Steven K. Mariner
|Last Updated: 18-Sep-2008|
Renaissance Festivals. What a trip.
I've been working at Renaissance Festivals since 1990. I was introduced to them by a friend who had worked at the Colorado Renaissance Festival some 16 years at that point, and got on with a $0 hand-shake contract to play the King's sister's page. It was a reasonably funny bit; the storyline was that the King's sister had this terrible habit of running around the shire buying up everything in sight, and I was ordered by the King to follow behind her and cancel all her orders.
I found I didn't enjoy the court interaction very much, but running up to patrons and breathedly asking if they'd seen the King's sister, and in panted breath regale them with the story, I found it was kind of fun. But it wasn't quite the right fit for me. However, I made friends with the folks who ran some of the games up at Faire, as well as with various performers at the festival. I made arrangements to work the pillow fighting log for the next season, and also wound up getting interested in visiting other festivals.
Of course the most significant event of the 1990 season for me was that I met Annie at the auditions, and wound up dating her. We later handfasted, and then married.
For the 1991 season, Annie's comedy group was hired at the Kansas Newman Renaissance Festival, so I traveled out there as a street character, and we cemented our friendship with members of a band called Maid in the Myddle, which led to a nearly annual tradition of traveling to the Kansas City Renaissance Festival for their Labor Day opening weekend. I worked with Red Dragon Games at the Colorado Faire.
In 1992, we visited the Arizona Renaissance Festival, mostly to see Mary from Maid in the Myddle, which began another tradition of traveling down to AZRF, although we followed through with this tradition on a considerably less consistent basis than the KCRF tradition. I continued with Red Dragon Games at CRF, and Annie's comedy troupe did their third year together.
The comedy show wasn't gaining ground, though, and we were all sitting around in the Fall and Winter off-season, trying to figure out what we were going to do. I still had Red Dragon, but the girls were wanting to try something new. As we chatted through the day and into the night, I pulled out my guitar and we sang through all of our favorite songs from our favorite Faire musicians, and at some point very late in the night, someone said, mostly jokingly, "Hey, we could do music!"
The Wraggle Taggle Gypsies were born. We weren't very good (practically no harmonies, and my guitar was the only instrument), but we had a lot of energy and managed to make connection with our audiences. All in all, the 1993 season was a lot of fun. We actually visited other festivals as a street music act, and got a lot more in touch with how to entertain at this kind of venue. We also started making a lot of friends in the music business this way (funny how hanging out with musicians will do that). By the end of the season, we had significant changes in band membership, and we were starting to get more serious about the music.
I got out of the military in November, 1993, and Annie and I briefly entertained the idea of going on the road with our music. We called ourselves "Lochlaine", and produced a demo tape. But some humorous roadblocks got in our way, and we were logistically unable to go on the road.
Thank God. We were not musically ready for the professional scene. We didn't know it yet, but we weren't.
So in 1994, the new band for the Colorado Faire called itself The Greencastle Minstrels, and we developed a bit of a following. By the end of the season, we had a pretty large following, and had gotten very serious about the music. Members of the band who were in it for the fun and singing left. All that remained were people actually interested in serious music, including more than casual instrumentation.
So we shortened the name to simply Greencastle, and started looking at making a recording. It would take us awhile to get the money and whatnot, and in the meantime we started developing a very cool sound. Traditional or original songs, the arrangements were interesting and unique. The band shrank to four members, and our following grew. Our participation at the local festival broadened to include teaching the cast songs for use on site and at the closing gate ceremony, and it was a very time-consuming passion of ours to do whatever RenFaire stuff we could, including traveling to do visiting performances at other festivals.
By 1996 we produced our first album, Caterpillar's Dream. We produced tape only, no CD, and it had something of an amateurish sound. But while most of that tape makes me cringe (How could I have let that go through to the final mix?), there were nonetheless a few spots of serious gold on that recording.
In 1996 the company I worked for shut down, and we took Greencastle on the road. At the start of the 1997 season, we were down to three members, the music was solid, and it was looking like Greencastle could go places. Everybody wanted us back whereever we went.
By the end of the 1997 season, Annie was pregnant with our first child, and we decided to take Greencastle off the road. Rowan, the third member of the band, decided he liked the road life, and declined to return with us. Greencastle officially retired in November of 1997.
Due to the complications with Triona's birth, life and death (See Triona's page), we grew more and more distant from the RenFaire crowd. Our participation in the local festival waned slowly, eventually to the point of not being involved. Friends we'd made at various festivals of course kept in intermittent contact, and we managed at least one visit to our local Faire each year, and even a trip or two out to KCRF. But we were moving away from involvement in RenFaire, to the point of practical noninvolvement.
In 2003, we were approached to join a new band for the festival (See Whirly Jig), and we're back in RenFaire mode again. Our trip to the Kansas City Renaissance Festival fell through in 2003, which could have been a real bummer because that was our absolute favorite festival on the circuit, and there was a very real risk that it was going to be torn down or relocated during the offseason this year. So we risked missing what might well have been the last chance to see the festival as we had known and loved it.
But, as luck would have it, the owner and local town worked out their differences, and so it is still in Bonner Springs where it has always been.
2004 saw us back at Colorado and negotiating for Kansas City again.
Various Links Regarding Renaissance Festivals
|BBC Description of Renaissance Festivals:||http://www.bbc.co.uk/h2g2/guide/A172946|
© 1997-2008, Steven K. Mariner