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Missing MDRF

The Maryland Renaissance Festival has been an annual tradition in my life for about 30 years now. I started visiting when my family would take me as a kid not too long after the Festival move to Crownsville. If you haven’t been, the English village of Revel Grove is a magical place with many permanent shops and stages spread over a vast 27-acre forest. It's a living story. They’ve weathered mud, hurricanes, and even opened the weekend following 9/11. This season though, the pandemic has forced them to close until August 2021. If you, like me, visit the Renaissance Festival frequently, or even if you only go on occasion, I’m sure you miss the sights, sounds, smells, and people as much as I do. This year, since we cannot visit Revel Grove, maybe Never Say Dice can bring a piece of the story to you at home. I’ve spent the past few weeks interviewing various shops, performers and workers from the Festival. I’ll be sharing their thoughts with you, and give you the opportunity to support them, even though it can’t be in person. For this post, you’ll be hearing from: Kim Alexander (Author at Page after Page) and Louie of the London Broil Juggling Show.


Kim Alexander - Page After Page - 

If you’ve been by Page After Page to purchase a book or two, you may have had the opportunity to meet some of the authors featured there and get a signed copy. Author Kim Alexander has an epic fantasy series,and a paranormal romance series (that can be purchased through links on her website) that fit right in. Kim has been working with Vicki and Thomas of Page After Page since 2016, after finding a post that they were soliciting new authors. I was lucky enough to chat with her about her work and the time she has spent at the Maryland Renaissance Festival and Page After Page.

Andy: What’s your favorite little-known-fact about the Maryland Renaissance Festival?

Kim: I was really taken aback by the enormous amount of activity behind the scenes. I think there may be more going on backstage than in the fair itself. It never occurred to me that the workers actually live on site during season.

Andy: What do you think makes the Maryland Renaissance Festival unique? 

Kim: Everyone—from the shop keepers to the rat catchers—are absolutely lovely and they all work so hard! And of course the setting—Revel Grove is a magical place. One of my friends was a new Fair attendee, and he told me he was expecting tents set up in a field. He couldn’t believe it turned out to be essentially a small and very charming city.

Andy: What’s your favorite part of working with the Maryland Renaissance Festival?

Kim: As a fantasy writer (and working with the only bookstore) it’s extremely gratifying when fair-goers stop by, take one look, and decide to buy a book (or two, or three—or more.) I’ve had people visit me every year to get the next book in my series, and others who buy my entire catalogue on the spot. I’m just a small potatoes author and that feeling is beyond price. Last year, Thomas and Vicki helped me celebrate the launch of the final book in that series with cake and champagne. Even though I only see them once a year they truly made me feel like family, and I’m really going to miss them and their wonderful staff this fall.

Andy: Aside from your own participation, what will you miss most about the Maryland Renaissance Festival this year?

Kim: I had the luxury of sitting in one spot and watching all the costumed folks go by, and it’s kind of awe inspiring. So much work goes into those costumes. Also I’ll miss the chance to add to my collection of faire goodies—I always find something unique and beautiful. Last year it was a shot glass with an extraordinary fused glass squid curled around it. You won’t find that at Crate and Barrel. And that adds to my worry that craftspeople who make things like my squid glass won’t be able to survive without the income from a whole season.

As you can tell, Kim misses meeting you all and her time at the Maryland Renaissance Festival, much like the rest of us. She fears that we all won’t be able to meet again until after a vaccine is developed (hopefully soon.) However, she dreams that it comes out soon, and that this all evaporates like the ghost of a bad dream. She also implores you all: Wear a mask and VOTE! 

If you’d like to support Kim, you can find her books on her website: https://kimalexanderonline.com/wp/ or by finding her Amazon author page.

You can also find Kim on Facebook or Instagram (especially if you want to see pictures of her cats and garden) under Kim Alexander.

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Louie - The London Broil 

Have you ever had the chance to digest The London Broil? If not, you’re missing a fantastic professional juggling trio whose show is never quite the same twice. When the Maryland Renaissance Festival is going on, you’re likely to find them at the Royal Fox Theater. If you’re in the core audience, you’re likely already saying “hruh” and making a slight thrusting motion right now. I’ll wait for you to stop. Thank you. The London Broil originated at the Maryland Renaissance Festival in the early 90s when members Ducan and Louie met as part of the Young Actors Ensemble. Through the drama club at Arundel Senior High (go Wildcats!), they met Matt, got to know each other, and the trio was formed. After a brief hiatus, they spent fifteen busy years of juggling life on the road, taking their show on the Renaissance Festival and college circuits. When Ducan retired around 6 years ago, the team brought on friend and fellow juggler A.J. and updated the act around him. The show may be different now, but it is still hysterical and inspiring. Louie offered himself as sacrifice to my onslaught of juggling show-related questions, and I couldn’t be more thankful for his kind and humorous responses.

Andy: What’s your favorite little-known-fact about the Maryland Renaissance Festival? 

Louie: I don’t know if I should tell you guys this. There are three bodies buried on site, just kidding, it’s only one.

Andy: I guess that explains where Duncan really went. Do you have experience with other Renaissance Festivals?

Louie: Yes - we have been traveling on the road for twenty years! Arizona, Texas - Scarborough Faire, Colorado, Minnesota, Georgia, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York - Sterling, and North Carolina.

Andy: What do you think makes the Maryland Renaissance Festival unique?

