Friday, September 16, 2016

Renaissance Newsletter #12

Great Plains Renaissance Festival (KS)

…There were plenty of jests and jousts, scallywags, belly dancers, merchants and mercenaries.

… Jason Brianes was manning his own booth at “Miyagi’s Wax On, Wax Off.” He made casts of hands – children’s hands, couple’s hands clasped together.

“It’s a keepsake, it’s a souvenir to take home with you,” he explained to a festival-goer. 
“Everybody who comes up picks a different hand gesture. It can be a thumbs-up. A No. 1. They get to pick the color of the wax. It’s great for little kids, so you can remember they were that small.”

…Visitors were caught up by the sights and sounds of a replica 16th-century community that boasted tent booths with artisans, stages with dancers and an arena with pole tossing….

The park was filled Sunday with music, families, roars and people munching on turkey legs and roasted ears of corn.

Branden LeRoy’s masked face and giant hammer indicated he was a mercenary.
“I like renaissance fairs,” LeRoy said. “What you can do with me is you can hire me to insult your friends for a dollar. I have a sharp tongue and loose lips.”

Thousands of visitors flocked to Grand Junction's Renaissance Faire  (CO)

Visitors took a step back in time to experience May pole dances, glass blowing, leather work, fairy house competitions, fortune tellers, pottery vendors and more. …
Organizers said the first year was a success, but they hope to improve and make next year even bigger and better.

3 Daughters of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore at the Renaissance Faire in Irwindale, California

The 14th Annual Community Renaissance Festival (MA) was held in Amherst on Sunday, May, 1, 2016.  

The festival featured a falconry demonstration by the New England Reptile and Raptor Exhibits, a sword fighting demonstration by Phoenix Swords, period pottery, jewelry, bow making and costumes. Demonstrations were also given in dance and music.

Mighty medieval fun

For the fifth consecutive year, the Medieval Mdina Festival was organised in the historic streets of Malta’s old capital. The festival featured various re-enactments by foreign and local groups, medieval music, sbandieratori, illusionists, jesters, falconry and birds of prey, lectures, concerts, food and drinks, a medieval market and kitchen as well as a children’s area….

During the festival, participants perform all day long in various streets, corners and squares of Malta’s old capital.

These re-enactments include battles, skirmishes, scenes from the medieval period, sword fighting, archery, parades, and flag throwing shows.

The festival also serves as a cultural exchange between local and foreign talent groups, disseminating the cultural heritage of the medieval times. It is as well a good educational exercise to teach both children and adults the history of Mdina…

A complete on-line description of this great Festival, with pictures and much more detail, is available here:

Society for Creative Anachronism - I

The two combatants continuously circle each other. On one side crouches a Swiss knight, on the other a German crusader. The harsh sound of metal on metal erupts with each glancing blow.

The German, known as Sir Michael Nymamdus Von Falkenburg, lands a killing blow and his opponent slumps to the ground.

He throws up a triumphant fist and removes his helmet. He happily helps his fallen opponent, called Volkmar, back up and the two exchange hearty smiles.

The German knight is father to an 11-year-old girl, who sprints up and down the building’s stairs in-between fights. When he returns home, his name is Michael Bull. The 46-year-old works in the financial industry and enjoys playing soccer in local leagues.

But Bull’s foremost passion lies in his 16 years spent at the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA). The SCA is dedicated to preserving and reenacting the arts and skills of pre-17th century Europe.

The organization can be found throughout the United States, as well as in Canada, Australia, Japan and a myriad of European countries. The region Lincoln encompasses is known as the “Barony of Mag Mor.”

Fighting is the most popular part of SCA and fighting rules account for the location of each blow and the force behind it. When combatants are struck in the arm, they lose use of it. When they receive a blow to the leg, they’re forced to kneel.

“My goal is to kill him, not hurt him,” Bull said with a smile. “So it’s on me and it’s on him to both know that we’re safe.”

Marshalls act as referees for the fights and check to make sure that each participant is wearing the correct amount and type of armor. Headshots are allowed, so all fighters are required to have helmets that completely cover and protect the face. Bull said with all the armor worn, the blows are painless as long as the necessary precautions are taken…. 

While fighting is a large facet, people also get involved through the arts and sciences.
“I fight of course,” Bull said. “But I also embroider, I make clothes [and] I’ve made some armor. My wife brews [and] she makes glass beads. She also does calligraphy.”
The recreation of medieval garments is one of the most popular outlets, with many members learning how to weave, sew and embroider. Dance, brewery, glass bead making and blacksmithing, among other skills, are also learned and taught by community members.

