Posted by: Aunt Magaidh | September 28, 2011

Much Ado About Sebastopol…Spinner Margret finally gets there!

So after a year of waiting…I finally got to perform at Much Ado About Sebastopol, MAAS.  For those of you not in the know by now, MAAS is a fundraiser for Sebastopol schools.  Here’s the link:

Any hooo…

It was a year I had to wait to participate in this faire.  I went to workshops on history and religion and Elizabethan grammar.  I worked on and modified my English Renaissance dress (convertible Frankendress).  After a year of building friendships and relationships with my fellow Villagers of St. George, inhabitants of Fenford, I spruced up my spinning wheel, found some wool that passed for madder dyed, and packed the corset I never wear for my Scots persona.  I drove the couple of hours up to Sebastopol and checked into the hotel to prepare for the Saturday call of 8:30 am.


Favorite moments – starting with the morning of the event:

When ironing my dress at the hotel, Kimiko, , costumer/instructor extraordinaire who has come up special for this faire and is presenting period needlework and blackwork, looks over.  She approves of the blue: “It’s not as electric as it looks in your photos.  It’s modern, but not bad.”  I breathe a sigh of relief.  Yep, I knew the blue was okay, and I feel victorious because I would hate to have a dress that is perfect in all ways but the color.  Then I ask her about the fabric it looks the most like.  “Call it fustian, ”  Kimiko tells me.  I am finally relaxing about the outfit.

Pre-gate opening I am on the watch for the famous Noel G.   Noel is THE ruff and partlet maker for the event – an artist/historian buff obsessed with bringing authentic to our events, in a good way.  His costume projects are inspirational to newbies like me.  I love the research he does to get his projects just right…  On my way to notes, a tall slender man in black jeans and t-shirt stops and glances at me.  He stands still with a puzzled look on his face.  I stop.  I look at him and tilt my head, puzzled.  He asks, “Maggie?”  I ask, “Noel?”  We both move toward each other and hug.  “What were you so worried about?  You look wonderful!  Turn! Turn!”  I spin, beaming.  “The girl has got it going on!”  He has just made my morning.

I stand at notes with my faire sister “Merry”.  (One calls your sister-in-law “sister” when using Elizabethan-period-speak.  Merry is actually my friend Vonnie, a fellow spinner.)  She is dressed in an olive green linen kirtle with murrey sleeves and brown wool partlet.  I am dressed in blue “fustian” kirtle with matching sleeves.  We are coifed and topped with straw hats.  Our arms are linked.  During the pep talk, notes, safety announcements, etc. (given by fearless leader Rydell), our Villagers Leader, Claudia, looks over,  looks us over up and down, and gives a loving smile while patting her heart.

Merry and I return to our wheels at the Weaver’s House, prep our supplies, adjust our hats.  The gates open.  The Weaver’s House is visited by a steady stream of visitors asking about blackwork, warp and weft, plied yarns and spinning.  Elementary, middle, high school kids, and their assorted parents and guardians.  Dozens and dozens of patrons come by our wheels and looms and needles.  The cordwainer and fancy goods ladies across the way are equally swamped with visitors.  We are part of a program where students are to visit crafters and get answers about the crafts we present.  After we teach our visitors a bit about our craft we are supposed to stamp their Passports to History.

We are given a stamp of a lightbulb to mark the little booklet passport.  Come on…how do we explain this modern object in an Elizabethan context??  One person called it a bottle stopper.  I turned it upside down and began calling it a very strange looking fig.  The moment came when one  student tried to explain to us that it was a light bulb – which then led to a conversation about sources of light that grew in the ground, bulbs grow in the ground.  You could see the student thinking about how he had to find a way to find common ground with us…and translate his world into the world that we were doing our darndest to maintain.  It was precious.

In the afternoon, a little blonde with blue eyes and blue dress and a pink flower upon her cheek, comes up to me.  She is about 3 or 4.  She puts her hand on my knee oblivious to the crowd moving around us.  “I’m hot, ” she says in a quavering voice that is much like a lost child on the verge of meltdown.  I take her hand.  I check her forehead and cheek.  “Where is your mummy?” I ask.  She points to a woman enthralled at the loom discussing the work with the master weaver.  Suddenly her father looks up from 10 feet away, aware that he has been errant in his duties.  I make eye contact and say in a mother’s voice, gently reprimanding and gently reassuring,  “She says she is hot.  She needs some water now, please.”  The child and I walk toward him and I gently push the child in his direction.    She reluctantly lets go of my hand.

Yes, this was a weekend whose lesson is trust.

Trust is what let’s us play with our fellow actors and our patrons.  Trust is what allows us to take a risk in performing in an open-air theater where there are no scripts or curtains.

My fellow villagers are a lovely and quick family.  In the morning, we found Harold Huddleston, Monger and rascal, passing by our door.  We engaged him by asking about a defective flyer (a very important part of a spinning wheel, not period by the way) purchased for my “sister” Merry.  He tried to divert the conversation by selling us an orange…which for all the world looked like a tuber!  Later we were serenaded by Village children singing as chaperoned by Mistress Dyer, the merchant’s widow.  Throughout the day we tried to aid the poor millwright (I think that is the correct term) looking for the miller who owed him money: “Have you checked at the inn?”  “I thought I heard he was over at the green.”  We trust to each other to remember our stories of connection, to work with “green umbrellas” or giant mallets, and to combine our purposes to benefit each other and our patrons.

Sometimes we flub at our improvisions (I said “turkey” when I meant “goose” when asked about our year end gift from our very generous landlord), but our fellow actors catch us and take the line and dance away in another direction…”yes, Lord Leicester is a generous landlord.  I did receive a fine goose last year as gift.” Another takes the lead and moves along the line –  “He is a generous lord, yet he is in need of a wife.” I redeem myself,  “He had a wife, god rest her soul, but the Queen is reluctant to let him go from her side.  How is he to find another? And he needs an heir!”

We also trust that our patrons will enter our world and play with us.  We set the stage and invite them in.  I’d like to think that the four teenagers who visited us in the afternoon as the Queen was progressing through the crafter’s guilds will remember how we brought them into the play, asking them to describe what we couldn’t see from behind the loom, over the hedge or behind other patrons.  They got caught up in the drama of the moment, providing us with a running commentary of the dresses of the ladies in waiting and the looks of the courtier’s faces.   They became part of our household for just a few minutes, but they knew that they were part of us.  That is what makes it so much fun to work these faires – bringing the patrons into our world of the 16th century.

So.  Enough words.   Here are some lovely photos from our Villager leader, Mistress Constance Dyer, aka Claudia Laughter.


She caught some of the moments of this faire to share with others.  Enjoy them.  (Here is Claudia’s complete set.  If you are looking for great costume images, this is where you want to go!!)

And remember that you can come and experience this faire next year!

Spinner Margret (aka, Aunt Magaidh)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: