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Missing MD Arrrrrr F: Talking Like a Pirate with the Pyrates Royale and Goodly Woods

Just about a month ago, the Maryland Renaissance Festival would have opened for yet another season. You may have caught my previous post Missing MDRF where I talked to Kim Alexander (Author at Page after Page) and Louie of The London Broil Juggling Show. In Maryland, we’re slowly creeping towards fall, and it just doesn’t seem the same without the Renaissance Festival. With the pandemic still a pervasive problem, the magical living story of Revel Grove will have to wait for another year. Most of my time in recent years has been spent watching my own wee bairns down at the pirate play-yard deep into the forest, but I would love to be there nonetheless. If you are missing it as much as I am, you might still have a small taste of it. For what is known to many as Talk Like a Pirate Day!, I’ve interviewed a few more folks you might want to hear from. So, grab yourself a good drink (possibly in a wooden drinking vessel) and read through these interviews with: Joe of Goodly Woods and the (famous? infamous?) well known Pyrates Royale!

Goodly Woods

One thing that most often goes hand-in-hand with both Renaissance Festivals and Pirates is drinking. I’m sure many Faire-goers are missing their Bee Stings, walking down a Faire lane with a beer in hand, or just sitting down at a tavern for some music and a drink (or three).' If you’re going to be serious about it though, you’ll need a good drinking vessel. You also probably already have a costume (or two), and will want something classy and sturdy to go with it. One of your best choices would be a piece from Goodly Woods. As with many lovingly-crafted items at Renaissance Festivals, you’ll pay a pretty penny, but it will be well worth the price. Their creator, Joe Victor, was kind enough to answer my questions so that you dear readers can bring another touch of Renaissance Festival memories back to your lives for a few moments.

Andy: Can you give a brief history of Goodly Woods and how you started crafting your drinking vessels?

 Joe: Back in my mid-20's, in the mid-'90's,I was fortunate enough to get a job as a luthier at the Santa Cruz Guitar Company in California and was trained to make high-end acoustic guitars. My girlfriend at the time wanted to have a booth at a Renaissance Festival. I had no idea what that was, but she thought perhaps wooden bowls and goblets would be a neat thing to have. I was game, so in my spare time (and with some guitar shop tools) we taught ourselves how to turn wood on a lathe and started making pieces. We applied and got into the Northern and Southern California Renn Fests. That was 28 years ago now. It caught on! I was inspired to continue.

Andy: Can you describe your affiliation with the Maryland Renaissance Festival and the journey that led you to working there?

Joe: I am a woodturner at MDRF. I have my own booth, “Goodly Woods,” that I, and my highly skilled salespeople, sell my wooden mugs and goblets from. After over six years of selling at two California shows, I slowly became aware of the fact that there were actually other Renn Fests around the country! I applied, and got into, the Arizona, Colorado, and Maryland Festivals within about two years of each other. My first year at MDRF was as a guest artist. I brought my treadle lathe (foot powered), set up my booth under a little 12'x12' awning, and carved and sold my wooden cups for two days. It was a blast! I was notified by the festival that they would like me to become a permanent artist at their show. So the following year I bought a booth and moved in!

Andy: Are you still working with other Renaissance Festivals? 

Joe: Besides the Northern and Southern California Renn Fests, which I stopped doing back in 2006, I'm now showing my work yearly at the Arizona, Colorado, and MD Fests exclusively. Each show is amazingly unique within the context of a “Renaissance Faire”.

Andy: What’s your favorite little-known-fact about the Maryland Renaissance Festival or something that makes it “amazingly unique,” as you put it?

Joe: Most Renaissance Faires, in general, have a very large campground to accommodate the many “Road Rennies” who work at the show each year. MDRF, on the other hand, is a bit off the beaten path and most of the workers at this show are from the immediate area. So those of us who come from far away and are fortunate enough to be in the show are a very small, but close-knit group. It's one of the many things that makes the festival special.

The Maryland Festival has an amazing “aura” about it. It's located on a wonderful piece of property that really lets you escape the city that surrounds it. Even living there during the week it feels like a secluded village. Mostly, though, it's the people who visit the festival each weekend. Certainly each week there are thousands of folks who are coming for their first time, and that's always a good time. But even more so, it's the patrons who have been coming year after year, honing in their costumes, watching their favorite shows and music, buying their new favorite mug, hanging out at their favorite bar; people who have become our friends over the years. It's the people and their enthusiasm that make MDRF unique to me.

