Many of y’all know I’m a performer at the New York Renaissance Faire. In addition to directing, singing, dancing, and acting as part of the Robin Hood scenario, I’m also a stage combatant.
Straight up: it’s beyond cool. Tiny Kelly grew up on fantasy novels, stories where swords were wielded in the name of justice/moving the plot along. Tiny Kelly dreamt* of learning to swing steel, all the while realizing that chances of actually learning to do so were very, VERY slim**. Then Ren Faire came into my life, and I met people who were exceedingly adept in stage combat, and I lucked into the chance to actually live my childhood dreams. The full story is rather more nuanced than that, but we’ll save that for another day.
Fast forward to now, my fifteenth (non-consecutive) year of performing. In addition to performing, I’m now a director and head of our Fighters Guild. I work with incredibly gifted and driven Fight Choreographers and Captains. Their hard work, along with that of our combatants, makes what we do look easy.
It’s not. It’s a slog. It’s frustrating. This is a stunt show. This is physical storytelling. Safety is paramount, but there are injuries. Story is supremely important, but there are blocks. Our stages are swathes of lawn or sand, without shelter or shade. Rain or shine, we are there, doing our damnedest. We put in extra rehearsal weekends: 8+ hours of full fight days. We show up among the earliest to the costume shop to change, grab weapons, run fights. We are the last to leave after a full performance day: weapons have to be transported back from the grounds, and then sanded, oiled, stowed away.
But damn if our folks don’t make it look amazing, even on those hot and humid and soul-sapping days. Damn if they don’t inspire others to want to be a part of it. And exhausting though it may be, I am honored beyond all measure that I get to be a part of it myself.
Tiny Kelly would expect no less.
*literally: I had recurring dreams of entering a sword dancer’s circle (ta, Jennifer Roberson!), and of riding my magical white horse while brandishing a gorgeous blade (credit: Mercedes Lackey)
**tiny Wisconsin town, followed by tiny Connecticut town, offered zero opportunity