Tag Archives: stage combat

Swords, Flash, and Glamour

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.

tisme

*photo credit: Richard Jones*

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.

rapiers

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

 

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Ren Faire rehearsals make for long days. I was on site at the extra-early hour of 8am (aborted ukulele lesson; I used the time to practice my own music and stretch) and didn’t leave until 6pm*. Spent the day in fight choreography, blocking, running scenes, running fights. Because my role is active, and because I need to be mindful of footwear, my pre-‘fully costumed attire’ is as practical as I can make it: workout leggings, boots, long tank top.

I mention all of this because, well…

Stopped at the store on my way home**.  A cashier commented on my ensemble. “Love the boots. Cool look!” And then… and then… “Ugly wallet, though. Totally ruins the entire look.”

First of all, it’s my Loungefly R2D2 wallet.

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Look at that prettiness! LOOK!

Secondly, what?

“It’s so nerdy.”

I smiled, but only because I wasn’t sure what else to do. It’s my default. I am not a badass. “You know why I’m dressed this way? Because I just spent ten hours at the Renaissance Faire. I swing swords and pretend to be part of the Robin Hood Band.” Pause. “There is nothing about me that is not nerdy.”

“Oh,” the cashier said after a moment. “I thought you were a biker.”

And nothing against bikers, because I’m certain you’re lovely/imposing/whatever it is that makes you feel amazing, but really? I’m perfectly happy to be with my tribe of improvisational beasts, of singers, of dancers, of acrobats, of archers, of crafters and poets and Shakespearean scholars and swordsmen.

Yeah, we’re nerdy. And we make it look damned good.

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*hours for performance days are even longer. super glamorous, y’all!
**my actors work hard; they deserve cookies, and I most certainly wasn’t going to have time to bake tonight.

Sobbing through the smile, smiling through the sobs

I’m a crier. On a good day*, any number of things will bring me to tears: the adorableness of my kitties, a story on NPR, the sight of a little girl with her mom, a particular song, any old song, the Moth podcast, a lost bracelet, rain, wind, sunshine, autumn leaves, ice cream. Tears of sorrow, tears of joy, tears of frustration: crying is my go-to method of expression.

autumnleaves

This weekend is a rough one; going forth I expect it always will be. Joy and sorrow are to be found in equal measure. Nine years ago tomorrow, September 26th, my dad passed away. It was not unexpected; he’d been ill and in decline for some time. Being prepared made it no easier. The date also marked my parents’ wedding anniversary. This year would’ve been their 53rd.

Joy has been restored to that date in great measure, though, as my sister chose it for her wedding. Tomorrow she celebrates her first full year of marriage, and I could not be happier.

kerrydylankelly
We lost mom very suddenly a year ago this March, and while this time of year is not specifically tied to that, it was always important to our family. In addition to my folks’ anniversary, both of their birthdays fell within a week: Dad on the 28th, Mom on October 5th. My own anniversary falls on the 27th. 18 years in, and I’m feeling like we crazy kids just might make it.
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Then there’s the Renaissance Faire.We’ve been at it every weekend since the end of May, and many of us put in time before that, as well as weekdays throughout. I’ve never had so many crazy stress dreams as I did this season. I fretted over every scene, fight, weapon, cast member, every minute detail. I was exhausted and nervous and full of self-doubt. Fortunately, I was surrounded by an amazing group of performers, combatants, choreographers, and friends. All of the stress** faded away once we opened, and the last eight weekends have been both challenge and delight.

*photo credit: Richard Jones*

*photo credit: Richard Jones*

Two days remain, and here’s where the tears threaten in earnest.

Physically, I’m done. I’m ready for a rest (though none is in sight until the end of October because two weekends at MDRF, travel to Florida, uke gig, work: all good things, but yeesh). Emotionally, I want to keep going. I want to swing swords and be heroic, to sing and laugh and flit through the woods. I want to be someone who’s cooler than I’ll ever be, to make theatre with people who inspire me, make me strive to be better. I’m not ready to let the Greenwood fade into the mist.

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Give me a week or three. I’ll be fine, excited to have time to read, to work out, to hike, to cook, to stack firewood for the coming winter. For now, though, I’m going to cry. Happy, sad, nostalgic, hopeful: every tear will be all of those.

* Full disclosure: the week before ladytimes is the worst. Everything is filtered through a lens of hormones and ridiculousness. I can see it, I acknowledge it, I feel it all the same.
** well, most of it.

Oh, hello! I didn’t see you there.

Hey, y’all! To quote one of the best, albeit fictional, people I know:

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I long for this necklace.