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

Joe: It's meeting people, talking about my craft, learning about other people and getting to know them. That's my favorite part.

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

Joe: I will miss seeing my friends, many of them I've known since I started 18 years ago.

Andy: I think that's what a lot of people are missing, including the patrons. What artistic ventures have you taken on during the pandemic, and have they been influenced by the absence of the Maryland Renaissance Festival this year?

Joe: I'm playing a bit more music than I usually get to, that's an upside for me. Mainly, though, I've been revamping my online store and making it more appealing: putting, many, many more pieces up for sale. That might not be creative, exactly, but there's certainly a lot of thought that goes into it. Oh, and of course, we haven't slowed down much at the shop turning out new pieces! We're making lots of new things every week and putting them online for our customers to see.

Andy: I’m sure a lot of people are looking forward to seeing those and adding one to their collection. What do you think the future of the Renaissance Festival (and the arts in general) will look like post-pandemic?

Joe: I feel optimistic. I think that once it's safe, people will resume normal activities. Maybe it will take more than just a year for the comfort to come back, but we're social creatures at heart. Festivals, music, art - it's not going away.

Andy: I’m hoping enough people can keep the arts afloat until we reach that time. I know a ton of people who would be crushed if Renaissance Festivals didn't return, both artists and patrons. Do you have a favorite Maryland Renaissance Festival story/blooper?

Joe:  Once upon a time a gentleman came into my booth and really fell for this lovely Walnut and Purpleheart goblet. His only trepidation was the price - it was just a bit too much for him to justify spending. He decided he would let it be and walked away. As is almost always the case, somebody came in after him, fell in love, and bought it. Later that day, the original gentleman came back in, very excited, for he had decided to get this new goblet after all! We broke the news to him gently.

“You don't have another like it?” he asked.
“All our pieces are one-of-a-kind... that was the only one,” we told him... again. We made a grown man cry. Not my proudest moment, but certainly memorable!

Unsurprisingly, when Joe isn’t crafting some of the fine drinking vessels, you can find him making music. You can listen to some of that on his Spotify page. If you want more info on the lovely items Joe and his team have for sale, don’t worry, they’re still crafting and selling them. They’re even providing some behind-the-scenes details and sneak peaks at their items. You can find Goodly Woods on Facebook, Instagram, and their lovely website. Don’t take too long to make your choice, though, or Goodly Woods may make you cry as well!

The Pyrates Royale

In one form or another, the Pyrates Royale have been performing for over thirty years. Never Say Dice was lucky enough to sit down (virtually) with Captain Fletcher Moone, Jack Rackham, Jimmy the Crimp, Wesley Stubbs and Louis the Moor. (Fifi Le BonBon and Jenny Two-fingers must have been on shore leave for the day.)  The Pyrates began their formation in the late '80s when Captain Fletcher Moone and Jack Rackham met at the Maryland Renaissance Festival in Columbia before the location moved to Crownsville. The friends had found roles as a Beefeater and a Welsh mercenary, respectively, using different aliases (as pirates are wont to do). They became fast friends over their shared interests in rugby, Anglophila, and a similar sense of humor. The pair worked for a few years in varying roles and through the move to Crownsville, meeting a few other members of their crew along the way. It was at this point that the Entertainment Director put the bunch of them together as a band and suggested they be pirates. Their strange group has changed names, faces and roles over the years, but the Pyrates have never ceased to exist.

Interviewing a group of rowdy pirates went about how you'd expect interviewing a rowdy group of pirates to go. They were boisterous, foul-mouthed (but somehow only a little), mischievous, funny and just simply fun. In short, they were almost everything you might miss from sitting down at a tavern at a Renaissance Festival. If you haven’t heard their music, I urge you to go give it a chance once you're done reading. It will be well worth your listening. The following is a summary of our interview session with the Pyrates:

On their involvement with Renaissance Fairs
Other than the Maryland Renaissance Festival, the Pyrates Royale have participated at the Virginia Renaissance Fair, Carolina, St. Louis, Florida (FLARF), Georgia, and New York (Sterling, not Tuxedo). However, Maryland is by far their favorite, being their home show and where the group was born. It doesn’t end there, though. The Pyrates recognize the high level of Maryland’s professionalism, their integrity with their treatment of performers and the devoted audience. They give a large amount of credit for this to the ownership of the Maryland Renaissance Festival, the Smith family: three generations of active owners who work to continuously improve the experience for everyone. From building boardwalks to rebuilding bigger and better, stages, the Pyrates will tell you that the Smith Family never rests on their laurels. They feel the love and respect from the family, and the care they bring in keeping prices for tickets and food low, and still paying the performers a decent wage. It's no wonder the Maryland Renaissance Festival is one of the harder shows for an entertainer or vendor to break into.