Theresa Norris is positioned in the building’s basement; her hands at work on a loom. She’s making a belt out of wool using techniques from the 10th century. She’s been a member of SCA since she was 12, joining in the early ‘90s.

“[It’s] keeping the arts alive,” Theresa said. “There’s so much to learn from the past and it’s important to keep it alive. You have to pass it on.”

Her husband, Bruce, is situated just down the table. He operates Goin’ a Viking & Brynjolf’s Forge, a storefront that sells things like arrowheads, viking whetstones and custom orders of armour. Most days he works as a maintenance technician for Oriental Trading.

For him, the challenge of forging and blacksmithing is what keeps him passionate. He said he couldn’t possibly grow tired of it because there is so much to learn…

For Bruce and Theresa Norris, their kids have only gotten the family even more involved in the society.

“It’s a family affair,” Theresa said. “If we missed war - we haven’t missed war in 15 years - but if we missed it my kids would go on a rampage. They wouldn’t miss it for the world. It’s so much fun.”

It’s not uncommon for whole families to get involved with SCA, as well as groups of friends. Bull said an increasing number of kids are born into the organization and they are slowly being allowed to participate in tournaments of their own with foam weapons…

Society for Creative Anachronism - II

This past semester, students found themselves becoming a part of history through College of DuPage’s brand new Historical Reenactment club. To celebrate Shakespeare’s 400th anniversary of his death, the club hosted demos and events to place students into the time of the great Shakespeare…

“Members of the Club study how people lived during past time periods, live and attempt to recreate them via costume creation called ‘garb,’ learning various skills done during times past, or trying foods that were around/made during those times said Milan Nelson, president of the club…”

Nelson is also a part of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA), i a large, national society …which focuses on the Dark Ages through the early Renaissance.

A little known fact about historical reenactment is the idea of reenactors having their own personas. These personas are an alter-ego from whichever time period the reenactor chooses. This allows members to fully immerse themselves in the time period.

“My persona is a Kievan Rus Trader,” said Nelson. “If nothing else, doing the research for the persona has been fascinating. I also cook as one of my hobbies. ..

Learning about history on a personal level wasn’t the only benefit Nelson found by being involved.

“Being involved in the SCA has definitely enriched me,” said Nelson. “I have friends and contacts across the U.S. that I otherwise would not because of the shared interest in history. Like my persona, I’m nomadic. So I participate with multiple groups within the SCA, and each group comes with its own community — From being Russian to being an archer to being a cook to being an armored combat fighter to being a leatherworker — there’s a place for anyone and everyone in the SCA.”

William Shakespeare and Miguel de Cervantes could not have imagined their writing would still touch the lives of millions 400 years after their deaths—especially considering nearly half of Shakespeare’s work didn’t appear in print during his lifetime.

But the two great European storytellers, who likely never crossed paths but both died on April 23, 1616, are immortalized through their words, which have been adapted into movies, are taught to millions of students each year and have together been translated into more than 80 languages….

Florida International University. Professor Ricardo Castells believes Cervantes’ famous novel Don Quixote still continues to capture readers’ imaginations because it is a classic tale of Renaissance self-fashioning…
Shakespeare’s work remains relevant in popular culture because of his ability to convey the human condition through his characters, according to Paul Smith, the director of the British Council USA.

“In his plays, I do not think there is any vice or virtue which is not explored in a totally three-dimensional way. Treachery, anger, jealousy, egoism, revenge,” Smith said. “But in many ways, the greatness of Shakespeare is his extraordinarily upbeat analysis and depiction of the virtues—when Shakespeare talks about such extraordinary things as kindness, gentility, magnanimity, friendship, family, tolerance, patience, will, faith and love…”

An event to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s and Cervantes’ deaths featured live performances, including a dramatic reading of the first chapter of Don Quixote, who dressed as Cervantes; a theatrical interpretation of a passage from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and a Renaissance music interlude performed by students…

The Innovative Coworking Spaces of Renaissance Italy

Coworking spaces are on the rise…Much has been made of these shared workspaces as a brand-new idea. But they function much like the Renaissance “bottega” (workshop) of 15th-century Florence, in which master artists were committed to teaching new artists, talents were nurtured, new techniques were at work, and new artistic forms came to light with artists competing among themselves but also working together.

The Renaissance put knowledge at the heart of value creation, which took place in the workshops of these artisans, craftsmen, and artists. There they met and worked with painters, sculptors, and other artists; architects, mathematicians, engineers, anatomists, and other scientists; and rich merchants who were patrons. All of them gave form and life to Renaissance communities, generating aesthetic and expressive as well as social and economic values. The result was entrepreneurship that conceived revolutionary ways of working, of designing and delivering products and services, and even of seeing the world.

