Although my partner thinks that Ohio is the worst Phoenix Job we ever did my least favorite was the Summer Camp.

It was bad

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.

This faire doesn’t rate as my #1 worst event we did.  But is one that I can honestly say has left me with some mental and emotional scars. (Even my therapists agreed, not joking)

You may have read part I which is an excellent overview with *kind of* a happy ending

Organizing Faires is a form of torture

Read the rest of this entry »

Since we have few loyal readers of this blog I am going to share a super-secret bit of info with you

Read the rest of this entry »

TLDR: Gatekeeping definition

I’m sure I don’t have to tell you what this feels like if you have any social interest that involves other people but I’m going to detail my own experiences and hopefully warn/reassure you and hope that you’ll share your own experiences in the comments

Read the rest of this entry »

We have returned from this event and it’s our first trip south in over two years.  I won’t lie, several things gave us pause when we agree to do this faire.

One, it’s new and we’ve never been there

Two; it was held at the Jefferson Davis house in Biloxi…here’s the hard swallow, founder of the Confederacy. Jefferson Davis House

Three we are not doing the Gulf Coast Faire because the troupe had reservations and kids. This faire falls on our troupe members’ kids February vacation schedule.

But we did say yes, and we did do it because (see “kids” above) and we have a long-standing relationship with organizers DeeJeania and Sadie.  I was super-happy to see a diverse group of visitors and a lot of veterans at the faire.  This location is a good rental site and Emerald Coast productions is doing a number of events here.

On to the good stuff

We did three shows a day-our historical, our silly pirate show, and the fire show.  As is usual with Phoenix Swords, we brought the cold weather with us.  But we know to layer so we were on and ready!

Here are some pictures from the Silly Pirate Show which are fights, games, and making the audience entertain US. They included “collecting rats”, (for supper) “No Scurvy,” “Squid Game,” and “Drankin’ Game”

It was chaos and ridiculousness. As all good things should be.

For most of us, it was our first time in Biloxi, MS

And we did a fire show. Unsurprisingly, away from the historical buildings.

Things we loved about this faire:

The organizers-they are very open-hearted and trying to make a difference. We love working with them and if that means having to make Civil War Ghosts spin like tops in their graves, we are here for it! The staff is super nice and it’s a family thing.

The location is at the far back of the property and with a view of gorgeous old oaks and the ocean. We had a VERY generous space and were good enough to put solar lighting and signage over the red ant hills. It was wonderful to work on grass after practicing in snow.

For a faire its size, it had lots of food vendors-all tasty. Papa Johns, a fried food/Thai, Greek girls yummies, a coffee tent and a Biloxi local who was expensive and cash only but GOOD. All within sight of our tent, I might add.

Lots of places to stay and SO MANY restaurants

A gorgeous beach across the street to add to the atmosphere.

The faire worked with differently-abled folks to get them onto the grounds which were flat and had roads and paths.

The FB event


The event seemed like the locals didn’t know about it, we went around and spoke about it in costume.

It’s competing with a lot-on Saturday we were up against Mardi Gras parades. And it’s in a strip with lots of casinos.

A lot of acts/attractions didn’t come last minute, and in the time of COVID we totally understand.

But to finish up, we were awarded “the Star of the Sea” a prize for being the best pirate act and we have to bring it back next year so it may be awarded to someone else.

So, it falls at a good time and the troupe feels it’s a great, friendly faire to shake off the rust and start the year

As a friend of mine likes to say-Five bullets make an entry!

So here are are five bits o’ Bee in my Bonnet

Massachusetts Renaissance Faire and the Great Resignation.
I was not surprised that people resigned and here is why:
Folks had told me some of the behind-the-scenes and I was saying prayers and crossing fingers, and sending good intentions for their continued sanity and safety. They are absolutely amazing and deserve to shine.
We applied as an act and received THE RUDEST “no thanks” ever in 20+ years.
I worked a booth and the “malarkey” that occurred could be its own entry but yeah, OMG.  My booth partner agreed that *a number* of red flags made it a no-go for another year. But some of the other vendors there are awesome and I hope they’ll do some other faires.

I have personal reasons for connecting with a resignation that brought out the carrion-eaters. So to the collective folks who left- on to the stars-GO YOU!!!!!

If you want to read about it, it made the paper.

