I had originally started a post back at the beginning of November, but then forgot I left it in draft mode. I have now deleted that original post and am back to update, but first a recap.
Last season at KCRF was an odd one. My feeling is that several things contributed to this “oddness”. First off the weather was very atypical for this time of year. It wasn’t overly hot in the beginning and it never got cold or even cool near the end. If I remember correctly the final weekend temps were in the mid 80’s which is very unusual for an October day in Kansas City. The other factor may have been that many people had a feeling of uncertainty about the upcoming election in November. Usually people come out to the festival to escape their problems for a time, but this year it seemed people were having a harder time leaving those problems outside the faire.
On a more upward note, negotiations are progressing and it looks like I will be adding three events to my schedule this year. One I did about a decade ago and is now under new management, the other two are new events to me. I’m very excited to be able to bring my show to these new audiences. I’ve grown as a performer over the last several years and this will be an opportunity to see how far I’ve come.
I should probably end there for now. Once I have everything finalized with the new events this year I’ll update with dates and locations so that you know where you can find me on the road.
So I usually try to do an end of season wrap up. This year I kept putting it off until I almost forgot about it. Thankfully somebody just posted on Facebook about the number of pages that don’t get updated very often and that reminded me that this post was over due.
Many thanks are due to the Kansas City Renaissance Festival cast and staff, without your dedication to the festival I wouldn’t be able to do what I do. I also want to thank the many people that stuck around after the show to say how much they enjoyed it.
The short of it is that this was my best year ever (so far). The weather was some of the best I can remember, in my 25 years out at KCRF, for the whole seven weeks. But because Labor day was farther into September than it had been in a decade many people thought our last weekend was Columbus Day Weekend when in fact the seventh weekend was the following weekend. This also had the effect of making the last few mornings really cold…Brrrrrr!!!
Overall, the show itself didn’t change much. I ended up dropping one effect in order to shorten the show so we could do more shows in a day. Then I had two other effects I had been working on over the summer that got switched in and out over the weeks. Both were well received so I may make a permanent change to the show for next year. The biggest improvement to the show happened second weekend and took me (with Steve’s input) two more weeks to get to point where it was consistent. We made one small change to the straitjacket (Thanks Tom Burgoon!) that made a few people squirm and many people gasp or groan in sympathy. If you saw the show you know what it was, if not you’ll need to come see it next year.
There’s a saying in the entertainment world that you shouldn’t outrun your audience; meaning that you should reflect their energy level in your show. This year it was sometimes hard to figure out where the energy level was. Because of this applause was sporadic and inconsistent. For example a show would start great and then all of a sudden it was if somebody was applying the brakes, or even worse the energy level would fluctuate starting good then sputtering and then gaining again before falling again. I know it wasn’t just me, I heard the same thing from many entertainers at this years festival.
As is typical in the winter off season I’m getting ready to start planning next years show. I already have one effect I’m really looking forward to practicing and perfecting for next year. Something I hope will really wow the audience.
That’s all I’ve got for now. Again, thanks to all those people that decided to sit through a show and even bigger thanks for all of you that put a little something in my hat at the end.
Sometimes people ask, “What do you do to get ready for KC Renfest?” This year it was construction.
The hut on the current Wizards Tower was built 20+ years ago, has had very little maintenance, and was literally ready to fall in on us.
It’s probably hard to see in these pictures but there was a huge dip in the roof.
It turns out that there was almost no support structure left beneath the shingles. The plywood decking was rotted and infested with termites. The joists, where they still held together, were soft and spongy.
Those pictures are looking down into the hut from the staircase that runs up the tower. Not much left is there? And most of it just fell in after removing the industrial plastic sheeting that was afixed inside.
Once we got the rest of the roofing off we started rebuilding. I wish I had got pictures of the nearly finished roof but at the end of the day I was so tired and sore I forgot. Maybe I’ll go out today so you can see where we’re at.
EDIT: Here are pictures from this morning showing our progress.
New joists are in and new decking is up. I can now stand on the roof without fear of falling through to my death.
Later this week we’ll go back out and do the felt and shingles.
I know I haven’t updated since last fall. You’d think I would have noticed, but alas I did not. I’m hoping your Fall and Winter have been good to you and that Spring brings you new growth and prosperity.
I’ve had a fairly mundane several months, except for a tropical vacation in February, and I am really looking forward to the upcoming months as my show schedule fills up.
It appears I’ll be traveling again to the Oklahoma Renaissance Festival for a few weekends in May and then in June I will be returning to Great Bend for their June Jaunt celebrations.
I’ve been working a a few new items that I hope to try out at both events so that they are ready for the Kansas City Renaissance Festival in the Fall. Fingers crossed that it all works out for the best.
The season has come and gone. I have to say it was some of the best weather I can remember for the entire run (except for the final day). As always there were things I learned and things I forgot, but at the end of it all, I think it worked out pretty good. Steve is a true pro when it comes to entertaining and I came up with some good/new lines for some of his best routines. On the other hand, he came up with good line for me and I couldn’t figure out how to work it in to the routine so I’ll continue to work on that in the off season. There were a few personal revelations and I hope to make some significant changes to my show next year so it’s even more entertaining and fun, both from my point of view and also from the audience’s. I was able to take some video of two shows on the final Sunday so I hope to have that edited and posted in the next week or so.
