• Category Archives Drama
  • Medieval Times – Orlando

    I had the opportunity to go to Medieval Times this past weekend. It has been about ten years since I have been to a show (the last time was up in Myrtle Beach) so I figured it would be a fun time, since I was going with a good sized group of friends and we dig this kind of stuff.

    Some background: I have been working with a stage show for a medieval fair for the last fifteen years, where we do performances with stage combat all day long. While we do not have any horses in our show, we do use live steel (i.e. steel weapons that are dulled, but not covered in foam) so safety during our shows are paramount.

    So here we are at Medieval Times. First, the cost is not cheap. We got in at a sizeable discount, but it was still close to $50 a ticket for each of us. Parking outside is not really an issue. As you walk from the parking lot to the main building you pass by a “Medieval Village” that frankly looks like it has been abandoned and is no longer in use. We were going to go around and look at it, but that time never really came about.

    Entering inside, you get your laminated pass and show it at a kind of gatekeeper, where you receive a crown colored in such a way to depict your favored knight and where you will be sitting. Ours was the yellow knight. You then enter a large common room where you can walk up to the bar and purchase drinks, or other vendors where you can purchase glowing swords and other trinkets. All of these items are hellaciously expensive, of course… drinks in particular are very high, and we saw situations where a single drink could cost you $30 or more if you got the souvenir mug.

    Small shows were going on around the common room, introducing various characters of the show that we were about to watch, that sort of thing. Unfortunately, unless you pay close attention to everything that is going on, it can be very hard to understand any of what is going on… more on this later.

    Eventually the horns announced that it was time to enter the arena, and we were loaded in much like a 747 at the airport is loaded, by VIP passes, then by section. All I needed was my luggage and I would have been all set. Walking in, the field was bathed in a blue light, making it look as if they were going to do this show on ice. I would have payed more to see this show if it were being done on ice… can you imagine horses wearing ice skates? Getting down to my seat, I was fortunate to be seated at the very end of my row, so I had some extra room. The seating is very cramped, which is unfortunate.

    In front of each place is a plate, a mug, and a bowl. You are first asked what you would like to drink, whether it be water, pepsi, or iced tea. No mention was made to me about the fourth option, lemonade, but I heard it from the row in front of me, so I asked for that instead. They have two major rules concerning the eating… the first is that you not bang your plates or mugs or anything as it disturbs the horses, and the second is that there are no eating utensils… everything is finger food. The menu is a set menu, consisting of tomato soup, a quarter chicken, corn on the cobb, a baked potato, and for dessert a wedge of lemon cake.

    So obviously the cost of entry (usually around $63) is not the food. The food you could get anywhere for about $10. Most of the money is going towards the show, so let’s focus on that.

    Remember what I was saying about paying attention to everything that is being said in the show? Yeah, if you don’t do that, and you get distracted by things like the food being brought before you, or questions asked by your server (he was great, by the way), or comments from people around you, or half a dozen other things that are going on, you will understand why the queen is distraught, why the king is… missing (I have no idea where the heck he was), why the tournament is being held in the first place, or why the queen allowed a good number of her knights (you know, her fighting force that would defend the castle and her kingdom) be grievously hurt during a tournament.

    So basically you are then left with the horses, the horsemanship, and the fighting. The horses are well trained, I will give them that, but I expect they would be if they are basically doing this same act every evening (or less… I don’t know what their schedule is like… I assume they get rest days). The horsemanship is also decent, but don’t expect Olympics quality work here. I didn’t see that level of equestrianism.

    Which then leaves the fighting, a subject by which I am much more informed about. In a word, it was… average. Some good moves, but I have seen a lot better. I have seen much more realistic dismounts of jousters as well. These fighters do get a bit more flashy because they use swords made of titanium (hence the brighter white sparks). Pretty much any sword will spark like that if you hit them in the right way, but the color given off is a dead giveaway. Lots of rolls (some of which simply don’t make sense to the fight), but the actual weapon moves are what my group would classify as mostly basic with a small of amount of mid-level.