Florentine workshops were communities of creativity and innovation where dreams, passions, and projects could intertwine. The apprentices, workers, artisans, engineers, budding artists, and guest artists were interdependent yet independent, their disparate efforts loosely coordinated by a renowned artist at the center — the “Master.” But while he might help spot new talent, broker connections, and mentor younger artists, the Master did not define others’ work.

For example, Andrea del Verrocchio (1435–1488) was a sculptor, painter, and goldsmith, but his pupils weren’t limited to following his preferred pursuits. In his workshop, younger artists might pursue engineering, architecture, or various business or scientific ventures. Verrocchio’s workshop gave free rein to a new generation of entrepreneurial artists — eclectic characters such as Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519), Sandro Botticelli (1445–1510), Pietro Perugino (c. 1450–1523), and Domenico Ghirlandaio (1449–1494)….

Turning ideas into action. Renaissance workshops were not just a breeding ground for new ideas; they helped ideas become reality. Likewise, today’s innovative workplaces need to be equipped with everything people need to turn their insights, inspirations, and mental representations into new products and ventures. Coming up with new ideas is hard enough, but the real challenge for many organizations is figuring out how to exploit them and turn a profit. 

Fostering dialogue. Ferdinando Galiani, a Neapolitan economist of the 18th century, argued that markets are conversations. The quality of the network — that is, the combined intelligence of people and organizations with different skills and abilities — plays a critical role in innovation.

In Renaissance workshops, specialists communicated with each other consistently and fluidly, facilitating mutual understanding. The coexistence of and collision among these diverse talents helped make the workshops lively places where dialogue allowed conflicts to flourish in a constructive way. The clash and confrontation of opposing views removed cognitive boundaries, mitigated errors, and helped artists question truths taken for granted…

The Culture of Food in England, 1200-1500

C. M. Woolgar shows that food in late-medieval England was far more complex, varied, and more culturally significant than we imagine today. Drawing on a vast range of sources, he charts how emerging technologies as well as an influx of new flavors and trends from abroad had an impact on eating habits across the social spectrum. From the pauper’s bowl to elite tables, from early fad diets to the perceived moral superiority of certain foods, and from regional folk remedies to luxuries such as lampreys, Woolgar illuminates desire, necessity, daily rituals, and pleasure across four centuries.

Yale University Press:

The Tapestry By Nancy Bilyeau

Frances S. Brown, reviewer

Medieval tapestries are a personal obsession of mine, so I came to Nancy Bilyeau’s The Tapestry with heightened anticipation. Knowing nothing about the series (this is the third in her Joanna Stafford series), what I expected was an historical account with a central theme revolving around the production of these timeless works of art. In fact, the heroine does weave tapestries. This, however, is ancillary to what surrounds: a brilliantly crafted historical adventure.

Joanna Stafford is a former novice living during the reign of King Henry VIII—a bad time to devote one’s life to the Church. When her priory is closed, Joanna turns to the production of tapestries. When her weaving talents warrant the attention of Henry, she is called to his court on a commission. Although Joanna is reluctant to oblige, she knows better than to turn down the powerful and ruthless monarch’s request.

Her fears are well based. Joanna, unbeknownst to Henry, was involved in an attempt to assassinate him by poisoning. No longer affiliated with those traitors, Joanna arrives at Court looking over her shoulder, and with good reason. Within moments of entering the Palace, an attempt on her life tells her she has enemies everywhere.

What follows is a tale of medieval espionage convincingly set in King Henry’s court. While fearing for her life from an unknown assailant, Joanna must walk the tightrope of maintaining good relations with the King. When she discovers her beloved friend, Catherine Howard, is lady-in-waiting to the Queen, she is at first relieved to have an ally. Joanna is then horrified to discover that the King is openly wooing Catherine as his mistress.

Ms. Bilyeau has woven, with words, a slice of history into a vivid, colorful tapestry of a story. Her heroine is far from your typical wannabe nun. In contrast, Joanna is spunky, brave and tenacious. While depicting King Henry with historical accuracy – gluttonous, egotistical, and tyrannical – the author also provides explanations for his behavior. Instead of demonizing one of history’s most ruthless kings, Ms. Bilyeau actually incites compassion in the reader for an ailing monarch who was desperately overcompensating for his severe lack of confidence.

The Tapestry is fast-paced with richly developed characters and high intrigue—a true page-turner. This masterpiece will appeal not only to fans of historical fiction, but to any reader who craves a truly mind-immersing adventure.

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