Louie: Maryland is the best-run festival on circuit. The management is unique and a joy to work with. Both the Smith family and other staff. They do a lot of what other festivals do, but just better and with integrity. We are a hired independent contractor with the Maryland Renaissance Festival. We go through the casting director who is the best in the country. Carolyn, she's really good. No nonsense, no nonsense. Great business. We put in a proposal, get contracted and then we sign a contract and the money gets split off. We get so much per day in that sort of situation. That's how that contracting works at almost all major festivals. We're a hired show; We're hired guns, but they care about you.

They care about you, but they're also business. So you give them that. It's like the most respected, and you can actually see that implemented and delivered at that festival, how they treat their customers and how they treat us as acts; how they treat their characters. It is a respect that goes back and forth. You know that if they're telling you to do something, you're going to do it because you've seen them follow through. They handle everything so well at Maryland.

Andy: What’s your favorite part of working with the Maryland Renaissance Festival?

Louie: The audiences. We love to perform non-hat shows for smart people! I think we connect with them so well because we grew up here too. (AJ is from Minnesota, but that is still an M name state - so it works.)

Andy: Aside from your own participation, what will you miss most about the Maryland Renaissance Festival this year?

Louie: I miss hearing the crowds show up, I miss seeing all the smiles and happy people being together in the woods. I miss, and it is odd, but I miss the audiences in two different ways. First, because performing for the Maryland Festival is some of the best audience, I grew up here. I have the same pace as people here. We have the same cultural polls as far as them. We know what's going on. We have the same grocery stores. We have the same sort of things in this little pocket of the East Coast. The Maryland crowds being quick on the uptake is so wonderful.

Then, it is also not doing a show like a lot of shows we do. Often in other places, we pass the hat at the end and it's just a little different. I wouldn't even say in a negative way, but just how you structure the show. In how you play the game a little bit short on show business. I’m going to miss having the audiences here that just get it and are ready to sit down and enjoy theatre. 

Andy: What other artistic ventures have you taken on during the pandemic, and have they been influenced by the absence of the Maryland Renaissance Festival this year?

Louie: I have had time to put into what I just started last year with my brother: A gaming art and artefacts company called LittlEmpire. I have also had time to work on my drawing classes channel: Level Up With Louie. I also have a few books on DMsGuild that I did with my buddy Jimmy Meritt. Jimmy is a comedian and the first person I’ve ever paid to Dungeon Master a D&D session.The collaboration is going very well.

Matt has started a great podcast called “Tales from the Public Domain” - it is really fun. He reads public domain books with his girlfriend and they talk about them. If you miss Matt’s voice and humor, this is for you. I recommend you check it out.

Andy: What do you think the future of the Renaissance Festival (and the arts in general) will look like post-pandemic?

Louie: I think we are going to come back slowly and then have some great shows next year. People will be a little trepidatious at first, but I can see record crowds at some shows depending on the timing next year - people are ready to escape to fantasy land. Our next show will probably be (hopefully) Arizona in February/March. I don't know if that's going to happen. Honestly, I'm going 50/50 right now with how we're running things.

Andy: What was your last show? Did Arizona happen this year?

Louie: Yes. We were there for six weeks. Then they closed it down at the sixth weekend. Then we had to kind of get out of there.

Andy: How did getting out of there go?

Louie: We had a pretty good exodus out of there. Everyone did all right packing up. We're all kind of used to packing up and getting to another theater in one week. I would imagine it is like a circus that way. There are still people who I know still have trailers there. I have my trailer there. I go to my next place or my home or whatever, but I still might have to go back and get my trailer and do something. It lives there though, and it is having it’s best life right now.

Andy: Do you have any tips for people interested in juggling?

Louie: I would say there's a lot of great videos online. Check out the International Jugglers Association. They have videos and they are a whole association about jugglers. They also sometimes have juggling classes or juggling get-togethers. You're going to see people who juggle and hang out with people who juggle. Other than that, it's about the rhythm and timing and relaxing with it. I think that's the biggest thing. Drop your shoulders, relax and make a nice one, two, three rhythm. Start with just two objects. Work your way out, watch a couple of videos, sleep on it. It's important to learn a little muscle memory, and then sleep so your brain can work on it. Finally, just stick with it.

Andy: Do you have a favorite Maryland Renaissance Festival blooper?

Louie: Our whole show is bloopers! It’s always funny when someone gets hit on the head with a club. For the audiences and for us. We’re messing around up there and we’re trying to just be in the live experience that is being made. Even though we have lines in a script, we want it to be with the audience and with everybody there. It becomes a real live thing that can only happen once.

The London Broil misses all of their fans greatly and can’t wait to get back to performing for us. From Louie to all of you reading this: Everything is going to be ok, and we will see you next year.

If you want to support The London Broil Show (Louie, Matt and AJ), check out the following links: 

www.facebook.com/TheLondonBroilShow/
www.TheLondonBroilShow.com

www.twitch.tv/LevelUpWithLouie
www.LittlEmpire.com
DMsGuild

Tales from the Public Domain

Camp Juggle Monster

Don’t forget that you can often find your favorite performers and artisans online. Supporting their work directly through their websites is important in these times. You can also check Facebook for Virtual Rennfair and other groups supporting our favorite performers. Join Never Say Dice again in a few weeks when we’ll speak with some more friends from the Maryland Renaissance Festival. (Or keep reading all of our adventures in gaming, storytelling and general nerdery every Saturday.)

Until then, let merriment abound!

-A

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