    However, the sword fighting is the spectacle that makes the show and provides them with business, and in the darkness with the sparks flying and the loud crashes, it makes for a good show even when you have no idea why they are actually fighting.

    Is that worth an extra $40? Eh, you be the judge.

  • Picky eaters

    So, one of the things that I do on a semi-regular basis is cook food for a semi-charitable organization (I say semi-charitable, because they have yet to file all of the paperwork necessary to become a true non-profit where they can give tax write-offs to people who donate. Don’t get me started on that… just… don’t)

    Anyway, when I cook for this group, it is usually for a group of between thirty and sixty people, depending on the event. There are usually decent facilities for me to produce the cooked food needed to feed these folks, and I do actually enjoy it.

    Unfortunately, when you are preparing meals for this many people, you do run into people who have allergies or objections to certain foods due to religious principles, etc. (You know, the vegetarians, those that have to remain Kosher, and various allergies… the biggest allergy that I have to typically deal with is gluten, though I did have a really odd one recently with garlic and vinegar…) I actually don’t have any problem with those things. Nor do I really have a problem with having to make the food somewhat bland in the first place, because a lot of people can’t handle the spiciness of food that I prefer. No big deal… I make food that everyone I am serving can handle, and then I make some special things that I warn them not to mess with. They understand, and no issues are had.

    So now we get to the crux of this post…. Picky Eaters

    This past weekend I had one kid (OK, he’s sixteen… whatever) who basically would not eat anything. Note that I said “would”, not “could”. There is a difference. This kid, when he saw the beef stew, rabbit stew (yes, two different stews… who gets to eat rabbit stew?), and vegetarian chili that I was serving, came up to me and stated that he does not eat stews.

    Does not eat stews

    Who the hell doesn’t eat stews? What kind of fucking limitation is that? I just stared at him for about a minute after he told me this drivel. Then I made a mistake…

    I tried to placate him by finding something that he would eat.

    Instead of just blasting away at his idiotic little bullshit about not being able to eat a fucking stew (note that it was not the ingredients in the stew that he was whining about, but the way that it was prepared) I went into the kitchen and figured out something that he could eat. I kick myself for doing this now, but at the time I was just stressed and not thinking clearly.

    Frankly, I don’t really blame this kid. He’s sixteen. He was apparently raised in a home that allows him to get away with being the pickiest eater I have ever met. I almost hold pity for this kid, because what the hell is he going to do once he enters the real world and he is at some luncheon with his boss, and when he looks at his menu there is nothing that he will eat on it? Is he going to whine and moan and complain about there not being anything on the menu to eat because the kids menu isn’t visible?

  • Whining about school

    So, a friend of mine just posted the following to his Facebook page:

    I can’t do this. When just walking onto campus fills me with a tight hatred, I don’t know how I can do another two semesters at a place that I loathe dearly. I’ve never felt like anything other than a wallet as a student, or a vague, distasteful necessity as an employee. Add on to that the ludicrous gen eds AND a surcharge for an online course (right. a surcharge so that a professor can stay at home in their PJs) to dissuade students from using it, considering you can’t even park on-campus… I honestly don’t think I can do this.

    My response is as follows:

    Adam, I don’t normally respond to whining like this, and frankly in doing so in this case I feel as if I am sitting on my front porch and telling the kids running around to get the hell off of my lawn, but sometimes things just have to be said:

    You need a good swift kick in the ass.

    You are two semesters away from getting the piece of paper that will help you (not entitle, mind you, but help you) in furthering your life in a large number of different ways. OK, we get it that there are a bunch of things that ruffle your feathers about campus… however, they also hold in their hands the means to an improvement in life, and all you have to do is spend some time here going through the motions. Yes, it sucks having to go through the stupid classes in order to get to something that is actually worthwhile, but you still have to do it.

