Sunday, June 3, 2012

How we Make the Magic...

...and it ain't easy.

Yesterday was Faire day at Modesto, the first time Elizabeth and I have been to this event.  It was much smaller than any other that we've attended, and while fun,  a lot of work for only one day.  Good thing our Guild doesn't only provide brain, we've got some amazing brawn there too.

Yeah, I know it sucks, but it does show some amazing brawn.  

I posted about the Load on Thursday.  All the various props, tents, equipment, and assorted trappings are stored in the Escalon garage of our current Queen and her husband.  Cullen's an engineer, and you can tell because everything is shoehorned into that garage with nano precision.

Amazingly, he still manages to park TWO cars in this garage.

Okay, here's some more amazing brawn.
Every box and trunk is labeled with which house it belongs (Nobles, Ladies in Waiting/Queen, Guard, Highlanders), and each has a specific list of what goes in that box.  You don't want to mess that up, believe me, for two very good reasons: one, if all the parts that are supposed to be in a trunk aren't in that trunk, you can't set up that part of the camp.  Bad.  Secondly, if all the parts that are supposed to be in that box aren't in that box you'll have to deal with the Guildmaster and Brittah and Cullen, which you do not want to do.  Worse.  Way way worse. :)

Load is usually the Thursday before a weekend faire, and what we load up depends on what we'll be doing at Faire.  If it's the full monty, everything gets packed into the truck to produce the full Queen's traveling court--the Queen's pavilion, the Guard's pavilion, the Highlander's tent, the tavern, etc.  It's really a monumental undertaking, and not all that different than what Mary's retainers had to do while she was traveling about her country in the sixteenth century.  We can go as Mary's full court, the Duke's entourage if there's another queen at that Faire, just walkabout, or anything between.

We don't always bring everything, especially for a one day Faire, but even the abbreviated camp is quite a lot.  For Modesto we brought the Queen's pavilion, the wedgy shack (so named for what actors need to repair in a little privacy), and a "simple" Highlander tent--except that it had no walls, so it was not really a tent, I guess.  After Load on Thursday, we all met at the venue for Setup at 2 on Friday.  In less than four hours a handful of people turned a shaded, grassy spot in Tuolumne River Park into the traveling camp of Mary, Queen of Scots, circa 1562. This was the first time Elizabeth (Highlander Clare MacAndrew) and I had ever done setup, and it was every bit as much work as we thought it would be.

First, we have to empty out the U-Haul...

...and get everything put out on the grass in piles--Highlander piles, Guard piles, etc.

This pile will go into the Queen's Pavilion.  

Then it's erecting the various pavilions--this is the top of the Queen's.  This is also Cullen, the engineer who has in his head the absolute best and most efficient way to get things set up.

This is the center beam for the Queen's Pavilion, made by one of the guild members (he and his wife have done an astonishing amount of very skilled work on the guild's belongings, including not only the beam, but the pole that Elizabeth is holding up--he built the pole, she decorated it.  Extremely nice work, sez I.).  We first lay the pavilion out flat, then fold it in half and attach the center beam to it.  Then we lift the beam up and attach the upper poles to make this tent-like shape.  After all the bling is added to the beam, several burly guys lift up the tent poles so that we can put the bottom of them in place, like this:

When they do that, they're lifting the weight of the entire pavilion, not an easy task.  After that go the perimeter poles, each of which must be staked down as taut as possible.

The poles in the back are round and unadorned, but the ones in front are prettier.  You can see some of the bling hanging from the center beam in the upper right of the photo above.  

I love this photo because it's of our Guildmaster supervising our backup queen in hammering the pegs for the guy ropes.  She was under strict orders to NOT break a bone.  She had to be queen the next day, and we needed an intact queen.

Some of the tent poles are pretty tall, we needed the ladder to attach the ropes and to add the bling (no, Cullen is not bling, we added that later).

Dirty work, but I didn't break a nail, amazingly.  It was also hot and sweaty work (it was in the high 90s while we were doing all this), hence the Gatorade.

Once the roof is up we add the perimeter walls and the interior walls. We also lay down and anchor rugs to keep the queen off the grass.

This is the Trap, short for trapezoid, because that's what shape it is.  Heh.  It's like an additional shade panel for the Queen's Pavilion.  Once it's all up and tight, in go all the furnishings.  Then on to the other pavilions.  We started at 2 and finished a bit before six.  It would have been easier with more people, but you erect with the people you have, not necessarily the people you wish you had.

Once we got everything set up we repaired to a local pub for some rehydration and food.  Elizabeth really really wanted to steal this water pitcher.  

