Pennsic 43, part 3: Ain’t We Sexy?

Took a while, I know. But it’s time for the final part of my 3-part reflections from last month’s Pennsic War.

So: “Ain’t We Sexy?” The great thing about Pennsic, as an extension of the SCA in general, is that, like other large-scale events, it showcases collaboration and teamwork, because it requires so much of it for anything to happen. My personal theme this Pennsic, I came to realize, was “belonging”, and I got to experience belonging. I got to see close-at-hand, and participate in, more of the making-it-happen than I ever have before this war. I am profoundly grateful for the opportunities to learn from and help to whatever degree all these amazing groups of people.

  • Performing Arts Tent crew: The incredible dedication of this group of people was a constant source of inspiration. The PA Tent is the centerpiece for a particular kind of performance magic at Pennsic: large-scale stage shows. This thing is a theater/concert hall inside of, well, a big tent: for my mundane friends, picture a modest version of a Cirque du Soleil tent. Now imagine having to set up and break down a week-long series of shows in such a tent, but with only volunteer labor and minimal budget. Not just the setup and the breakdown, but support for a week-plus of perfomances–different ones every single day and night: Commedia, storytelling, a capella singing, full-scale acoustic bands, and stage plays. Plus the seats get borrowed by the surrounding classrooms constantly when classes are over capacity and the Tent isn’t full and need to be recovered. And while there’s no sound system, there are modern lighting boards on stands–a compromise so that audiences can enjoy these shows until 11 pm or so each night. All of this has to be done as seamlessly, safely, and rapidly as possible. I was immensely proud to be a small part of this group of volunteers, and to see what they were able to achieve under Lorelei Skye’s tireless leadership. (I also was glad to be part of the conspiracy to write her in for a service award, which Their Majesties of the Midrealm presented to her at the next event after Pennsic. Go team.)
  • Bardic Collegium: I owe a debt to this institution I can never repay. Two years ago, when I decided I wanted to pursue a bardic career, I came to the recently-revived Bardic Collegium looking to become part of the bardic community. I was honored when Llewelyn asked me to take it over for this year, but wasn’t willing to do it unless I had a partner, and Widow Kate felt the same way. With Llewelyn’s and Lorelei’s guidance, Kate and I planned topics, roped in panelists, and heavily promoted this year’s Collegium. The result blew me away. High-profile panelists from all over cheerfully offered to lead the discussions, and did not disappoint. We filled A&S Classroom 9 to capacity each day, and had lively and richly informative discussions on varied topics for the bardic community. I learned an enormous amount, and relish the chance to build on what I learned this year. (Mea culpa: I set a goal for myself of kicking off the conversations and shutting up, particularly since I have a terrible habit of talking over people sometimes when I get caught up in the moment. I am aware that I fell short of this goal, and that I got progressively worse about it as the week wore on. I wasn’t a monster, but I fell short, and I will endeavor to do better at it when Kate and I run it next year.)
  • Bardic Exhibition: For a second year, I got to help Lorelei make a three-hour exhibition of bardic excellence happen. Thank you, Lorelei, for bringing this back, and for stretching me into more of an organizational role. I really enjoyed helping to run it. Thank you, Kateryn Draper, for lending your time, energy, and critical eye to the schedule, without which we couldn’t have made it work. Thank you to all the performers who performed–you were brilliant! Thank you particularly to the handful of performers who graciously agreed to pass on their performances to make space for others when time issues came up. (I’m pleased to acknowledge that I did not fall short of my responsibilities here, and recognized that I needed to yield my time slot, as did Lorelei.) Looking forward to doing it all again next year, with a new head organizer–can’t wait to find out who steps up for it.
  • Bardic Community: It’s an amorphous thing, this community of largely solo performers, and yet it is unquestionably a thing, and a thing I’m thrilled to be part of. There is camaraderie and generosity and warmth in this ever-changing circle, and I’m glad to see it growing and welcoming more new talent. I was especially pleased by two particular developments this year:
    1. The return of several luminaries active participation this war, of whom I’d heard, but had not had the chance to meet or to see in performance. I didn’t see all of them perform, but I was glad to have at least brief conversation with so many. You know who you are (and I’m a little intimidated to enumerate, for fear of forgetting someone–I know, this from me, right? But there it is).
    2. The development of new organizers and leaders in the community this year. I’m proud to be in their number, so I’ll own that, but as Lorelei sagely reminded me, no one of us can do all of this by ourselves. This is a generational process, and a generation in the SCA, particularly in a large-scale undertaking like Pennsic, is only a matter of a few years. We had new daytime exhibitions this year, we had teachers for the bardic track. We have new faces indicating they’re open to step up for next war. This is what makes our thing happen at Pennsic, and I’m really excited to see the ranks grow. Thank you.
  • Dione Sidhe: My family was invited to be part of a full camp this year. We bought a new tent, and participated in the full “living at Pennsic” thing. That involved having enough of our own stuff there that I never stepped offsite from the time we set up tent to the time we broke it down, but it also involved being part of a camp family. This was not without its challenges–those of you who experienced the unusual early storms can attest that setup took longer than normal this year. This was our first time there for setup. But for me, and Jess, and Spencer, it was the first time having an extended family, and shared chores and responsibilities, at the war. For all the difficulties, it was wonderful to belong.

Ain’t we sexy? Damned sexy, I say. Thank you, everyone.

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