Looking back

It’s been a day of looking backwards.

My family and I spent the weekend in Colonial Williamsburg. I hadn’t been there since I was a child myself (I believe I dressed as Patrick Henry for Halloween the next year, in 2nd or 3rd grade), and it was good to bring my own children now that we’re living nearby. Still hoping to hit Jamestown and Henricus while we’re in the area. The arms collection in the Governor’s Palace was impressive if monotonous- the Magazine held a bit more variety.

My daughter's a bit blase about weaponry hanging on the walls...

It was also nice to be able to see the gunsmith’s shop (not open every day, but fully functioning, and they do take orders), the blacksmith and jewler’s shop (with some tools not dissimilar to what I used in my experiments with making armour), etc.  We caught three of the fife and drum parades, an experience which (along with bagpipe tattoos) just doesn’t translate properly on to film or video. I’m constantly gathering a mental list of things that just aren’t the same when not in person, with the thought towards applying those to live theatre amongst other things.

On the eve of the revolutionary war, the Americans prepare by playing tin whistles.

I will say this renewed my interest in a proper pair of fencing knickers, especially if they could do double duty as costume- I’m eyeing the ones from Zen Warrior Armoury at the moment, although they’d need some dressing up to serve as costume as well. Doesn’t hurt that everyone I personally know who’s been accidentally stabbed or stabbed someone in stage combat or martial arts has been involved in a wound to the thigh.  Well, doesn’t hurt me yet, anyway.

The trip also served as a good reminder to update my mailing list address with J.A.S. Townsend & Sons.  With the recent work on Les Liaisons Dangerouse, and me slated to choreograph a smallsword fight for Legacy of Light (the next mainstage show at VCU), I have renewed interest in smallsword and that era. I hope to be able to do more with the Martinezs and Jared Kirby at the Paddy Crean (and regret not having taken advantage of my former proximity to the Academia Della Spada). I was able to put together a very condensed, somewhat in-character period fencing lesson for the actors in Liaisons (at their request) and greatly enjoyed that. Might try to do something similar for Legacy.

Williamsburg has been taking some tips from Disney-verse and other theme parks since last I was there; things like the insulated plastic “2010 commemorative mug” with free refills from the drink vendors, etc. The musicians were nice, as were many of the character staff. One thing they lack is an equivalent to the Jedi Academy or Pirate swordfighting academy; sword-fighting lessons for kids- or a sutler’s shop, for that matter. I think a little smallsword-fencing academy for the youngsters would be popular and perfectly in period, yes? Market niche out there for anyone in a position for more of such hustling than I can do in my current position as full time grad student, dad, and supposedly pending acting teacher trying to downplay his stage combat forte in the interests of mainstream hireability.

On more somber note, I just found out about the passing of a favorite author of mine, John Steakley. He only published two novels, but both were great works in my opinion- I’ve lent my copies of both (especially Armor) out many times. I found their portrayal of the subjective experience of combat both gripping and right. I’m sad the only movie portrayal of any of his works was so… wrong. John Carpenter took the first several pages of VAMPIRE$ and then made a completely different (and vastly inferior) story out of them, keeping the title.  I heard a rumor Steakley had been working on a script for Werewolve$, in the same general vein of his Vampire$, but I expect we’ll never see it now.

Speaking of books- anyone have my copies of Amberger’s Secret History of the Sword or Keegan’s the Face of Battle?  Can’t find either of those, and I’ve unpacked all my book boxes now I think. Did I lend them to someone? Was looking for both, and re-reading some others, in preparation for a course I plan to teach at the upcoming Paddy Crean workshop. Incidentally, if you’re shopping for the stage combatant on your holiday list, use those links (or this one for Amazon’s main page) and I’ll get a much appreciated kickback of 1% towards my own future purchases there.

Today would also have been the 70th birthday of Bruce Lee. RIP to a great martial artist, actor, stuntman, and father.


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