Friend a Day – Ronn Bauman
I’ve known Ronn since I was assistant Artistic Director at the Arizona Festival in 1996. I knew of him prior to that time but I don’t think we actually met.
We only see each other seven weekends a year and we are both too busy to spend any time together. Most interactions we have are a quick two sentence exchange in the morning or a conversation via Facebook.
Such is friendship with someone on the circuit.
Ronn is a member of the very Tortuga Twins. They are one of the most popular acts at the Festival and I have never actually seen them perform. Too many conflicts.
What I know from watching them at other times and from talking to him about their shows is this: their comic timing is absolutely stellar and the attention to their writing is admirable. I don’t think they feel they are owed anything by their audience. They know that every dollar in their hat is earned and they work hard to earn each and every one.
Ronn and I have bonded a bit over shared opinions on Religion, politics, vaccines, conspiracies, and homeopathy. Among other things.
He’s not afraid to invite debate about touchy subjects. Nor is he afraid to express his opinion on those subjects. In that way, he is a lot like me.
He exudes confidence that should never be mistaken for cockiness. Being confident is the sign of a professional who knows what he is doing. Cockiness is the sign of someone who wants to be a professional but doesn’t know what he is doing.
Ronn writes about his daughter a lot and is clearly very invested in his role as a dad. Raising a child while travelling around the country is a challenge that he seems to have embraced in a way I respect and admire.
He’ll be rolling into town in a couple of weeks and we’ll have our all too brief exchanges once again. Such is the nature of the community we share.
It’s pretty awesome and at the same time, a little bit disappointing.
Friend a Day – Jim Cunningham
I’ve known Jim ever since I started working at the Renaissance Festival. He is well known to many as the master of the Feast of Fantasy now but when I first met him, he was a member of an act call the Comedy Troupe. Every member of that act was supremely talented.
What I enjoy about working with Jim is how generous he is to the performers who come to work on his stage. He is always conscious of our time constraints and always thanks us for our performance. I can’t even tell you how enjoyable it is to work with someone that professional.
A few years ago, there was a decision to start doing Vilification Tennis themed feasts and we went in having a clear expectation that we were to be doing extremely blue material. Unfortunately, the audience didn’t have the same expectation. The results were less than spectacular. I think the word “disaster” would be more appropriate.
We sat with Jim after the show and there was no anger. No finger pointing. Instead there was talk about how we were going to fix the problem for the second feast. There was no question that we were partners in finding a solution.
Whenever I hear Jim on the Radio or at a Twins game, I smile because I know him and he doesn’t just sound like a nice guy, he is a nice guy.
Jim is one of the hardest working people I know. I don’t know how many projects he has going at a time but there is always one more. He is in demand because he is one of the best.
He’s relentlessly positive. He always sees the best in others. He never focuses on the negative. To focus on the best in yourself and those around you is a talent that may be better than all the others he possesses.
I’m truly fortunate to have crossed paths with Jim. He’s one of the great ones.
Friend a Day – Jena Young
I’ve known Jena for something close to all of her life. She’s been at the festival almost as long as I have. Maybe longer.
Jena is working on something all of the time. She has a remarkably eclectic skill set that makes her valuable in almost any situation. I don’t know of a time I’ve thought “this is something Jena can’t do.”
When something comes up at the last minute, she is not one to back away from the challenge. Given just a couple of weeks to prepare, she wrote and performed a solo show at the Minnesota Fringe last year. On the Rarig Proscenium.
If you’ve ever been inside the Rarig Proscenium, you should know that performing a solo show on that stage is something only a crazy person would want to do.
Jena is not crazy. She is driven and she is willing to take chances that may or may not pay off because she knows that she will get something valuable out of the experience either way.
We’ve been recording A Reel Education together for about a year now and that has been a lot of fun. She brings that fresh perspective to every movie and it is a lot of fun. The biggest challenge, though, is fitting podcast recordings into her schedule that is filled with rehearsals.
You have to respect someone who is working in theater all the time. She is always finding projects that are interesting and different.
Somehow, she manages to do all of this while also being a single mom. I don’t usually talk about parenting in my Friend a Day posts but the thing is, Jena is very present as a parent and as someone trying to strike that theater/kid balance, I admire and respect her efforts in that regard. I’m fortunate to have a partner to share that load. She doesn’t have that.
Jena is hard working and dedicated and I think that work pays off in all sorts of ways. Time with Jena is always time well spent.
Friend a Day – Eddie Jeff Cahill
I’ve known Eddie Jeff since 1996 when we sang “Wild Rover” together. Mutual friend Terry Foy was looking for someone to play the song and he asked a big group if anyone knew the song. Both of us knew the song so we performed it together.
