Make Your Own Masquerade

How to dress for the harvest: shades of fire and industrial wear are hot! The Pop Up Studio’s Ruth Koelewyn (front) and from left: Mike Muller, Tony Bartocci, and David Bosley take off their serious masks to model harvest, fire, and industry-themed costumes in progress for Friday evening’s The Ball (Gather Round).

Make Your Own Masquerade

Pop Up Studio hosts Bonfire benefit ball

“I cried over beautiful things knowing no beautiful thing lasts.”
— Autumn Movement by Carl Sandburg
Costumes are party magic, but ephemeral as a flame — unless you want to go as Dr. Frankenstein and his sexy nurse every year for Halloween. Of course, you are not a repeat costume offender, so you spend hours and dollars and wring the creative juices and pulp from the depths of your soul to design and build a festive costume even though poof ­— it’s one and done. You’ll never have a chance to wear your masterpiece again.

The forward-thinking instigators at the Pop Up Studio have built in the rare second opportunity for you to build a masquerade masterpiece and wear it twice. It’s no accident that this Friday’s The Ball (Gather Round) masquerade party directly benefits the third annual Bonfire at the Iron Furnaces to be held on Saturday, Oct. 19 in Scranton. The Pop Up Studio’s creative squad are the Bonfire’s designated parade leaders and whether or not you attend The Ball (but especially if you do so and in costumed splendor) expect to be recruited to join the procession leading to the ceremonial lighting of the Bonfire come mid month.
The Ball will be held from 8 to 11 p.m. in the Raymond Hood Room and lobby in the basement of the Scranton Cultural Center. The focal point of the event is a sculpture Pop Up Studio collaborator Mike Muller described it as an “armature” that will transform as the evening evolves.
“Fire has this life cycle. You build it, stoke it and it eventually dies into coals,” collaborator Ruth Koelewyn said. What autumn’s harvest, fire, and the region’s industrial heritage have in common is the element of time. The Pop Up Studio sees our region’s industrial heritage as not a past to look back upon with a nostalgic mourning for what has been lost, but as a tool with which to shape a vibrant and unique future for NEPA.”
Music by DJ Alex Lozada will progress through the evening from firey music, harvest sounds (think country and bluegrass) and finally industrial tunes a la Kraftwerk. There is so much room for interpretation and metaphor given the evening’s symbolism, it wasn’t much of a stretch to imagine poets springing forth from the fire installation with original verses. The idea was inspired in part by a recent slam performance by Tunkhannock’s Breaking Ground Poets.
“There’s going to be the fire assembly, we’ll construct the fire and add the lights built into the base of the structure, and then we’ll be adding elements on top of those lights and play with what the light does,” Koelewyn described.
For those who don’t opt to pick up a $1 piece of sparkling back scrapbooking paper, some masks will be available at the event and maybe even a few details with which to decorate them. The thing is, Pop Up’s collaborators still aren’t exactly sure what is going to happen. That’s kind of the idea. In fact, that’s kind of been the idea behind everything they’ve done these last two years. We may not have the resources locally to build the temples of perfection we imagine, but we can’t let that stop us from creating in the meantime, stretching our concept of what we have to work with and building something out of nothing if necessary.
“We figured if we’re going to live here, let’s do something about it,” collaborator David Bosley offered.
“And not only do something, but do something on a regular schedule, something interactive that makes participation easy,” Koelewyn added.
Students from The University of Scranton have been recruited via theater professor Hank Willenbrink to coax party guests into participating in the evolution of the sculpture.
“This is a chance for us to connect to that community, too. We have always wanted to see more college students involved and grab their attention and maybe keep them here and maybe they’ll invest in this area,” she said.
For some it’s a thrill getting involved. They love nothing more than being a part of the action. But for others who’d rather sit on the sidelines afraid of looking silly, audience participation can be a real drag. You could say the Pop Up Studio has perfected the art of carpe diem improvised experimentation fed by community participation, loosening the risk so there’s nothing to fear.
“We want to inspire people to do their own thing as well,” said Koelewyn.
Tickets for The Ball are $5 (suggested) and include homemade snacks and a cash bar. Buy online in advance via or at the door. Proceeds benefit the Scranton Iron Furnaces.

Mike Muller showed up for our shoot with bags of unwrapped ideas from the Halloween and hardware store. After pouting for two seconds that his steampunk goggles were still in the mail, he deftly fashioned aluminum foil horns and affixed them to his glasses. These at some point became sideburns and that’s fantastic. When the long black funnels he had initially imagined as a radical plastic mohawk didn’t magically take shape with rip ties, an improv game of sorts followed … what can you do with a bouquet of three long black funnels? There are no wrong answers.


Cover model Tony Bartocci pauses to ponder what it means to embody fire before flame voguing for our cameras. The squash colored tee is a delicious accent to his red monochrome casuals but the crowning achievement is clearly his cellophane headdress in red and yellow capturing natural light in its sheer layers.


David Bosley’s gothic super hero ensemble puts the steam in steampunk with a Steamtown-inspired railroading breast plate with real light crafted from everyday household items. (The grill is actually a piece of an old bike rack.) The puffy clouds of white exhaling from black plastic piping affixed to his sleek safety mask are priceless. Affix your wheels or let them hang loose for use as props. Versatility is in!

Quick, easy masks anyone can make
Ruth Koelewyn shows us three inexpensive mask ideas that are easy enough for even the least crafty to fashion at home in less than an hour.

The sparkly black cardstock Ruth used for her coal mask comes pre-glittered and was found in the scrapbooking section.

A generic factory skyline complete with symmetrical framing smokestacks celebrates the region’s industrial heritage with urban, minimalist flare.

You can probably take a walk around the block and find real organic leaves to shield your eyes with autumnal mystery. If not, artificial leaves are easy to find in the home decor section of most stores this time of year.