Hannah Goldstein, BC ’13, turned her passion for theme parties into a business earlier this year, when she started The Festivist Productions, LLC. She threw her first party—a 50s/American Bandstand-style Valentine’s day dance at Union Square—in February and is preparing to throw her second one—a Kids Party at Chuck E. Cheese— in two weeks. Bwog talked to her about her new business and why she decided to follow her dreams.
Bwog: When did you decide to start The Festivist?
Hannah: It’s been a dream of mine for a long time, because I love theme parties. I decided to start it in the Fall. I met a girl who’s now a good friend of mine, who also loves theme parties. I just kept talking about all of these parties that I would love to go to that just don’t exist. She was like, “Well, why don’t you just start the company?”
It’s probably worth mentioning that my dream for a while was to be a production designer in films, and this is basically the same thing, except not. I think it’s actually a lot more gratifying.
The thing about production design is that you build things to be destroyed very quickly [and] it’s all for one angle of the camera. I could go that route, but the movie life is absolutely insane. Movie hours are unbelievable. I very briefly worked on an independent film this summer. This just seemed a fun way to bring that to another sphere with more normal work hours, and also create movie worlds for people to inhabit, which I think is sort of everybody’s dream.
I formed the company soon after, got in touch with the family lawyer. It was my own investment, and it went from there. I planned the first party, and now I’m just seeing if I can keep it going.
Why call it The Festivist?
I had a blog—it’s kind of down right now—called the Festivist. You know, there’s the Sartorialist, he’s like the style guy, the Nocturnalist is the NYT nightlife reporter. As somebody who enjoys theme parties, the principle of matching one’s surroundings and celebrating lots of holidays, all that kind of stuff, I would be the Festivist—somebody who likes to be festive!
Why go downtown? Aren’t there theme parties at Columbia and Barnard?
Anyone who has known me since I was a freshmen will probably remember that I always got really into frat parties, but I was always truly disappointed. I remember one time, there was some Las Vegas-themed party at Beta or something after Spring Break, and I spent the whole break thinking about what I would dress up as. I get really into this stuff! Then I realized nobody was dressing up.
I think theme parties here are more just [about] inspiration. They’re not particularly immersive. I think people love them here, but I don’t know if there’s a culture that makes it OK to dress up and get really into it. I think it’s a more jaded kind of thing. When it’s off-campus and there’s an expectation that it’s explicitly a costume party, people will dress up. But on campus, I think people are looking to make impressions and don’t want to look like they’re too hard.
How did your first event go?
I would say there was a pretty good turnout for the first event. It was 45 people. It wasn’t a ton of people, but these were mostly people I didn’t already know. People really like this stuff. They were all really excited. They all dressed up. I put together a band for this event and made a Spotify playlist of authentic 50s songs.
My plan had been to have a big bowl of punch, and of course I wanted it to be spiked, because one thing you have to have at parties for young people is alcohol. In New York, or anywhere in the US, you can’t just have a big bowl of [spiked] punch at an event, even a private event. These things come up. To make it work, we had a punch menu at the bar and then people just [ordered off it]. Helen Killian, BC ’13, loves artisanal cocktails, so she came up with some punch ideas, and then I named each one.
What’s the next party you’re planning?
It will be at a Chuck E. Cheese, on April 19th. You can get tickets here.
I think there will be an after party. Somebody characterized this whole thing quite well as an absurdism kind of thing. The more absurd it is, the funnier it is. I think it would be really, really awesome to have everyone in their denim leggings and overalls and crew neck Disney t-shorts come out to a bar afterwards, dressed like a 3-to-5 year old in the 1990s.
One more thing: we’re looking for an April birthday to make our 90s birthday party more legitimate. You will get a birthday crown and balloons. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Any other party ideas you’ve considered?
I wanted to have a 60s summer camp party, and I got in touch with the costume designer of Moonrise Kingdom. So that was really cool. She can’;t work with me, unfortunately, because she has so many movies right now.
I wanted to see if I could work with [Discovery Times Square] to have a spy-themed costume party at the exhibit, and they actually work have done it with me, but it’s closing [last] week. Hopefully, we’ll work together in the future.
I have thought about doing a Historical New York Party. I organized a group last fall to dress up as historical New Yorkers and go with Kenneth Jackson to the Halloween parade. We had a New York Times reporter, James [Barron], but then Sandy came along.
Is party-planning the only thing you do?
I want there to be a culture around going to these parties, so anyone can just drop in. I’m concerned that people will burn out if they feel compelled to buy costumes. Very early on, one of my priorities was working with vintage stores in New York who have costume items, to see if they can at least give discounts [and possibly rentals].
I really like that because it makes this seem like it’s a citywide effort among creative people, and it also makes things more affordable and seem a little bit less like a rich people’s hobby. I don’t want this to feel exclusive or niche.
(Interview has been condensed and edited.)