    Two semesters is child’s play in terms of doing the scut work in order to get what you are after. Heck, you even know that by doing this scut work there is a defined achievement that you will get for doing said work! Entrepreneurs who go out into the world with a new business or whatever don’t even have that kind of guarantee dangling in front of them! Going to school and getting a degree is EASY compared to other things in life, because of those defined guarantees that are there.

    I know you have tried other things in life, some with success and others with failure. What I am saying is that at this point, with only two semesters to go, I feel it is a no-brainer to put up with the garbage for the quantifiable reward, particularly given the amount of work you have already put forth towards said reward which will partially be wasted if you never achieve it (obviously you don’t lose the education that you may have gleaned from the courses you have taken, but without that piece of paper in your hands the doors of the future are a hell of a lot harder to open.)

    Yes, I feel that an undergraduate degree is simply a piece of a paper, and realistically just a line item on my resume. I *think* I know where my degree is actually located… it is still in the paper tube it was sent in after my graduation (that I did not bother to attend). However, that simple line-item on my resume gets that resume through barriers that the multiple items in my work history do not do, so it is worth it despite my realistically not learning very much from the classes I took. I am now thinking about doing a graduate degree, not because I feel I will learn all that much from the courses, but because the additional line-item in the education section of my resume will be able to open more doors for me.

    Bottom line is this: Get off your ass, finish the degree, and then you are truly done with this place and you can spit on the front doorstep of Tigert Hall in defiance.

    Feel free to delete this response as you see fit… that is your prerogative, after all.

    It will be interesting to see if he responds to this.

  • America Idol — An example of pure democracy

    So… recently I was reading in the news about how Pia Toscano was voted off of the show (America Idol) in a “shocking” elimination vote. This doesn’t surprise me in the slightest. Apparently this is a growing trend on the show, and the last female artist to win was apparently Jordin Sparks, four years ago.

    One only has to look at the demographic of those that watch (and vote on) the show… pre-teen and teenage girls who have major infatuations with the male artists. Call it Bieber-itis, if you will.

    This is what happens when you have what amounts to a pure democracy… you get majority rule, or as some would call it, mob rule. The majority of the associated people make a decision, despite that decision not necessarily being the right one, simply because emotions have taken effect.

    In the case of Pia Toscano, the mob voted, and despite being a (presumably) better singer was voted off of the show.

    I guess my point is that this country was designed as a representative republic for a reason, and this illustrates one of those reasons… majority rule may seem fair, but it is not necessarily the smartest thing. By electing representatives, we put into position people who make it their business to know more about the actual issues than we as the voters may know or care to research. I know for a fact that I do not have the full picture on things like zoning laws in the town I live in, nor do I have the time to do the research… which is why I place my vote for a representative who will do that sort of research and make a better educated decision on what exactly to do.

    The same goes for American Idol… the judges sitting there on the panel are there because they are knowledgeable about the subject at hand (singing and performing) and can make a better decision about which contestants will make good stars… and that does not necessarily mean that they can simply sing well… I am sure that there are a number of other factors that I am simply not aware of that they know a whole lot more about that factor in on making an actual star.

    Unfortunately for them, the rules only give them one real override, and they used it this season.

    My best wishes go out to Pia, because if she really is as good as the judges felt her to be, then perhaps she will get a contract anyway.

  • Amphitheatre

    On the University of Florida campus, just outside of the student union building, there is a small amphitheatre on the edge of a pond. What is unfortunate about this amphitheatre is that there is no stage for a performance to occur, so what you have is an amphitheatre with lots of seating that simply overlooks a pond… a depressing pond, I might add, since it has a fountain smack-dab in the middle of it that doesn’t appear to work, or at least is turned off a good portion of the time.