Two days later, we got sent out on a promotional event as a music act. We barely knew each other but we sounded pretty good together. Good enough to fool our audience, anyway. He knew a lot more songs than I did but I could play along and I’m pretty fast at figuring out the lyrics to a chorus.
Because he’d been around Renaissance Festivals all his life, I assumed he knew “Ramblin’ Rover” so I asked him if he wanted to sing it. “Sure,” he said.
So I started singing the song and he would cheerfully sing the last syllable of every verse. Finally I stopped and looked at him and said “you don’t know this song at all, do you?”
“Not a lick,” he replied.
The audience loved it.
We’ve played music together, off an on, ever since.
Eddie Jeff is an absolutely great guitar player and he has a fantastic singing voice. He spends most of his life on the road, travelling from gig to gig. It’s a tough life but one that, I think, makes him happy most of the time.
He’s got the unique ability to be able to work with just about anyone. If you can carry a tune, he’ll be able to carry it with you.
The most talented people I know are also the most generous with their talent. Eddie Jeff is the embodiment of that. He is so remarkably good and yet he will share the stage with anyone.
I don’t spend nearly enough time around him these days because he goes where he can make the most money and that is not, unfortunately, the Minnesota Festival.
Any time I can be around him, though, is a treat. He’s a great talent and a great person.
Friend a Day – Nan Miller
I don’t know how long I’ve known Nan. We’ve both been with the Renaissance Festival for a long time now.
Nan is the director of the Court Revelers at the festival and the amount of work she must put into that job is amazing. They are a large ensemble and their cast changes every year. Just the idea of needing to train in new members every single season gives me nightmares.
That the revelers have been able to maintain a very high standard with that turnover is a credit to all of them but especially the leadership Nan provides. She has very high standards but it still looks like they are having fun when they perform.
She also does many of the arrangements of their music, which impresses me because I don’t read music and because of that, it seems like it must be incredibly difficult. I’m pretty sure it actually is incredibly difficult.
She’s got a commitment to performing that, I think, echoes my own. We both believe that we are out at the festival to entertain and that means we are on stage when the cannon goes off in the morning and we are still there when it goes off in the evening. That is the deal and it is a deal she keeps that deal each day of the season.
Nan has been one of my regular Sunday night dinner companions for the last several seasons. We get together and laugh at the stories from the weekend while ignoring how tired and sore we all look and feel.
Every one of the people who take part in that ritual are special. The weekend doesn’t feel over until we all recap it over dinner. There is a lot more laughter than anything else.
The Renaissance Festival has shaped most of my friendships for the last thirty years. I’m pleased that Nan is one of those friendships.
Friend a Day – Jody Wurl
I’ve known Jody from my earliest days at the Renaissance Festival. She started – I think – two years after me.
Jody has such a wealth of knowledge about books especially. I think at least half of the speculative fiction books in my home are here based on her recommendation. When we were younger, I’d read any book she put in front of me because she always made good suggestions.
She has always struck me as someone who is searching for joy in her life, even when there is sorrow. She strives to find the best in life and even when she stumbles, she finds a way to return to that place of happiness.
I’ve watched her do so many things well over the years, it is staggering. She is a great dancer, a great librarian, a great street performer, and now she is working on improv and I’m sure she is going to be great at that. She probably already is – I just haven’t had a chance to watch her.
Family has always been so important to her. She is always talking about her sisters and her nieces and always making time for them. I can tell how much it means to her that her family is part of her life.
When it comes to details, she is so much better than I am. When I talk about her wealth of knowledge, I can’t even believe how much information she just remembers. The two of us work in the same department for CONvergence and thank goodness for that because if it was only me, none of the information would be retained.
She’s told me some hard truths over the years. They weren’t always easy to hear. I didn’t always react to them well. But the sign of a good friend is someone who tells you hard truths. They tell them to you because they care about you and they want to help you grow.
Jody has always been a friend who helped me grow. I’m lucky that we have remained friends for so long.
Putting it Together – Tipping
I’ve been thinking a lot about tipping as The Dregs have been performing at Siouxland Festival this weekend.
Every act that asks for tips has to figure out a way to convince the audience to dig into their pocket. Every theater that produces shows has to convince the audience to not only buy a ticket but to hopefully support the theater in other ways because it is almost impossible to meet your budget with ticket sales alone.
Asking for money feels unnatural and it can be difficult but when it comes to tipping a server, most of us do it without even giving it a second thought.
I’ve been a server and I’ve been a performer and here’s what I know: being a performer takes more time and is a lot more difficult.
Serving is a hard job and I completely support tipping a server 15 percent or better. It is completely fair. I usually tip 20 percent.
It startles me, though, that people who will almost unconsciously give a server $10 will have difficulty reaching into their pocket to give a musician a dollar.