On what makes the Maryland Renaissance Festival so special:
The core of what makes Maryland Renaissance Festival is, of course, the Smith family, as we’ve heard from others as well as the Pyrates themselves. The other factor the Pyrates and others cite, is the crowds. Maryland is the crowd. When playing their show elsewhere, the Pyrates know that they need to bring more to the table. Maryland brings them a pure love, and they feel it deep within them. The Pyrates attribute this to the pub culture that MDRF has created and fostered in Revel Grove, where every pub is a performance venue with drinking and music going hand-in-hand. Revel Grove is a fully immersive experience, and one the Pyrates feel is done right. The staff, employees, artisans, performers, and customers all come together to make one grand experience.

The grove has this "incredible synergy and connection ... when you walk through those gates, you truly are in a new place. You truly are in a place that doesn't have any connection to anything else in the real world.” It's a feeling that starts even before you enter, with performers outside, and even on the entry gates themselves. Patrons and performers, all dressed up and ready to enter another world. There was a time when, as different characters, the Pyrates had a bit on those very gates. A "seasick" Jimmy the Crimp would have put Gallagher to shame with nothing but some vamping along with friends and a bowl of carrots.

It's also a feeling that carries you right through to the end of the day, with the Pub Sing. Maryland was the first Festival in the country to make this a tradition, and it's a treat that many hold dear, an event described by the Pyrates as “part Prairie Home Companion, part Church on High Holy Day, and part Irish bar on St. Patrick’s Day.” An experience that performers enjoy just as much as the patrons, bringing to performers and patrons together in fellowship and catharsis. The energy and connection you get in one of these moments is special. The Pyrates had one such moment at one of their last 2019 MDRF performances. After a long set at the Globe Theater, they took their bows and said goodnight. Unprompted, the audience began to sing one of the Pyrates' standards that they had neglected to include that day. They demanded an encore; a return to the stage. It was something the Pyrates called “quintessential Maryland.” We missed them, and they knew it. 

On their music:
Asking a group their favorite song to perform live is a loaded question - the band always runs the risk of missing one, skipping a fan favorite, or alienating someone. Of course, everyone has their own opinion, and as the Pyrates Royale will tell you, it can change day to day. Even narrowing it down to a short list is something of an heroic task. Ultimately, some of their favorites include: "Wild Mountain Thyme," "Nelson’s Memory," "Old Uncle," and "Lowlands." This isn’t to say that they aren’t proud of their fan favorites, either. There are always classics you’ll hear at most shows. One of these, "Sailor’s Prayer," is their number one streaming song on Spotify. It's even played as far away from their usual stomping grounds as Italy (but not in Vatican City. Can someone get on that please? Any readers live in the Holy See? It's a "sea" right? There have to be some shanty music fans there.)

You'd think it would be just as difficult for the Pyrates to come up with their ideal act to open for, but you’d be wrong. Always quick with humorous responses, early call-outs for headliners included Justin Bieber and "Weird Al" Yankovic. Though, I don’t know many who wouldn’t love to be on a ticket with Al, joking or not. They were quick to provide serious answers, too, easily naming Fisherman’s Friends and The Longest Johns. They even went so far as to recommend everyone go buy all of The Longest Johns’ work (after buying everything from the Pyrates Royale, of course). They also have a particular fondness for The Decemberists. Working with the group, or more specifically, front-man Colin Meloy would be a dream for them.  