    This would be a perfect place to erect a small stage (perhaps on the opposite side of the pond) where small one-acts could be performed (the performing arts college is right next door) and perhaps the occasional quiet concert (I am thinking classical quartets or acoustic indie music here, not an amplified garage band…)

    Truth be told, it wouldn’t surprise me if this was the original intent for it, and some environmental weenie got wind of it and protested it because it would disturb the wildlife in the sinkhole nearby, and the ducks that use the pond.

  • Riding and Interviewing

    So I have been riding a lot lately. It has been good, and I think I am getting better with the bike. Some things I have learned:

    • Boots are a must. You can get away with a little riding in tennis shoes, but the top of your left shoe will wear out quickly.
    • Make sure everything is battened down prior to moving off. It sucks to have something flapping in the wind at sixty miles an hour, particularly if it is something like a collar and it flaps into your clavicle.

    In other news, this past weekend I sat on the board to receive presentations for the next Hoggetowne Medieval Faire chessboard. Now, let me get this out right now: THIS IS A JOB INTERVIEW! When most people go in for a job interview, they dress up in order to impress… at least, they do this if they are going for a job of any sort of importance higher than that of a short-order cook. So why is it that year after year I have seen these presentations, and the same people keep turning up not dressed for the role?

    Anyway, the presentations went… well, the first two went poorly. Let’s just say that showing up with only one of your staff members for the production is not conducive towards getting the job. The third presentation group was incredible, however. They were organized, almost all of them were there, and all of the higher level members were there. The only one missing was the costumer, which was not a big deal because they had posters of what they were planning on doing with costume colors and designs. They ran the show for the most part, and we basically had to just sit there and watch instead of ask many questions to figure out what they were going to do. Instead, they simply told us. At the end, after they walked out, the five members sitting on the panel to make this decision simply looked at each other and said “is there really any doubt here?” It was a unanimous decision.

    Anyway, after that, I have some tips for people who are going to propose a show for our group:

    • Dress appropriately. This is a job interview, not a bunch of friends getting together to have some fun. The Guilde is giving you a good amount of money in order to make this thing happen, and we want to be sure that you are not going to be wasting that money.
    • Don’t bring your child along with you to the interview. You wouldn’t do this at any other job interview, even at a fast food restaurant, so why would you think it is appropriate to do it here? Your child will be a distraction to both yourself and to the members of the panel, and that is going to lower your chances in a couple of different ways. First, it detracts from your presentation. Second, the panel is going to look at the situation and wonder how that child is going to affect your production down the road.
    • Have as many members of your production team there that you can. The more the merrier, and it shows the panel members that you are all serious about what you are trying to do. If only one or two of you are there for the interview, what is going to happen come time for rehearsals? Are only one or two of you going to be showing up then as well?
    • Ensure that all of your members know their jobs and what they are going to be doing for the next year. Again, this is a job interview, and if you know the job you are that much more competitive.
    • Ensure that all of your members know the script that is being presented. One of our favorite exercises is to have the production team quickly act out their production in about five minutes.

    Obviously a bunch has to be left out, but the idea is to see whether or not everyone knows the general idea of the show from beginning to end.
    Finally, don’t tell the panel that you are going to be directing other shows during this time. We are going to take that into consideration for your capability to run this particular show.

  • BARF

    Went to the Bay Area Renaissance Festival today with Athena and Ian. There we met up with some old friends like Amanda and Sarah. One other person that I knew there was Ashley, whom I have met at least one time before somewhere… probably at Hoggetowne.

    Anyway, BARF is pretty much the same as it always has been… a busier version of Hoggetowne but really something that is the same. The shows are pretty much the same, the stores are most certainly selling the same crap, and the food is the same over priced stuff that is available at every ren/med fair I have ever been to… except they were missing deep fried artichoke hearts, which I adore.

    There were really only two performances of note that I want to relate here. First was Christoph the Insulter, who bases his show entirely on insulting the crap out of crowd selected participants. For money, he insults them. His insults run towards the crude level of things, but there is some intelligence hidden in some of his words that take people some time to get at times. Not really my thing, but I respect him for his work, I guess.

