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A masquerade is a mostly live multi-act show put on at many conventions. The talent for the show comes from the general con attendees. The acts can include fursuit skits, musical numbers, puppet performances, or stand up comedy. Hosted by an MC, who attempts to keep the acts in line and somehow tie them all together, the talent in a show can vary greatly depending on the performer. Most acts are humorous and only last about 3-5 minutes, depending on the rules of the convention. Most acts in a show are original and only seen once, but some appear at multiple conventions in a year.

While masquerades in the general sci-fi convention circuit will sometimes be judged with rules and levels set down by an oversight committee (like the International Costumers' Guild), furry masquerades generally do not judge in that way and many do not judge at all.

Some of the larger conventions have divided the traditional masquerade into two distinct sections. The first section is still termed the "Masquerade" and is intended as a forum to showcase and show off new fursuit designs. The displays may incorporate a skit or may be a short walk across the stage with poses. For those conventions that divide the masquerade, these fashion shows may be judged by a panel or the audience.

The second division is more like the traditional masquerades, but has adopted the new name of a variety show. This section is intended for dramatic and entertainment purposes with the skits and action taking creative precendence over the fursuits. In fact, while the masquerade is traditionally associated with full-cover fursuits, partial suits and even non-suited characters have appeared in many variety show acts.

In many ways, the masquerade is a nascent art form and is still evolving. While there are notable exceptions, most skits have low production values with little or no set design and simple props. Background music is an integral part of many skits, while voice audio of narration and character speech is still developing. There have also been fledgling attempts to introduce unifying thematic or plot elements across multiple acts.

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