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.
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.
I always want to post something witty or sincere but I tend to ramble when I’m trying to unload my mind. Next weekend begins my second season as a solo performer at the Kansas City Renaissance Festival. This does not come without challenges, but not the kind actually related to performing. Without being too passive-aggressive, lets just say that the coworker at my regular place of employment is not happy that he is working the next seven Saturdays. We typically rotate the Saturday shift because it’s a half day and not typically busy at all. I mentioned the Renfest a couple of weeks ago and apparently he just isn’t too keen on paying attention to what I say. It’s not like I haven’t been working the festival for the past 24 years or anything. I will admit that the timing of family vacations and stuff didn’t allow me to work the full seven weekends before the festival like I usually do, but that hasn’t been a problem in the past. If this was a one time issue it probably wouldn’t bother me as much as it does, but this is just the latest in a string of incidents where he has literally thrown temper tantrums because I’ve asked for time off. Time off I rightfully have coming to me. Whatever. I have a few prospects for replacement employment that I’m hoping will come to fruition in the next several weeks. Here’s to changes afoot.
On a different note, Media Party was last weekend. I again performed for a small group that had strayed up the hill from the larger gathering, and they seemed to enjoy what I had to offer. I haven’t really changed much for my show this year, except I now have a few smaller effects to draw people in before moving to the larger effects, and I have a few smaller close-up type things for when the crowds dwindle at the end of the day and we’re working in the audience.
I noticed a large wasp presence on our stage so we’ll need to get that taken care of Saturday morning as well as rearranging the benches so we have a center aisle and relocate a bunch to where they are supposed to be.
Just putting this out there: What one effect or illusion would you like to see at the Renaissance festival?
It was pointed out to me that I hadn’t posted in over two weeks so here it is, somewhat overdue.
It was almost two weeks ago so lets see what I can remember about the fifth weekend. Saturday morning was wet and stayed cool but not uncomfortable once the rain moved out. Unfortunately because of the light rain that lasted well into lunch, crowds for the rest of the day were quite a bit smaller than what I had hoped for. This gave Steve an opportunity to play around with something he’s been working on, a vortex cannon. He shot cups off of kids heads all day which was pretty cool until he filled it with smoke from a smoke bomb. Then it was awesome! Watching smoke-rings go out fifteen to twenty feet from the stage and knock a cup off of a persons head was very impressive and everybody that saw it thought it was pretty neat too.
I also unveiled a new dragon at the Wizards Tower. Steve has one he’s been using for years but it’s been rained on, it’s faded, and the head droops, so I made a new one. It looks kind of like the one below, except mine is green and I changed it to say “Estevon”.
Even printing it on poster board, the one drawback is that with all the moisture in the air his head got a little heavy so it ended up drooping by the end of the day. I fixed it the following week so now his head stays upright all the time.
Sunday’s weather was perfect and the day started quick and ended big. Steve and I alternate shows all day and we ended up doing seven shows each that day. I can’t say there were any major problems or issues that came up on Sunday. I will say that the next morning I felt like I’d been run over by a truck.
The sixth weekend also started with a little rain in the early morning hours. Forecasters had predicted lots of wind and rain but the storms in the area didn’t develop much of either. Saturday started cool and stayed that way all day. At one point before my first show I caught myself shivering, so I wrapped up in my jacket until I felt better. I had several good shows and I was getting huge audiences for the jacket escape although that wasn’t translating to an increased hat. I’m not saying that the hat wasn’t good, but watching people just walk off as I begin my hat pitch really sucks. I’m sure it’s something that every entertainer has to deal with at some point, I’ve just got to learn to not let it bother me. Of course if it didn’t bother me I wouldn’t have written about it here so I’m not doing so well in the not letting it bother me department. Ha Ha. Other than those minor things the day and the whole weekend went really well. Steve did tell me this weekend that I don’t know how good I really am and that doing these kinds of shows have chewed up some of the best magicians in the city. Adding that very few have what it takes to make it in the faire environment and I should be be proud I haven’t collapsed yet.
I have another post on mentors and what they’ve meant to me in the works, not sure if it will get done before the weekend but I hope to have it up soon.
Here are links to download your own dragon: in RED, BLUE, or GREEN.
Well into day two now and things are going well. Not as hot as yesterday but audiences are still a little thin. I’m really enjoying being back on stage at the Kansas City Renaissance Festival. Things are gelling well and Steve has been very helpful in figuring things out. Because of the “continuous magic” tradition at the tower we don’t really have any sort of schedule other than trading places every 40 minutes or so.
Last time I was doing my solo show at KCRF, was ten years ago and at a very small stage in what was more or less a dead end. Tips weren’t very good back then and the lack of traffic made it even worse but I had to start somewhere.
Several performers that have mentored me over the years asked how my hat (tips) had been yesterday and compared to the pitance I made all those years ago, the Wizards Tower is awesome. Audiences are very receptive to what I am doing and I can’t wait until the audiences get large enough to be self sustaining.
Very new to the blogging thing so forgive me if I tend to ramble. That being said, KCRF Media Party happened. I got there early to set up my sound and load in some stuff I’ll need for the upcoming festival season. I mingled with the rest of the cast and invited guests chatting up those I knew from either previous years at faire or from the Bonner Springs City Council. I did my show, but since the Tower faces away from “the action” it was hard to get a number of people to stay for the show. It went mostly okay. I wasn’t completely happy with my show but I know what happened and I can fix it. Overall, I’m looking forward to the coming faire season and hopefully this will give me a chance to grow as a performer.