We were heartbroken that we were going to be part of the New Hampshire Renaissance Faire  and then, a week later, the faire committee, being good stewards cancelled.  We were able to be part of the online faires they did for the Food Bank but, we really (like everyone) wanted to be where the people are!  We haven’t signed the contract yet, but we are working on getting the fire show items all together. This is a big, twiney ball of stuff that needs to be put together but we hope you love the results and that we’ll be paired again (fingers crossed) with the Primrose Pirates for fun but safe use of fire and accelerants

I have also worked with this faire with my vending friend-and yes, an excellent example of a faire you WANT to be part of!

A long-time faire we have done for years, we are unlikely to return. A few members have expressed opinions. We are not a democracy but we can’t do what we do without participation and although we two founders could do the show, we feel it would be greatly diminished.  There are other factors but we hope you’ll see us next weekend Here

A thing we “forgot” in the pandemic is that winter practice suuuuuucks.  There is nothing quite like doing fire in extreme cold. It’s the worst. But you have to practice, check your tools and stay flexible.  Both you and swords need to warm up before swinging around the place. The silver lining is that we came back together and we are getting back the mojo.  Thank goodness one of our members can borrow a van because there is not a rental van to be had. Go ahead, check any car rental place in the Northeast. It’s a shortage we’d never anticipated.

Last bullet, We are doing our first guest lecturer/teacher this year in MarchFrank Perrin of Razmafzar. Super excited he’s willing to show us some great material. I’d joined the Mamluk Project Kickstarter and I look  forward to discussing it!  Need to bug my old Guild buddies to see what they have been up to and I need to hold me accountable to finally get some dust off a particular manual.

Hey, you haven’t posted in two years.
That’s true, I could have but didn’t.  Generally if I’m not performing, the rants and ridiculousness are not occurring (at least renfaire related) so I don’t have to “release the keyboard gnomes”

So what do you have to say?
We’re back Beoches!  We didn’t really go away, we did Franklin Renaissance Faire (NH) the last two years but it is tiny, remote and responsible so we felt pretty good staffing it. And did things other than faires and gained weight. Oops. I did read a lot of books, learn about medieval toilets and become a cheese connoisseur. We did finally get to see our families and friends and hope that the numbers keep going down.

It’s cold outside to practice and the snow was one buckler deep

These last two years haven’t really changed my mind about people, so much as solidified it.  We (humans) have lost the veneer of civilization and for those of us on the East Coast, no one is really shocked. But some of you Southern folks…yeah, that crazy came out of the basement, onto the porch and is doing something unspeakable to the rat-on-a-stick stand. *pearl clutch*.

We are kind of shocked we’re still here. In fact, unofficially we’ll have been here 20 years in June (that’s when we registered our business) Officially it’s September 1,2022 but those of us in the know (well more like “You know we have to pay the bills”). We had some rickety years but we’ve come out of the other side.  We are wondering what that means and how to recognize it. We debated a party/performance, but with the Pandemic…we don’t want to give that gift.

We realized that “Founded with 500 dollars and a grudge” wasn’t really the best theme either. 

Wish I could say that we were sexy like some franchised acts, but the fact of the matter is that we like swords, we like history, we have a tent and we’re willing to embarrass ourselves.  I have not kept up with my HMA folks but hopefully that will change this year.  We are scheduling shows and will do at least three of them. We are working on some new material-could be good, could be a “Eeee, let’s not do that in performance” -time will tell.

So we’ll next be in Biloxi, MS for the first time performing and I hope you are ready for some people who need some sunshine because we will be there regardless.[%7B%22mechanism%22%3A%22your_upcoming_events_unit%22%2C%22surface%22%3A%22bookmark%22%7D]%2C%22ref_notif_type%22%3Anull%7D

Fenix in a styling mask

When we came back from the Gulf Coast we had no idea we were racing an infectious wave up the East coast. We did everything wrong, we hugged people we ate at dives, we used road stops and sketchy gas stations and clambered into overcrowded vehicles with little air circulation.

Well our guardian angel or whatever you believe got us all home safely and a week later we were all working remotely and scrambling to put together some sense of continuity. From sun, cheering crowds and rubbing elbows to masks, physical distance and hunkering down in our homes.

And then the cancellations began, and the Rennie community will tell you it was heartbreaking. And all the costumed/kitted communities will tell you the same.  Online is not the same as real life-especially when you have a business/hobby that involves participation in a time before cell phones and computers.