On their pandemic adventures
It would be very difficult for any artist, particularly those who enjoy performing for audiences, to carry on during the times brought on by the pandemic. The Pyrates Royale are no different, having lost all of their typical shows - no Renaissance Festivals, no Pirate Festivals, no contracts. Even rehearsing during this pandemic has to be reserved for those already quarantined together. Losing something you’ve spent decades crafting can be quite a blow, but the Pyrates have carried on. They’ve learned volumes about home studio recording, and have worked on crafting and honing their internet presence. The Pyrates Royale have consolidated and updated their Youtube channel, and upgraded their online swag shop. You can order up a Pyrates Royale facemask from their shop today and learn proper handwashing techniques through sea-shanties on their Facebook page.

All of this doesn’t mean that the group hasn’t been working on new music. They just released a full-length album on August 21 called Several Rounds Later. You can find it for sale on their website, but, as of this writing, they're sold out. They were able to get the live recording done at their last shows in February 2020, over two nights at Waredaca Brewery Taproom. The album features fifteen tracks, with plenty of the Pyrates banter you expect. It was a chance recording, done in front of a crowd of 150 to test out new equipment. You can be sure to find some of the Pyrate Royale magic in this release. The group is also planning another album release soon that they're referring to as the "Quarantine Sessions." It hasn't been easy to record separately, so I’m sure we’re all excited to hear what they’ve been able to accomplish.

Things you might not guess about the festival:
I don’t think it would shock anyone to know that some of the Pyrates Royale's favorite facts involve beer. More specifically, around beer sales. For many years, all the Whatley’s Red Barrel sold over the nine weekends of the festival constituted a significant percentage of their annual North American sales. I guess Marylanders can really drink. That isn’t the only beer record though. According to the Pyrates Royale, MDRF is the number one seller of Samuel Adams products east of the Mississippi for nineteen days every year. Sam Adams executives have even visited the festival to try and make sense of this strangeness, but left still mystified at just how much Marylanders can pack away. 

The Pyrates Royale on Pirating:

If you’ve read the post this far, you're likely already familiar with the annual Talk Like a Pirate Day each September. It was too good an opportunity to not ask for a few tips on acting more pirate-y. Everyone, of course, knows to add a few “ayes” or some extra “arrrr”s to their venacular on this fine day, but the Pyrates Royale were kind enough to give us a few tips and tricks to expand our vocabulary. My favorite suggestion was adding “says I” to the ends of sentences. Imagine being at work and saying: “The reports will be in by 3 pm, says I.” Sure, you might be looked at a little crazier than usual, but you’ll sound that much more like a pirate.

If talking more like a pirate doesn’t suit you, you might try bandying about a few pirate jokes. Interested readers will be able find the raunchier ones on the recording, but here are a few of the friendlier suggestions: "How do pirates know that they are pirates? They think, therefore they 'arrrrr'." If you prefer something a little more colorful try "where does the Captain keep his buccaneers? Underneath his buckin hat!"

What they’d like to say to all of you:
There is almost no place the Pyrates Royale would rather be than performing for the crowds at the Maryland Renaissance Festival. The collegial atmosphere of the entire festival, their connection to the audience, and those special moments that sometimes come from nowhere are a hard thing to give up. They'll tell you “a bad day on stage is better than a lot of amazing days.” Of course, it's the people they all miss the most, and they know how deeply you all miss them (they suggest you get lessons to learn to aim better) and want you to know that they miss you just as much in return. They do fear the loss of another season, but are hopeful that you’ll all do your part in wearing masks (perhaps Pyrates Royale masks?), and that a vaccine will come soon. Do be sure to look for the recording soon to hear it from them. When you do, you'll see and hear their sentiments better than can be conveyed on the page. Louis the Moore even summed up his feelings with a lovely poem. As a parting thought the Pyrates know: It will never be quite the same again, but this too shall pass.

As noted, we’ve paraphrased the interview quite a bit here, but if you want the full story with all of the questions and answers you can look for it to be released soon on the Pyrates Royale Youtube page. 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 Renn Faires and other groups supporting our favorite performers and artisans. One such group you might look into is: Renaissance Entertainers Services and Crafters United. Join Never Say Dice yet again in a few weeks, when we’ll speak with some more friends from the Maryland Renaissance Festival as we close out our series of interviews. (Or keep reading all of our adventures in gaming, storytelling and general nerdery every Saturday.) Don’t forget, you can also catch interviews with Kim Alexander (Author at Page after Page) and Louie of The London Broil Juggling Show on our previous post Missing MDRF.

Until next time, let merriment abound!


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