[Bards] Re:Bardic and Performing Arts
barrett1 at cox.net
Tue Apr 11 00:25:35 PDT 2006
Hi-ho, Your Excellency,
Thank you for this informative post.
Let me make sure I understand the present situation concerning A&S at
There was no performance category for a war point this year, what may
occur in the future won't allow our entertainers to strive for a war
point, and the reasons given (?) don't strike you as completely
I have to admit, I sense no dismissal or malice in this.
I rather suspect that, as has been the case for years, no one has any
idea what to do with the performers of the SCA. Ansteorra is not alone
in this struggle. It seems there is a sense of bewilderment when asked
to compare an Elizabethan dress with an Elizabethan sonnet, yet the
current mind frame in the SCA asks our A&S community to do just that.
Frankly, I sympathize. I'd hate to have that sort of decision sitting
in front of me.
The choice to lump performance in with all the other arts surprises me
for that very reason. I'm a performer, and I can tell you right now
that if my strongest, most historically accurate story was up against a
quality lost-wax cast brooch, I'd put my money on the brooch every
time. The specifics of the brooch are far easier to grasp and define on
paper. "Wow, Finnacan, great stor.. Ooooo! Look at this brooch!"
The brooch will go to war via Kingdom A&S, for understandable reasons.
I'm of two minds about this. First of all, I'm sick of competition in
general. I understand that local groups want to support performance at
their events, but it needn't be a contest every single time. It gets to
the point that you enter a competition and see that the only audience
aside from the judges are the other local bards and poets. Everybody
nods at each other and bets are placed as to who will be the lucky one
this time around. I can say with absolute conviction that the most
extraordinary performances I have heard, and some of my better moments,
have occurred around a campfire, pavilion or tavern with no competition
at all. Oftentimes, a bardic circle doesn't really shine until the
'official' competition is over and the performers deliver pieces with
more spirit. And yes, those types of performances are period or period
style more often these days. Most of us didn't become performers to
"win" anyway, but to entertain the best we could.
I'd almost rather there were request nights and open stages, arranged
shows with a schedule hosted by the local brewers, Soup and Songs with
Ferdiad the Feastocrat, something.
(I find particularly ironic that bards and minstrels are given little
else but competitions at home yet now are not welcome to struggle for
their kingdom at war).
However, people like their titled bards. Bards like the wordfame (it
is a requirement for the job) and the largesse that comes with it. So I
suppose I'll never see this competitiveness die off, and it isn't all
So I come to my second line of thought on this.
Could it be that as the SCA has grown over the decades, the category of
A&S has become too undefined and murky to truly define the many crafts
practiced in our game? I'm curious as to why performance wasn't kept
separate from the more physical arts. If anything, I think it should
have been categorized even further, into fields like poetry, prose,
singing, musical instrument and other (magic, puppetry, dance). Who
wants to compare a lute player with a reciter of Beowulf? As the SCA
improves each year, more and more people are getting away from the "SCA
Bard" and are concentrating more on what was appropriate for their
chosen persona. Skalds are reciting sagas, minstrels are singing love
songs, courtiers are reciting sonnets and seanachies like me are
telling old irish stories. The performance judging form was a step in
the right direction in my opinion, though I think many judges had no
idea what score to give in the categories on that form other than
"Documentation". Why? Simple. I can read and evaluate documentation.
The other stuff? Ehhh, well, it had a beat and I can dance to it...
Thus the need for more performance judges. Unfortunately, most are
So while performers began to focus on more accuracy in their
performance, judges unfamiliar with performance began to focus on
documentation as the final arbiter. Documentation is an important skill
in my mind, but it was being used to replace a real evaluation of
performance. So it seems that we are taking steps backward, not
forward. It is my opinion, and mine only, that comparing the so-called
static arts to the performing arts is like comparing archery to
waterbearing. Both require accuracy and devotion, but the similarities
end there. Keeping them separate is fair to both poet and potter, and
judging becomes less of a mystery, especially if the judge is also a
If one of my responsibilities as a storyteller is to speak truth to
power, I will say this. I want the landed nobles and the current royals
(Their Majesties and Their Highnesses) to invite performers to
entertain them in intimate settings, not in the middle of court. We
tend to follow the banners lifted by our nobles, so I say we convince
them to host circles and shows. I wanna see the King (better yet, the
Queen) at Gulf War host an Ansteorran 'Revel of Roses' or
'Minstrelfest', with formal invites to the other royals and performers
of the various kingdoms for a grand night of entertainment. If we can't
strive for the war point, we can at least honor and entertain those who
can with one heck of a show every year.
Well... there went an hour of my life.
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