Guest post by our Fearless Leader, Fenix

Back in 2004 was one of our jobs that ranks in the top 5 worst we have ever done with Phoenix Swords.
Not the worst. It isn’t that summer camp or Ohio.
It started as a one day show on a cold and damp mid-autumn Sunday. That alone would be enough to keep it from being a good show.

Image by Wolfgang Vogt from Pixabay

It was an expensive show. They charged $15 to get in when most shows of that size charged $10 or less. And, on top of that he didn’t give you a program when you came in. You had to pay an additional $5 for that.
I don’t think anyone ever bought a program. He had boxes of them left at the end of the day.
Instead, people just began to follow us around. As we were involved in every act that went on, if you followed us, you’d find an act.

It was at an outdoor area where they usually had concerts. So, it was set up for one big stage at the end, not several smaller ones as we needed.
The organizer took some cement blocks and put some boards over them and called it a stage.
Being told to perform a sword fight on two boards on some blocks isn’t really what we consider a good idea.
Sadly our member who had volunteered to be in charge of safety had not thought to bring rope with him, or anything else. I guess his plan was to tell people “don’t go on the stage” and that would be enough.
It wasn’t.
Of course it wasn’t clear to most people that it was supposed to be a stage either. Many people just stepped over it and kept walking.

The faire organizer was that same knightly mime I have written of before. He had asked my wife to organize most of the entertainment for the faire. So, we showed up with more than two dozen performers including dancers, singers, sword fighters and story tellers.
As he is a musician himself, he said he would bring a musical act too.
Turned out it was a high school marching band.
Not really something that blended well with a ren faire environment. Once they marched around to marching music, they got bored and began playing Frisbee through the whole faire.

The organizer asked us to write a big part for his girlfriend. So, my wife did.
We sent it to her 3 months before the show. We heard zero feedback.
My wife asked if it was OK, and the organizer said “It’s fine.”
The day before the show she showed up and we asked her if she was ready.
“Oh yeah,” she said. “I remember that. I read it when you sent it to me.”
“Did you memorize your lines?”
“Oh, no. Was I supposed to?”
“Yes, you have the major speaking part.”
“Oh. I’ll look back through my email and read it again tonight.”
So, when the time came for her to give the inspiring speech to the good guys to go fight the bad guys?
Yeah. Not so much.

One of our members decided to “organize” our tent. So, when my wife went to grab the props for a show they were missing and no one knew where they had gone.
Our people did a good job of using a bucket to stand in for another prop, but still…

While we were doing the bucket stand in show, the Roman reenactors decided to test fire their ballista to show people how it worked.
I was standing on “stage” with some of our other folks and I watched this big iron bar fly up, over our heads and stick in the ground behind us.
“Maybe it is a foam practice one,” someone said.
We looked. It wasn’t.
I sent [name redacted] over to express our feelings on the matter as he was friends with them.
I’m not quite sure how he phrased what I had said about my feelings to them, but they didn’t fire any more.

We were working with a different branch of the same LARP group that put on the show this weekend.
Their leader was very clear that they were excited to be a part of it and wanted to be very involved.
So, we had three big fights planned for the day.
The first would be 100% them.
The second would be half them and half our group.
The third would be 100% us.
So, when it came time for them to do their big fight, two people showed up.
Those two had never heard about this plan.
They did go and do some stuff, but it wasn’t the epic battle we had been promised.

The big battle at the end did go fairly well, minus the inspiring speech part. But, the week after I got a call from someone in the audience about how unsafe he thought the fights were. He had called the organizer to complain, and the organizer told him to call me direct and gave him my number.

His major complaint was in one of the final fights one person disarmed another and he felt the sword went too close to the audience when this happened. Not only could someone have been hit, but audience members could have picked up the sword and started attacking other people.
He told me how the person who did the disarm should be talked to about being so unsafe.
He then asked to join our group as what we did was so very cool.
We had video taped the whole thing. I was fairly concerned about this as I was the person who had done the offensive disarm in question.
When I reviewed the tape I saw that the sword in question had landed a good 10 feet (3 meters) away from the safety rope around the fight and in front of one of our safety spotters.
This did not make me think that it almost hit anyone or that someone would have been able to grab it and start swinging it around.
I wrote an email back to the guy saying I didn’t think it was a safety problem, but I did have a long talk with the person who had done it, just in case. I also told him we were all full for members.
I had to carry a copy of the still image from that fight with me for the next two years as every time I saw the faire organizer he reminded me of my group being “unsafe”.

We had a written contract with the faire organizer that said that we would be paid at the end of the day when the gates closed.
When they closed I went up to him and asked him for our pay.
He didn’t have it. And, told me it would take several weeks to get it to me.
We had flown people in from several places around the country.
We had paid for other entertainers to be there, and paid them up front.
We had paid for people’s food and accommodations while there.
We had paid for costumes, make up, props and all sorts of other things that went into the show.
We had another show two weeks later down south, and were counting on this money to pay our bills before we went off to that show.
We had a written contract saying we would get that money on that day.
My wife had to borrow money from her mother to pay our bills as we didn’t get paid.
The organizer did pay us a week later and I made him drive the 5 hours to our home to bring it to us.
But, that was pretty bad.

The organizer also decided to walk through our fire show at the end of the day. Our fire breather, who already hated the organizer, just took a big mouthful of fuel and was about to do it when the organizer stepped in front of him.
“I just have a few announcements,” he said, and started to read a list.
I motioned for our breather to hold it, and he could for a short time.
After a couple of announcements I told the organizer to move and let the fire breath go through where he had been standing.
If I had known he wasn’t going to pay me, maybe I’d have done it the other way…

Anyhow, at the show this weekend someone came up to us and said:
“I think I recognize you from a show I went to many years ago with knights and necromancers and all sorts of other things going on.
“It was the first faire I ever attended and I loved it. It was great!
“Because of that show I got involved in this and now have a lot of fun at LARPs and doing shows.”

One of our worst shows ever, and it changed this kid’s life. In a way he thought was for the better too!
It was big enough for him that after not seeing us for 10 years he was able to recognize us on sight and ask.

Maybe the memory of that show has grown in my mind over the last 10 years. But, I certainly never expected to get any positive feedback on it. Especially after 10 years.
You just never know.