire, and afford things like insurance and office supplies.



Contributions in behalf of Happenstance Theater are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.

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