Contemplate that for a moment. Think about the amount of work it took someone to learn how to play that instrument. And then the amount of time it took them to learn to play that song. In the case of The Dregs, we often wrote the song ourselves.
And someone will watch a musician (or a juggler or a dancer) and find that their effort isn’t worth a dollar.
I don’t resent people who don’t tip performers. I simply don’t understand them. I don’t think they get it.
Friend a Day – Melissa Kaercher
I knew Melissa before I really knew her. I ran into her at GE, where we both worked at the time and I recognized her from the Renaissance Festival and CONvergence. I believe I said something to the effect of “is there anywhere you aren’t?”
That’s a good question for Melissa overall because it does seem like she is everywhere and doing everything. She attends several conventions a year, she is on a bunch of podcasts (one of them with me), and she is part of no small number of other creative endeavors. The answer to my question, it would seem, is no.
We first bonded over a mutual love of movies. She’s seen all of them and I have seen many, but considerably less than her. She proceeded to provide me with title after title that I “needed” to see and she was, of course, always right.
She’s an expert at navigating social situations. She makes friends easily and often. If she’s met anyone she didn’t like, she keeps that information to herself.
Instead, she is constantly sharing her home for any number of events – usually associated with movies. She truly enjoys sharing her passion with others whenever there is a chance to do so.
When is comes to the projects we work on together, she has a tendency to be the one who keeps the rest of us organized and on task. She has a knack for that sort of thing. The Smackdown panel would not take place without her constantly goading Christopher Jones and I to do our jobs.
Melissa also has a knack for design and she’s helped me out on several occasions with art for Vilification Tennis or a logo for one of my many projects (the logo for Geeks Without God is one of hers).
The creativity that she shows in putting together things like Judging a Book or Killer B’s is remarkable. More remarkable, she does it without any expectation of recognition for what she has done. Instead, she does it because she thinks it is a fun idea.
The energy that she brings to everything she does is amazing. I’m glad to know Melissa simply because she is an example of someone who is squeezing everything she can out of life.
She blogs over at Tin Lizard Productions.
Friend a Day – Guinevere Lazarchic
Back when I was doing a lot more hand drumming, I played for Guin at the Feast of Fantasy. She has always been a graceful person and not just as a dancer. Guin’s grace as a person extends far beyond her grace as a dancer.
She’s always exhibited endless positive energy. She smiles all the time. Her voice is kind and calm. You always feel good being around Guin.
I’m also always impressed by her patience. She seems capable of dealing with whatever challenges come her way in a calm fashion. Life may catch her by surprise but the surprises don’t phase her.
Guin still dances at the Feast years after I’ve moved on to other things. She has mentored many young dancers who have gone on to perform on their own. Her talent is definitely rubbing off on a new generation.
I always liked working with Guin as a drummer because she understands that what we were doing was a kind of dialogue between dancer and drummer. We all worked together to create the dance and if we weren’t in sync, the dance wouldn’t work.
I like seeing people who are so clearly in love with one another and you certainly see that in Guin and Mark. There is an adoration that they share that makes you realize how fortunate they are to have found one another. The best part of that equation is that I think they are both well aware of how lucky they are.
Guin does not have a forceful personality but there is a great deal of power to her even so. She is kind and gracious and in being so, she is as strong as anyone who is loud and bossy.
I’ve been fortunate to know Guin for all these years and fortunate to work with her for some of them. She has always been someone who made my day a little bit brighter.
Friend a Day – Tony Miller
The first thing you notice about Tony is his voice. It is rich and clear and can cut through just about any other sound. He makes his living off of his voice and it is easy to see why.
If you spend any time talking to him, you will learn how fiercely intelligent he is. To write the material he writes, he has to be intelligent but the depth of his knowledge about so many things will surprise you.
I only get to see Tony seven weekends a year because he lives the nomadic lifestyle of a career Renaissance Festival performer. It is a lifestyle to which his is clearly suited yet it means that there’s never enough time to hang out with him.
He has the most genuinely friendly nature of anyone I know. That may seem odd for someone who makes his living insulting people, but when he walks up, shakes your hand, and tells you he’s happy to see you, you know he’s telling the truth.
We’ve had him on a couple episodes of Geeks Without God and they are two of my favorites simply because of how knowledgeable he is about the topics at hand. He has read a lot about many things and he has thought a lot about them as well. He doesn’t arrive at a conclusion lightly and if he has arrived at a conclusion, it would do you well to understand why.
As a performer, he is one of the best. He knows how to say the most vile things to people and they will be smiling and laughing the entire time. On the other hand, his complements are amazing. I’ve hired him to complement my wife simply because I know he’ll be able to do it better than I can.
Tony is one of those people you should find the time to get to know. He’s never around for long but when he’s around, everything is a little bit more interesting.