Friday, November 20, 2009

Hospitality as Art and Science

Her Stellar Majesty, Elizabeth, asked me to provide some kind of A&S opportunities at the Tournament of Chivalry, held in Coille Stoirmeil on November 14. We had an A&S competition at last week's event (Stellar University of Northshield) so I didn't want a simple repetition of that, though I did provide space for display.
With permission of their Majesties and the event staff, I undertook to provide an opportunity for artisans to simply come together in the solar, where musicians might be practicing, ladies were spinning and embroidering, and merchants plied their wares. A herald was there for consultation, and many books were available to provide inspiration. There was ample opportunity for informal teaching, particularly in the domestic arts and in the history and culture of the SCA.
My thanks to all who participated in this gathering, and to Her Majesty, who inspired "outside the box" thought about period A&S.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Stellar University of Northshield

November 7 was a big day. I planned to teach two classes, but ended up with three: numbers, ABCs, and colors -- a veritable kindergarten!

The Numb3rs class was a rerun from Bardic Madness in April of 2008. Karyn and Kudrun compare the way we use numbers in a typical day.

"Now I Know My ABGs" was a repeat from June 20, 2009. I assumed that the audience in Madison WI would be different from the one in Sioux Falls SD.

"A Rainbow of Rainbows" was originally conceived for Bardic Madness in 2006, but I completely revamped it, using PowerPoint instead of color slides (remember slides?). This is an exploration of color theory and uses of color in period, beginning before Aristotle.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Persona again

Falcon's Gate was kind enough to invite me back for "Meeting your persona" on October 1. I didn't hear any snoring from the old-timers who heard most of the material last year. That was a good sign. Even better was a chance to chat with some new folks about using their college experience to begin forming a persona.
Think about an art history major who's thinking of an Italian persona turning herself into an apprentice or relative of Sofonisba Anguissola or Lavinia Fontana.
As usual, I suggested the A&S 50 Challenge as a resource.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Autumn Rose XV

The feast steward for Autumn Rose (Rokeclif's fall event) wanted to do a middle eastern feast, so we made the theme of the event "Pilgrimage to Jerusalem".

I put signs on 15 places at the fairgrounds that served as the site, indicating the medieval city where a shrine might be found for a particular saint. At each location there was a poster offering more elaboration about the saintly person or persons and a pilgrim "badge" -- actually a piece of paper with instructions for finding the next location.

People had a tough time with St Martin's cloak, which I hung on a rack with other garments in the merchants' hall. St Anthony's shrine was at the (empty) swine barns. Cologne Cathedral was represented by the place we usually have A&S displays. (The clue made reference to works of art in the treasury and the scientific work of Albertus Magnus.) The big 4-H sign on the building where St Patrick's shrine was located was ascribed to a math-impaired painter. The big green pole-barn that we used as a feasthall was described as the magnificent green wall of Jerusalem.

People who were new to the event found the hunt a good wat to see the whole site. Those who knew the site learned a lot about the heroes of the medieval period.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Aristotle again

I recycled the class that used Aristotle's Poetics as a foundation for persona development, and hence for improving the drama of SCA (see the April 13, 2009 post). I presented it to a couple dozen people at Warriors and Warlords, Northshield's "big event". I added some visuals using a flip chart. Projectors don't work as well as I'd like in a pavilion on a beautiful sunny afternoon.
Of course I plugged the Challenge -- especially the persona development track.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Now I know my A B G...

Have you ever wondered why our alphabet begins A B C, when almost everybody else begins theirs with A B G? (That includes Hebrew, Greek, Arabic, and others.) That was the question that inspired a class on the history of the alphabet for Bardic Madness in Border Downs (Sioux Falls SD) on June 20. The theme of this year's Bardic Madness was "Letters" so the class fit right in.
I presented a history of alphabets from way before period (Egyptian hieroglyphics and Sumerian cuneiform) to well past period, when I and J became separate letters. Period inventions included punctuation, printing, and the use of small and capital letters.
I'd been working on this class since November, doing little else. It was so interesting, and I learned a LOT. I'll tag some of the books I used "letters" in LibraryThing, so you can have a look if you want to know more. (I also hope to do this class again.)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Aristotle at Darkstone

I was asked to teach a class on persona at an event created to introduce and encourage the bardic arts in the Shire of Darkstone. I should mention that Northshield interprets the word "bardic" very loosely, including all performance arts, but particularly those that recall and bring to life "the Dream".
I used Aristotle's Poetics to structure the class. I thought this fitting, since our word "persona" was lifted directly from ancient Greek/Roman theatre. Aristotle lists six elements of present in any tragedy: plot, characters, diction, thought, spectacle, and melody. I suggested ways in which each of these elements could be used to enhance the drama that we create as we enact the drama of our modern middle ages.
Spectacle is the only part of the drama. Participants are required to wear garb, though we use other visual means to "dress the set" such as banners, tools, and the hiding of modernity. Diction includes the words we speak, both the subjects and the words themselves. (I warned of the dangers of immersing oneself in Norse poetics and then going to work.) Under the melody rubric I encouraged the use of medieval music, but allowed that even in period drama the time barrier was crossed. Plot is crucual for Aristotle. For us, plot might come up in a war scenario or a coronation, but our "action" tends to be the creation of A&S projects, and perhaps our learning a skill. Character is the soul of persona. I encouraged immersion in a particular time/place as similar to an academic major; as an opportunity to specialize. I also encouraged backstory as a way to round out a persona. Unfortunately, I ended up making my real-life persona, who actually does the work of sewing, spading and cooking, into the servant of my period persona, who has People to do that. That was a scary thought. Digging into character more deeply reveals thought, Aristotle's last category. I challenged folks to think as their persona; to interpret the world in medieval categories.
In short, I suggested that persona development was a way to enter into our medieval drama more fully, and to bring the drama alive for others.