A brisk and busy spring (two Crimson Pirates gigs, with considerable though happy rehearsal) led into a ridiculously busy summer (all things New York Renaissance Faire). Not sure if I ever spent any blog time on this, but I was hurled, as if by creative-decision-trebuchet, into a directorial position last summer. The wheels of plot and fights and scenario and casting were already in motion. Don’t know that I was the most capable choice, and I certainly had big shoes to fill, but I did my best to get the job done.

Coming in this year, I had a wee bit more time to consider and plan and organize, except that I’d never done that stuff before. Flail levels continued high. Supported by a ridiculously wonderful team as well as a stellar cast, I got stuff done. Mostly. We’re still moving forward.

The main reason I’m not talking about it is that management is, rightly, protective of the process. When you come through those gates opening day, you want to immerse yourself in an Elizabethan village, in a landscape inhabited by delightful fae, a young and vibrant Elizabeth I, by Robin Hood and his Merry Band, by the Sheriff and his formidable guards. If you see the process, the behind the scenes, the day to day, the magic is diminished.

These past two months, my mind has been nothing but process. Much as I want so share the anecdotes, the frustrations, the silly photos and videos, I have to honour the show.

Two weeks ’till we open. I’ll check back in then. I will continue respectful of the show, the final product, the magic and wonder, but I might be able to share the tiniest bit of my experience as director/singer/actor/writer/weapons maintenance crew/stage combatant.

Mo’ hats, mo’ problems.

2014: the highs and the lows

In this roller coaster of a year, I :

Wrote daily for a solid month, thanks to my self-imposed Blog Every Day in November.

Gained a new nephew, complete with the most squishable cheeks.

Lost two friends to fucking cancer.

Made friends with multiple TreeKitties.

treekittyNYE

Recorded a whopping seventh CD with The Crimson Pirates (soon to be available on iTunes; the first six already are!). My first outing as an instrumentalist, though to be fair my ukulele chops are pretty basic.

CP2014

Had to step up and get stuff done.

Fought injustice, danced the maypole, and sang bawdy songs in the Greenwood.

Rocked rapier/fan with a fantastic fight partner.

Rocked, with two other amazing fight partners, double sword against one armed with sword, one armed with shield. One of my favorite fights of ever.

I didn't make note of the photographers who took these shots. Please claim credit, share links to your sites, and accept my apology.

I didn’t make note of the photographers who took these shots. Please claim credit, share links to your sites, and accept my apology.

Kicked respectable butt in a silly archery competition. Was even happier that I didn’t match a record. #willscarlettriumphant

Rose to a challenge I’m still not sure I entirely met.

Was recognized by Queen Elizabeth, first of that name, with ceremony and a medal.

Wore false eyelashes and a lot of makeup. Also had my hair done up all fancy. Sported a floaty, fancy dress. Heels were involved.
bridesmaid

Spent time with relatives I see far too infrequently, which is deeply unfair since they are an absolute joy.

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Saw my sister married to a sweet and wonderful man. In related news: gained a new brother.

Chronicled 100 Happy Days on Instagram. What a delight!

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Had the biggest emotional breakdown in my seventeen years of marriage, to an ultimately healing effect. Relationships are hard, rewarding work.

Accepted, after some ouchiness, that I’m not a particularly talented vocalist. Or musician. But I’ve got energy/moxie, so there’s that.

Performed at Brewkulele ’14 all the same, and will likely do so again. Yay?

Lost my first and best joust partner.

OsoandMarian

Said goodbye to my first theatre.

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Did not spend nearly enough time on the mat. Missed yoga desperately, but still tried to cultivate a gentler approach to everyday life: let go of what I can’t control, choose kindness, take a whole lot of deep breaths, be mindful, be thankful. I’ve a long, long way to go.

Focused on circuit training, albeit late in the year. Thanks to Sabrina, a rocking HIIT challenge, and the best workout coach of ever.

jayjaynose

Realized my support system is amazing, and that begins with my sweetie. Thought seriously about some sort of counseling, and though I haven’t actively begun the search for a therapist, am giving this considerable thought and weight.

Lost my mom, unexpectedly. Heartbreakingly. Devastatingly. It left us all grieving: my sister, my husband, my brother and his wife, and quite honestly anyone who knew her. I’m still not ready to speak about this at any sort of length, but I will say this: she was a light and a joy. She was so proud of her sweet natured grandsons, and was so proud her legacy was carried on in my sister’s nursing career.

My mom was a knockout, y'all.

My mom was a knockout, y’all.

Buoyant ups, shattering downs. 2014 taught me all sorts of lessons, challenged me, angered me, revealed to me just how fortunate I am, how far I have to go.

I do so wish that 2015 be less greedy and grasping. Instead, may the year ahead offer inspiration, joy, and delicious, delightful challenges. Bring it, 2015. I’m ready to dive in!


kettlebellkel

No, seriously. I’ve got this.