Thursday, February 9, 2012

Please allow me to introduce myself - Part the third

After several years out of the faire scene, I found that I actually could live without it. But, following a divorce in 2000, I found myself with little else to do and found my feet carrying me back to my old habits.

The Patterson family had regrouped and started a small faire, the Heart of the Forest Faire, in the mountains above Santa Barbara, and I joined some of my previous cast mates there who had formed a troupe of Elizabethan thieves. The event was a breath of fresh air for me. So many of the people who had given up on RPF had come out for this show. There was a commonality of purpose, and a love of living history that harkened back to the times I remembered with such fondness. I was hooked again.

Master Christian - Court parasite
Heart of the Forest, Santa Barbara
With my enthusiasm reawakened, I began to visit RPF again as a guest performer. The event had moved to a property in Vacaville, as the venerated site in Black Point Forest was being developed. I was prepared for the move to effect the ambiance of the show, but I was taken aback at the change that had taken place during my leave of absence, and not for the better. The anti-historical commercialization, and muddying of the theme had continued its steady march. Those who still embraced history were dissatisfied, but continued to participate out of habit, or because there really wasn't much of an alternative.

My old troupe, St. George, had grown somewhat subdued. Continual creative and logistical conflicts with management, and internal political issues had left them demoralized. By the end of the season, troubles between the Southern California chapter of the guild and faire management had come to a head. The Board of Directors of St. George (which had become an independent, non-profit educational organization) responded by severing the guild's relationship with the faire.

This left the guild's participants in a quandary. While they certainly didn't care for the management, its methods, or its vision for the faire, they didn't really see that there was any place for the guild to go. Many chose to remain in the form of a new group, The Queen's Court, led by Debbie Young. I wanted to see that the group continued to be well-trained and educated, so I proposed to take up the mantle of artistic director with my (unbeknownst to me) future wife, Mrs. Porter as my esteemed co-director.

Therese and I formed an illustrious partnership, training the guild, and teaching pre-faire workshops in physical characterization to the rest of the faire participants. This partnership extended into the resurrected Dickens Christmas Faire, for which we taught workshops, and directed a group of interactive characters from Dickens works. We continued to teach, train, and perform for RPF at Vacaville, and then when they were forced to move again, at Casa de Fruta near Gilroy. Our working relationship eventually turned into a courtship.

Getting my sea-legs for Dudley
Realization by SN Jacobson
The company, however, felt that the Northern faire didn't really pull its weight financially, and finally decided to pull the plug on it, leaving our group without a venue. During the previous couple of years, the Patterson's Heart of the Forest faire had taken root in a location in Novato where the Guild of St. George had been performing. I rejoined the guild there, and soon found myself accepting the role of The Earl of Leicester from the inimitable Robert Young, who had held it for many years, and soon thereafter, the role of Guildmaster.

Ultimately, HOTF was forced to close its gates, leaving St. George once again homeless. We have since been appearing at smaller, one or two weekend events, the participants of which often have rather loose and whimsical ideas about the depiction of history completely at odds with our educational mission. But rather than settle for that, we have worked wherever possible to educate the participants and raise the barre for them wherever we perform, demonstrating that an accurate picture of history can be both informative and entertaining.

RPF = the original Renaissance Pleasure Faire, in existence since the early sixties, with a Spring show in Southern California, and a Fall show in Northern California.


  1. I always knew you were a man of wealth and taste.

  2. Delightful to see these photos of your other portrayals. You always have cut a fine figure for dandier times.