Of course this year wouldn’t be complete without thanking a few people that helped me get to this point:
My wife: Thanks for supporting my dream. Thank you for being my guiding light. Thanks for allowing me to play with toys all year long.
Rod Sipe: Wow! I still remember the first time you snuck into the back of my nonexistent audience to watch my little show and then stuck around to give me a little advice. You must have seen something in me that I didn’t know was there, because your friendship and mentoring over the years has been invaluable. And then, working with you for eight years was an all encompassing course in “How to Entertain”.
Maestro: Thanks for taking a chance on me and allowing me the opportunity to show how much I’d grown as an entertainer in the last few years.
And of course I thank YOU. Thanks for sitting and watching the show and then dropping a little something in the hat at the end; I really appreciate it.
My wife suggested I need to come up with an end of season ritual. I guess that’s another thing I’ll need to think on for next year.
I just realized I haven’t posted in a couple of weeks so I’m going to attempt to make up for that right now.
Going back to second weekend, I’ll say there wasn’t a huge dip in attendance like there has been in the past. This may be due to the fact that it wasn’t unbearably hot. Other than that, I don’t really have any stand out moments to share.
Third weekend was a tough one for me. Audiences were for the most part unresponsive and quiet. There were some good shows, but most just felt like I was performing behind a pane of glass. I couldn’t get a connection or a reaction to what are typically strong spots in the show and that really made me question why I was doing what I do.
Then last weekend (fourth weekend) was a turn around weekend for me, or at least that’s the way it seems. Saturday was odd, It was almost oppressively humid, the skies were overcast most of the day, and there was the chance of rain forecast for most of the day that never materialized. I had a few good shows, and the crowds thinned out early because of the predicted rain which left us doing some smaller shows late in the day. Sunday really was a beautiful day, cool and dry and people really seemed to be looking for a good time. The only downside I had was that I should have hung the straitjacket to dry overnight because it absorbed so much moisture the day previous. Ah, live and learn.
My biggest accomplishment from the day was my last show. The mic pack had died during Steve’s show and there weren’t very many people wandering around so I didn’t bother putting it on. I did a trick I call a Perception Test for a group of high school guys from Manhattan. For those that don’t know an audience member is brought on stage and a trick is done for them, but every body in the audience can see how it’s done. It went over pretty well and a few more people had sat down. I run through a few more small effects and more people sit down. By now the gypsy drum show thing has started down the hill and I’m fighting to be heard over them (a daily annoyance), but more people keep joining my audience so I keep going. I’m doing my effects randomly and not in the order I’d normally do them. I finish up what I decide will be my final effect and look up to see standing room only. Even with the loud drums people have made the choice to stay and see what I’d do next. So I decide to finish the show with the jacket. OMG! I had the perfect volunteer, she laughed and the audience was responsive. The lady I asked to be the timekeeper had a squeeky laugh and I got her to going so hard I thought she was going to hyperventilate. Plus every time she laughed the audience laughed so It wasn’t a distraction at all. I finally got her calmed down enough to do her part and I did the escape.
That last show I didn’t use the mic and considering I was talking over the drums for a good portion of it, the audience seemed more attentive than those shows where I’m using the mic. I know it certainly helps when the crowds are huge or for drawing an audience, but I’m not convinced I need it when the audience is small. And I’m not convinced I could do six shows a day without a mic without destroying my voice.
Wow! That’s a good descriptor for what I’m feeling. In the 24 years I’ve been doing the Kansas City Renaissance Festival the opening weekend is always a mixed bag. It was hot and humid Saturday and Sunday, and then Labor Day Monday was cooler but still just as humid. Saturday audiences arrived early and left early too which meant we at the Wizards Tower had no one to entertain by mid afternoon. Sunday wasn’t much better, although it felt like the crowds stuck around a bit longer, but once again 3:30-4:00 o’clock and we were facing a no mans land again. Monday was more of the same. It had rained overnight so it’s possible that people thought that the grounds would be soggy and gross, but it tends to drain pretty fast and in the few trips I made down the hill there were only a few places that could be considered muddy.
The crowds that did make it out each day were there to have fun and there was much laughter at the Wizards Tower each day, but I could feel the energy ebbing as each hour passed and by the end of each day it got more and more difficult to bring much more than a smile to many in our audiences.
Monday afternoon it became difficult to draw the people in so I ended up doing several things I don’t normally do in my show. I got a little goofy at one point. Probably because I was so exhausted from the heat and the long weekend, but at one point I looked up and I had a full audience so I moved into my regular show. I ended up cutting a couple of things because I felt like I was running long but nobody but me noticed. I also came up with a new line for Steve that he’d never heard before that he started using in his next show.
Unrelated to the shows, I picked up a special order from Native Earth that I ordered in Colorado when I was there a couple of months ago. They are even better looking than i had pictured in my head (green and purple with some white, red and teal thrown in for good measure). I’ll post pics when I get home later. I’ve needed better footwear for faires for several years now and my wife talked me into making the order, and I’m glad now I did.