Pennsic, Day -1: In which I leave work later than planned, answer calls from a coworker with poor time management issues from the commuter rail train, and then get on the road.
Day 0: In which I spend more time waiting in line to get into Pennsic than all previous years combined.
In previous years, Land Negotiations officially began 09:00 Saturday morning. This year, the Land Office acknowledged that negotiations are conducted online and has changed the official start time to 12:00 Friday. Troll did not anticipate the surge of people who would be showing up on Friday and long lines were the order of the day. We had planned on signing off on our land at 17:00, but between personal delays and long lines at Troll, it didn't end up happening until almost 22:00. There had been much concern by the Coopers about the mud from the rains in June and we were all prepared for a Muddsic. And if the weather had gone the way it was expected to, we would have had one. Land Negotiations for the entirety of Pennsic were officially done by 09:00 Saturday, the usual start time.
We then discovered that we had left our pavilion ropes at home. Fortunately, we had packed Bag End just in case and teenyweenyowen was able to locate the ropes for us.
Day 1: In which I end up with a mild case of heat exhaustion.
stormsdotter and udalrich pick up our ropes at home and they begin the long ride to Pennsic. Ciana and Orlando are able to get onsite before the line gets long and we get their tent setup long before our scheduled trip to the storage cube. We make tremendous progress on setup, much moreso than we generally do on the first day of setup. I forgot to put on sunscreen.
Day 2: In which I don't do very much at all.
Day 3: In which I go shopping for camp supplies.
Day 4: In which I learn how to make a cricket chair.
Day 5: In which I read The God Engines, a short novel by John Scalzi.
Day 6: In which I pick up a preposterous number of plans for making camp furniture from materials available at Home Despot.
A couple from Cynnabar have done some very creative things with plywood sheets and 2x4s and were very excited about sharing them. We attended jtdiii's Chocolate Bardic. Many people performed. Many more people had chocolate.
Day 7: In which I spend the day reading Brave New Worlds, an attempt at creating the definitive Dystopian Short Fiction Anthology. It is largely successful.
Day 8: In which rosinavs cooks a delicious spit roast.
We had a read through for William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice. This is only the third of seven rehearsals I will have attended for this show. The previous two were via telephone between myself and the Director. The Known World Players have a very ambitious rehearsal schedule.
Day 9: In which I insert much comedy into the show.
Day 10: In which I go on another town run and go singing for drinks.
Sorcha and I purchased dinner food for camp, to be cooked over an open fire by me and one assistant over the next two days. Most encampments at Pennsic have a theme, concept, or other sort of idiom. Sometimes it's just "our Barony" or "our Household" or "we like to party". Our encampment, Camp Crook'd Cat, has three major components to our idiom:
1) We cook a Period meal over an open fire every day of War Week
2) We build an Earth Oven in which we bake bread
3) Each person's chores is as close to the absolute maximum of their camp responsibilities as possible.
#3 is the one I find revolutionary. Most encampments assume that people will act like reasonable adults: clean up after themselves, pitch in to help out, share the labor, etc. We know better. At Pennsic, you are hot, exposed, have virtually no privacy, and there are at least a dozen things to do every single hour of the day. We expect you to be too tired, too dehydrated, too hungover, too concussed, or otherwise too distracted to "pitch in". Our chores schedule allows you to know when you are expected to help -- and when you are free to put your feet up and ignore the world.
Each year, we form the Hymni Bacchi, a group of itinerant singers who wander the Serengeti bartering our song for drink. This year was no different, though we had a little more trouble finding gigs than usual -- and a little fewer singers than we generally have, though 3 semi-competent basses is a good foundation upon which to build a group of drunk singers. While at Bhakail, one of our usual favorite customers, I had a rally nasty asthma attack. I wasn't drunk, but I was tipsy enough that my stomach hit the eject button.
Day 11: In which I am a terrible actor but cook a delicious meal
By far, my most difficult scene in Merchant is the one where I play Tubal meeting with Shylocke in Venice. There is a lot of context, subtext, emotion, and development in that scene. It is, in many ways, the turning point of the play, with Shylocke losing sight of the political reality in Venice and betting everything on his preposterous revenge scheme. Shylocke and Tubal need to react well to each other in order to build the tension properly. And while not exactly hungover, I was very much not feeling well, acting well, or listening well. The stage manager was quite exasperated with me. I should have said something, but I didn't know how to make it sound like anything other than an excuse.
And then I cooked dinner with Orso. We had a dish of tongues or sausages, sprouts, chyches, salat, benes yfryd, and freshly baked bread. Somehow it's easy for me to forget how happy everyone is with my cooking. I try to keep it simple. Dishes with simple ingredients, using one or two ingredients over and over again, etc. But I always try new things. Open fire cooking and the earth oven are tools that require experimentation to learn to master. These recipes can all be from the Gode Cookery.
Day 12: In which I cook another delicious meal.
This was actually one of the most fun times I've had cooking dinner at Pennsic. It's always a lot of work and there isn't often a lot of time for idle chatter, but Deirdre and I had a great running conversation the entire time. We cooked Shashlyk, Kotmis Satsivi, Azerbaijan Pilaf, lobio, peas in Herb Sauce, and Vinegar for Meat. These recipes were all from Katrusha's dayboard from Known World Dance and Music Symposium last year.
Wednesday night of War Week is Midnight Madness down in the Marketplace. The Merchants are open late, the weather is usually cool, and people go to shop, to see, and to be seen. We bought 3 math history books for rosinavs for less than the price for the most expensive book on Amazon. We then spent a relaxing evening sitting in Kafe Merhaba, sipping drinks, and greetings friends as they came in after shopping.
Day 13: In which I spend the day reading in Kafe Merhaba
Day 14: In which I perform Shakespeare by Lamplight and then strike the set by flashlight
The dress rehearsal for the show went very well. I did much better than I had on Tuesday. We even had a professional lighting engineer (perrodecroy) join the production and completely redesign our lighting scheme. It was going to be brilliant.
Around 19:00, just before call for the show, Butler County lost power. Safety is one of the things we take seriously, and nonelectric indoor lighting is a severe fire hazard. No electricity means no lights inside the Performing Arts Pavilion.
The weather was fantastic, however, and the stage manager marked out an area just outside the PAP to act as our stage. The audience had already showed up by this point, and en masse they grabbed their chairs, carried them outside, and created an entirely new seating area. perrodecroy took all the tiki torches, propane lanterns, candles, and whatever that Calontiri flame monstrosity is called and created a lighting scheme using tin foil, serving bowls, and any other reflective surface she could get her hands on, crawling around in front of the front row to add more lights as the twilight faded.
The show itself got off to a rocky start - some of the actors were truly freaking out about all the last minute changes, especially the ones with quick changes that were now by flashlight in a much more open backstage area than in the morning - but we prevailed and by the end of Act II we had hit our stride. The audience was soaking in every morsel of performance, stifling their laughter to ensure the people behind them could hear with our improvised acoustics.
After the show, I helped out for a good 3 hours dismantling the stage, removing labels from chairs, folding curtains, and disposing of our one-off props until the people leading the strike effort no longer had enough organizational brain to tell me what to do. Unable to receive orders, I went back to camp to celebrate.
Day 15: In which it is my turn to run out of organizational brain
The biggest challenge about teardown is that rosinavs and I are usually the only ones left who have any experience striking CCC. In fact, our first Pennsic with the group, no one had any experience striking CCC. We had some organizational hurdles and some structural integrity failures, and Olwen was a big help stepping up to get things taken care of when I couldn't brain.
Day 16: In which the hotel breakfast clearly fell off the back of a Dunkin Donuts truck