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Pocket Moxie Levitation Small photo by Mukul Ranjan.jpg
Pocket Moxie Title.png

collaboratively devised by the ensemble




Gwen Grastorf, Mark Jaster, Sabrina Mandell, Sarah Olmsted Thomas & Alex Vernon.


Music arranged for original MOXIE production by

Karen Hansen (Updated for current production by The Ensemble with help from Craig Jaster)

Set Design/Construction/Painting

Mark Jaster & Sabrina Mandell


Costume Design

Sabrina Mandell


Costume Construction

Nancy Mendez, Lois Dunlop & Sabrina Mandell

Humanette Dolls

Nancy Mendez


Woody Dummy/Head Crank/Pierrot Puppet

Alex Vernon


Show is approximately 75 minutes with no intermission




Before radio, film, TV and the new media, Vaudeville was the popular American entertainment, flourishing from about 1890 until around 1930, when it finally succumbed to radio and film. It featured a wide variety of acts, which toured nationwide circuits, often by train. Most towns of even modest size had a Vaudeville house with a proscenium stage. In its heyday, the industry is said to have employed over twelve thousand people at any given time. It provided a plethora of outlets for talented, skilled or eccentric performers of many backgrounds, including recent European and Asian immigrants and African Americans. Vaudeville’s rich history cannot be explored without encountering some deeply unsettling cultural stereotypes, especially in the use of blackface by both white and black performers. This legacy of the minstrel shows and that of other ethnic caricatures is a problematic part of America’s theatre history. Exploring these issues is not our mission. We have chosen instead, to re-imagine old Vaudeville, capturing the energetic spirit of its many performers and its style. Through our research, development and performance we have discovered how much we identify with Vaudevillians of the past and how much we subscribe to the idea of “Vintage Style, Not Vintage Values”, coined by the incredible living band leader, Dandy Wellington.


Mark Jaster & Sabrina Mandell


Moxie One-Step (1921) Norman Leigh & Dennis J. Shea

Danny Boy (1913) Frederick Weatherly set to traditional tune "Londonderry Air"


The Pussy Cat Rag (1913) Joseph M. Daly & Thos. S. Allen


That Hypnotizing Man (1911) Albert Von Tilzer


I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside (1907) John A. Glover-Kind


Baby Sister Blues (1922) Henry I. Marshall & Marion Sunshine


Shine On Harvest Moon (1915) Nora Bayes-Norworth & Jack Norworth


O Sole Mio (1898) Eduardo di Capua & Giovanni Capurro


The Song Is Ended (1927) Irving Berlin




American Vaudeville as Seen by its Contemporaries

by Charles W. Stein (1984)


American Vaudeville: Its Life and Times

by Douglas Gilbert (1940)


The Palace

by Marian Spitzer (1969)


PBS American Masters Series: VAUDEVILLE

by Greg Palmer, Produced by Rosemary Garner, Narrated by Ben Vereen (1997)


There are a couple of excellent contemporary responses to Minstrel Shows and African Americans in Vaudeville to check out: Spike Lee's film Bamboozled and LookingGlass Theatre’s (Chicago) production Thaddeus & Slocum: A Vaudeville Adventure by Kevin Douglas.




Mark Jaster (co-Director/Ensemble) is Artistic Co-Director of Happenstance Theater with the abstract subtitle, “Structure & Ground.” He has co-directed and appeared in all Happenstance productions since its founding in 2006, winning Theatre Washington’s Helen Hayes/Robert Prosky Award for his performance in Impossible! A Happenstance Circus in 2016. He studied mime with French masters Etienne Decroux and Marcel Marceau, and served as Mr. Marceau’s teaching assistant in a 1980’s series of seminars in Michigan. Performance credits beyond Happenstance include 35 years as a featured act at the Maryland Renaissance Festival, 20 years with the Big Apple Circus’ Clown Care Unit, many years as Drosselmeyer in the Maryland Youth Ballet’s Nutcracker, performances with the Washington and Cambridge Revels, and frequent collaborations with world-class musicians: the late great jazz bassist Keter Betts, Celtic Harper Sue Richards, and Piffaro, the Renaissance band. He teaches frequently in artist residencies, theatres, and academic programs and has served as mime and movement consultant for many DC area theatres, including The Shakespeare Theatre, Ford’s, Round House, Theatre J, Olney, Constellation, Adventure Theatre, Imagination Stage, and Baltimore’s Center Stage.


Sabrina Mandell (co-Director/Costume Designer/Ensemble) is the founder, Artistic Co-Director, Executive Director, and “Visionary Tornado” of Happenstance Theater. Sabrina has written, produced and performed prolifically since the company's founding in 2006. She was nominated for a Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Actress in 2017 and has won two Helen Hayes Awards for Outstanding Costume Design. Sabrina performed for 10 years with the Big Apple Circus’ Clown Care Program in DC and Baltimore and has taught Theatrical Clown and Physical Comedy at the Shakespeare Theatre DC, Everyman Theatre in Baltimore, Round House Theatre, Duke Ellington School of the Arts, and the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. She is also a poet, visual artist, graphic designer and vintage clothing enthusiast..


Gwen Grastorf (Ensemble) is a performer and actor based in the DC metro area. She has been devising with Happenstance since 2009 and has been a company member since 2012. She is also the Social Media Maven for Happenstance. Gwen has worked elsewhere in DC with Constellation Theatre, Faction of Fools, Taffety Punk, Washington Revels, Rorschach Theatre, and the Tarot Reading. Gwen was raised in Frederick, Maryland, and got her degree at the University of MD, College Park. 


Sarah Olmsted Thomas (Ensemble) is a fifth generation performing artist. ​In 2012, she joined Happenstance Theater with whom she has devised 10 full length productions. Sarah is also half of the Jim Henson Foundation awarded puppet theater company Alex and Olmsted which has played Symphony Space in New York as well as festivals in Denmark, South Korea, and Canada. 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 (Ensemble) has been a Happenstance company member since 2012. He is an 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.


Happenstance Theater, winner of 5 Helen Hayes Awards has been called “DC’s leading peddler of whimsy” by the Washington Post.



Are you inspired?




Happenstance Theater is a fiscally sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization. Your donation helps us continue to make shows like MOXIE.




OR send check/money order made payable to ‘FRACTURED ATLAS’ with

Happenstance Theater’ in the memo line to: Happenstance Theater

12718 Veirs Mill Rd. Rockville MD 20853



The Share Fund, Morgan Fund at Seattle Foundation, Nora Roberts Foundation, the Charles Hazlehurst Moura Family Foundation, Baltimore Community Foundation, Marilyn Meyerhoff and Sam Feldman, Nancy Rodriguez, Nancy Mendez, Lois Dunlop, April & Jerry Blum, Sharon Crissinger, Blonnie Brooks and WAGS MEDIA, Mukul Ranjan, Jessica Lefkow, and Karen Hansen, and to all those who have donated to Happenstance Theater through Fractured Atlas.

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