    The other was the Chess board that is run at BARF. Now, I have been doing the Chess board at Hoggetowne for the past six years, and I can pick out a good fight from a bad fight on a board pretty darned quick. These were not fights that were all that good, I am sorry to say. Typically their fights run too long, with lots of gaps installed for speaking parts, which unfortunately don’t work all that well in an open air, full circle arena with a crowd that is screaming its’ lungs out. If you can’t hear what is being said, it isn’t really worth saying. This is why our board fights at Hoggetowne last perhaps thirty seconds, except perhaps the final fight on the boards… and even then we are finding that those need to be cut down somewhat. People just get bored with the fights, truth be told.

    Anyway, that is what I did today, in addition to a bit more work on the project for class that I have been assigned. Things are moving along on that, and tomorrow I actually get a chance to talk to the instructor about it and find out some things that need to be clarified.

  • The Taming of the Shrew

    Last night I went to see a performance of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. Now, this was not done by some world renowned acting troupe, nor even a college level group. No, it was done by one of the local high schools. Now, that being said, it was actually quite good. Of course, I also know a good portion of the cast, so I am supposed to say things like this, but if any of them ever read this, they know that I don’t pull punches when it comes to criticism. I just say it like it is, and if they can’t deal with it they are probably in the wrong business to begin with.

    Now, I have never seen this play before, nor do I believe have I ever read the play in school or anywhere else. It would probably have been a bit prudent of me to at least have read a one-page summary of what it was about prior to going, but oh well. The reason I bring this up is that for the first fifteen minutes or so of the play I was completely lost in what was going on. There is a certain amount of adjusting one has to do in order to get into the feel for Shakespearean prose, and when you couple that with a main character who is battling an oriental accent in order to get their diction right, well, it was difficult to say the least.

    The girl playing Kate (or Katherine, or whatever) did a fine job, though the first half of her work took hardly any actual acting. The final monologue from her took a lot, however. I guess you have to know the play in order to understand what I am talking about here. Needless to say, she is a person who has a will of her own normally.

    The guy who played Baptista is, quite frankly, an ass. Always has been. He can act, but he has a tendency to overact, mainly because he believes he is better than he truly is. Oh, he’s good, I’ll give him that, but he isn’t the best, and eventually someone is going to show that to him, and I have a feeling when that time comes, it is going to be painful.

    Now, the guy who played Biodello is an awkward youth. Hopefully he will grow out of this eventually, but for now he needs to learn how to stand straighter, perhaps go through a movement class or three, because on stage he simply looks very awkward.

    The rest of the cast did fine, and I really didn’t see anything that bad occurring, nor that stupendous that it requires pointing out here.

    One incident that did occur in the show was a dinner scene in which one of the serving wenches tripped and crashed into the table, sending everything on the table down onto the floor, and breaking the wine bottle that had been sitting on the table. Glass all over the floor, no easy way to play it down. It took them three or four attempts between scenes to clean it up properly, when what they should have done was get a dustmop on it in their first break to get the glass out of the way. Actors can deal with a wet deck, but glass is just bloody dangerous.

    The other momentous occasion occurred in a break-out scene with Bianca and her two suitors who were vying for her hand in marriage, one through intellect, the other through the arts. The one who was trying through the arts had a mandolin in hand, and as he sat there flirting with Bianca, mandolin sitting in his lap with the neck pointing out like a phallus, it rose as he felt that he was getting closer and closer to victory… right up to the point where she shoots him down, at which point the mandolin also came down to lay there…. limp. The person sitting with me had to restrain me from truly breaking up in laughter, as it was subtle the way he did this, and there were parents in the room whom I do not think realized just what was going on… not to mention their much younger children next to them who really did not know what was going on.

    So there we have it, another play done and over with, something that I hopefully will not ever have to go and see again.