Friday, March 9, 2018

Story Telling Alternative History

"Like to a friar bold Robin Hood
disguised himself one day,
with beads, gown, hood and crucifix
he passed upon the way."

Ah! Well met, traveler! Welcome ye to Camlann. We be Bawdry and Bliss, mynstrels come at Lord Geoffry's gracious invitation to these jousts and festivities.  Why Bawdry and Bliss say you? For we sing each in near equal measure - ballads of courtly love and fine deeds - as well as tales clever maidens pitting their wits against the lecherous - all for your enjoyment and edification.

I wish I had the photos that are currently buried in the storage unit so I could prove that not so long ago, I lived a life as a medieval minstrel in an English village circa 1374. And though I was born a noble woman, and the sumptuary laws of the land required I dress as such, the lead minstrel, Roger of Glastonbury, had accepted my kinsmans' charge to escort me to Lord Geoffry's court where I would take my place as a companion to his own young wife. Though it was not at all proper for me to do something as common as perform with a group of minstrels, when Roger discovered I'd learned all the songs and could even carry a tune, I often sang  in places where no word would ever reach my father's court, even though, I wore the petticoats, fine silken coat and rich velvet surcoat of my station. When we arrived at Camlann, Lord Geoffry's lady was so pleased by the music, no fuss was made over the potential ruin of my virtue and reputation. A willing knight with a musical bent petitioned Lord Geoffry for my hand and in the midst of late summer festivals, we were wed. Roger of Glastonbury settled in Camlann and became hosteler of the Bors Hede Inne. Thomas and Michela vanished into the countryside, still singing, though they do return to Camlann come the feast days. And we do once again sing of Robin Hood's Golden Prize.

So there you go. Though it wasn't writing, per se, working at Camlann Medieval Village was keeping oral history. For that was a minstrel's main purpose during medieval times when precious few people could read or write. The songs, ballads, morality tales and recitations of brave and noble deeds were the libraries of the day. And for me, when I auditioned for the living history village outside of Seattle, getting hired into the cast sent me on a multiyear journey into making history live. I really *shouldn't* have been in a noble woman's clothes, but Roger (really the name of the man who runs the educational society that is Camlann) was short cast members and needed me to act as one of the noble ladies during the fights. We simply didn't have time for a costume change before I had to be on stage with Bawdry and Bliss to sing. So we concocted an elaborate story explaining it and worked it for years. 

The difference was that while I could make up whatever stories I wanted as an actor in the village, when we sang, we were performing other peoples' stories. It was still story telling. My noble woman's story took on enough of a life of its own that I even started writing it down at one point. Don't know that it will ever see the light of day. Mostly because I learned useless stuff like 'ye, thee, and thou' are singular - only referring to one person, while 'you' was plural - only referring to groups of people. Those rules are still in my head and I'd write that way. Plenty of critique partners have informed me that no one wants to have to read that. So maybe my noble minstrel will just stay in 1374.