The only bad thing about the pub was the pepsi products.  Not a drop of Diet Coke in the joint.  If you should happen to go there, get the Welsh rarebit.  It was absolutely amazing.  P. Wexford's in Modesto.  The fish and chips?  Also great, as was the baked mac n cheese.  Everyone else's food looked great too.  Then it was off to our various sleeping places, which for Elizabeth and me was a hotel a few miles away.  House Notes (where your Head of House metes out the day's tasks) was at 9, and since we're Highlanders and Highlanders are responsible for the viands, we wanted to get there early and get things going in plenty of time before House Notes so people could grab a bite before time travel to 1562.

It's like magic when you get there early in the morning, when everyone arrives transformed from the grubby work clothes of the day before to dukes and queens and 16th century Scottish guardsmen.

Here are our alchemists, Lord Lundin and his wife Elizabeth.  They are a large reason why we chose St. Andrews when were looking for an reenactment guild to join.  Wonderful people.  She's a chemistry teacher in real life, and we already know that science teachers rock.

This is the Queen's Pavilion at the start of Faire day.  You can see the Trap at the front, and all the furnishings therein.

This is the Highlander's Tent, where we provide food and drink for our guildmates.  We serve very much Gatorade, as we sweat very much in the heat in all that garb. In a full setup we have much more than this, but I'll write about that another day. You can see the Wedgy Shack in the back, which wasn't being used for its usual purpose.  Instead it was a place to store assorted things that needed to be kept out of the way.

This is the table where our papermakers the Sinclairs set up.  Very interesting. The guardsman is their son-in-law in the real world.

We were near a stage, so we had great music all day long.  Someone carelessly left their horses and wagons nearby, however.  Wasn't us, that would most definitely not be allowed by our Guildmaster.

This was our schedule for the day.

Last minute adjustments...Call me biased, but I think Elizabeth looks adorable in her bog dress.  Even from the back.  Mistress MacBain does too.

 These costumes are so well done! And costumes they are, as realistic as possible when working with twenty-first century materials and trying to reproduce sixteenth-century garb that may or may not have great historical documentation.  Kilts weren't really in use like this in 1562, but we're Scots and people expect it.  Besides, there are few things that look better to this woman's eyes than a man in a kilt.

And an assortment of viands, depending on what various people bring.

And the day progresses, here with the Squiring of Master Maitu when everyone is in Court, whether Noble, Guard, or Highlander (to the left is Captain Craig, who was injured in a horrific accident last year.  This was his first time back to Court since then, and everyone was so glad to see him).

You can come up and meet the queen, and receive from her hands a sign of her favor, made by hand by many of us in the guild.  I rather like making them, as it's something I can do with my hands whilst conversing or listening to music.  There is a lot more that goes on throughout the day, I'll post more about it at a later date.

 And, at the end of the day, Lord Cullen met a sad end, and you can see him sprawled out on the carpet above.  He was picked up on a warrant by Lord James Stewart on the charge of excessive foppishness, and it proved to be his doom.  The guards seem to be relishing their role in this tragedy.

Then, at the end of the Faire day is clean-up...and putting everything exactly back where it belongs as neatly as it belongs so that when we go to unpack at the next Faire, it's all there, clean, and ready to be used. Setup is chore enough without this essential discipline at Teardown.  Believe me, you're tired and very tempted to just toss things in boxes willy-nilly, but you'd really regret it at the next Faire if you succumbed to that temptation. Armies are less organized than every single box and bag and trunk in that Escalon garage.

So, after closing notes we thankfully get out of our 16th century garb and back into our grubby 21st century clothes and start to pack up...

...empty out the pavilions...

...and bring down what we had put up only 24 hours before.

It went a lot faster than the setup, but still took nearly 2 hours to put everything back in its assigned box, bin, bag, or trunk...

...and haul it back to the U-Haul. I might add that the young man on the left is in high school, but he worked like a man for the entire day without a word of complaint that I heard or heard of.  All the youngins in the guild are like that.  Awesome kids.  Pretty dangerous with swords, too. And he's wearing a kilt!  How awesome is that?

Everything that came out of the truck had to go back into the truck.

It seems like a daunting task when you first see it all lying about on the grass in piles, especially when you're hot and tired and want to go to Master Thomas and Mistress Isabella's house for spaghetti and the pool.  But if you just keep on moving things from the piles to the truck... by one... eventually get the job done're done.

In two weeks we'll be in Watsonville for the Santa Cruz Scottish Festival.  I'll take photos there, and report.

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