Issue #108 shipped on January 26, 2017
Denise Goodson—Notorious Madam Red
Denise Goodson, a 52-year-old paralegal from Overland Park, Kansas, started performing at renaissance festivals when she was 17 years old. She immediately knew she was addicted to that quirky ambience that enables artists to … interact one-on-one with patrons. She became a ren performer after deciding to audition to be a street character at the Kansas City Renaissance Festival (KCRF) in 1981, and in 2015 completed her 35th season with that same show.
Diamonds Are Forever
Believed to possess magical powers, emissaries of good and bad fortune, used as pawns in intrigue, collateral in wars, gifts to sweeten proposed political marriages, and put to work industrially, they have come to surpass all precious stones in value. Yet for centuries, diamonds were scarce and less desirable to Western Europeans than more costly, accessible gems such as pearls.
Making Bulrush Chairs
Since the dawn of civilization, the very act of sitting in an elevated fashion off the ground raised us humans both physically and mentally from our brethren in the animal kingdom … Luckily for the work-worn majority whose weary bones demanded a modicum of comfort, Europe’s epic awakening from the Dark Ages ushered forth the Renaissance, and by the 15th century chairs with rush-woven seats were among countless other household objects that became more accessible to the common man.
Renaissance Faire Footwear
Finding footwear that looks renaissance-era appropriate while also offering the support and comfort of a modern-day shoe has always been a challenge for performers and patrons alike. Compared to the dresses, doublets, and capes on display at most faires and festivals, shoes tend to go unnoticed, which makes the task of finding the right shoe a somewhat ambiguous quest.
The Hard Life of a Strolling Player
The English word “stroll” came into use in the late 16th century. It comes from German “Strolchen,” “to roam as a vagrant”; and indeed the life of a traveling player was a stroll in name only. In 16th-century England actors were widely despised. Meeting one of his social “betters” along a narrow street, an actor was expected to step aside, fouling his shoes and hose in the gutter. A 1545 act of Parliament declared any unlicensed actor to be a vagabond, liable to be put in the stocks or even branded.
The Sin Eater: Pariah of the Middle Ages
Funeral rituals are as wide-ranging and complex throughout the world as the peoples performing them, and the Middle Ages had its own quirks when Death came knocking. In the old Celtic lands, especially Scotland, Wales and England, one of those rites performed in the country villages and more remote areas was the responsibility of the sin eater. The sin eater was called before burial of the deceased to absolve his sins so the dead might gain entrance into Heaven. The sin eater took the dead person’s lifetime of sins into himself, thus leaving the soul free of any stain.