Some faires went online like the New Hampshire Renaissance Faire. We were scheduled to perform there for the first time and then BAM cancelled.   But they/we rallied and did an online faire!

As the strictures eased we thought we might to another event but as you know, the numbers of infected are not good.

Our state clamped down and down at least we can attend outdoor events (some) eat in restaurants and will have a major sporting event this Sunday (no audience mind you)

Other states were not so restrictive and some dear friends caught COVID. (recovering, thank goodness)   And although we were invited  to perform in one of those states we regretfully had to turn it down. It is going to be a “drive through” (in a carriage) faire and sounds like a blast but the travel would have forced quarantine and none of us can afford that financially, personally and emotionally.

A couple of us had been doing weekend trips to a nearby (and cleared) state from our hermitage to our friend’s hermitage and enjoying some time extensively outside.  That state was able to ease restrictions and had been having outdoor farmers’ markets and other events for a few weeks already.   One faire continued to stay on the schedule. It was a tiny faire, run by a fraternal group we wondered if it was going to happen. Six weeks out we asked the troupe members if they felt comfortable participating.  We agreed that we’d be good with working together and making it happen. 

We were oh-so careful and had troupe masks made.  We had hand sanitizer, additional paper masks, and a fight protocol on only fighting in “family groups” and we cut out any grappling and touches that fell outside of that scope.  And we weren’t scheduled so we could work in small bursts. And since our acts are swords and fire, we had social distancing built in

When we hit the faire it was A LOT of space for relatively few people. Won’t lie, because we tried not to travel anywhere in the faire we felt a bit like a zoo exhibit.  A lot of folks didn’t make it in at 10:00am as they were taking temps and checking masks at the gate. People were polite and respectful. Saturday was a very long day (there at 8:00am-left at 9:45-ish pm) and Sunday was quiet enough that the faire packed up early.

Do I think that we can do socially distanced faires? Yes if they are small and everyone follows the social contract of mutual respect. Are we doing the faire in AL? No. Does it look good for FL in March? Not really which makes us quite sad. We have to travel through states that are still in denial about a national pandemic and frankly, I love doing faires but when I don’t feel like they are on the same page with safety that we are, I have no interest in risking our staff for that.

Let all hope Dr. Fauci is correct about a vaccine in the works!



person-posing-near-body-of-water-3050912Photo by Vitória Santos from Pexels

On the Phoenix Swords Facebook, I posted an “are you okay?” meme for the folks I know.  And someone who has performed with us and has their own act now commented that they were doing okay. And for the most part that seems to be true

I am taking cues from Guy Windsor, Jess Finley, D’Mon Stith by looking at manuals to improve our historical show.

I have been picking up online skills like a crazy person. We have permission to use our workplace media connection and I am taking full advantage of it to contact family and friends with the bells and whistles. I am taking courses and working full time. (Don’t ask about housework)


The troupe has reassured me that I am not wasting their time with online meetings and that it helps to be connected.

We are even participating in an online fundraiser for the New Hampshire Renfaire:

But it’s hard to be productive all the time and we still have bills to pay. We pay for storage and practice space and we are NOT practicing. Two performers will not be able to join us for wildly varying reasons-one because his job is trying to keep safe so he cannot attend or participate in any public performances for a set time. The other works in a high-risk group and does not want to bring sickness to us. He calls himself ‘the canary in the coal mine.’

In New England, we only have about four good months and people are itching to get out into them.  And you can’t practice fire in the house. (well you can but it’s a bad idea)  Just like everyone else, I HAVE THINGS TO DO.

I get it, we all do. I love my day job but will I have it in a month? My family, many are elderly-will I see them through 2020? One senior describes her role as “inmate” because she cannot leave her apartment for any reason and food is all but slid under the door.  I am grateful to be mobile and able to go outside.

And this “new normal” has brought out the serious mental imbalances in some of my friends. I hope that they survive physically, mentally, and spiritually. Praying for them every day.

I have nostalgia already for close contact performances. It’s going to impact our shows-can we still fight and “bag” our falchion fighters?  Take audience participation?  What about our spotters and fire breathers?  I’m trying to figure out how to do the human connection hands-free. Better work on those charisma skills!

Keep your fingers crossed for Fall faires, my friends. I am rubbing my rabbit’s foot like a sander and hoping the best for everyone, and that includes you.