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GUILD HISTORY


ORIGINS

In the beginning... was Phyllis Patterson, who created the original Renaissance Pleasure Faire and kept it going, against tremendous odds, for more than thirty years. Many of us are only now starting to understand just how hard a job she had, or how much talent and inspiration it took to keep Brigadoon from vanishing into the mist (or smog).

Around the year 1972 a youthful (how youthful? Unable to buy beer with ye old coachman's license, that's how youthful) and slender Mother Bombey first jogged her deep and merry way to the old Paramount Ranch in Agoura, where magic was happening under the ancient oak trees. In the company of assorted and numerous sisters, she was quick to know a good thing when she found one, and in no time at all was carrying banners in St. Audrey's (now St. Cuthbert's)Guild.

In that golden era before corporate buyouts, there was plenty of room for experimentation and lavish vision, even if the results sometimes bordered on insanity. This was the case with a glorious phantasmagoria fondly remembered as the Glitz Show. The theme was to be Greek and Roman; there was going to be a bacchanal daily, with the Lord Sherriff decked out as Silenus and led around Faire on a donkey by scantily-clad maenads. There was going to be a magnificent parade leading the audience to Main Stage, where a pageant of Greco-Roman mythology would be laid before their astounded eyes with all the special-effects splendor Elizabethans could command. There were to have been gods and goddesses in revealing gauze togas; Venus would have emerged from a giant clamshell at the back of the stage; two parade floats, marvels of Renaissance design, depicted the god Vulcan hammering away at his forge below a smoking volcano (which was to have had stage smoke pouring from it) and the god of Time, Chronos, imagined as an immense clockwork dragon devouring his own tail while the signs of the zodiac revolved within his body and tottering peasants carried him down the center aisle.

Circuit acts, eat your hearts out.

Most wondrous of all (from a grunt's point of view) was the fact that the actual live peasants needed to trundle these parade floats around were to be paid the then-princely sum of fifteen dollars a day! Come to think of it, that's still more than a lot of people are paid. In any case, Mother Bombey, with her friends and family, deftly clubbed all other applicants for the float- pusher jobs and secured the positions, forming a sort of specialized unit within St. Audrey's Guild as handlers and haulers of exceptionally heavy and dangerous props. Extreme Theater!!!

Extreme was the word for it. The parade floats were gorgeous to look at, but had-- to put it politely-- not been designed with the rocky roads of Chipping-Under-Oakwood in mind. Vulcan and his volcano were mounted on a heavy wooden platform suspended above a single iron wheel salvaged from some ancient farm equipment. The wheel was about five feet tall and one inch wide, with the result that Vulcan had a keen turning radius but tended to fall over and damage himself and anyone who happened to be standing near him. Heavy and Dangerous R Us, all right.

Chronos, on the other hand, was suspended on a light frame and intended to be carried between two people while a third person walked alongside, cranking the wheel that made his nifty clock- work revolve. It was a splendid effect, no denying that; unfortunately, Chronos weighed about as much as a Volkswagen and on the initial road test his crew got, oh, say fifty feet before one of them collapsed. It turned out that six peasants just might be able to lift Chronos, if five of them were Arnold Schwarzenegger. Little wooden wheels were hastily added to the base.

Team Heavy and Dangerous soldiered on, establishing a tradition of dogged endurance in the face of ludicrous difficulties that continues to this day. Just when they'd learned to keep the parade floats in motion without running them off the road into the crowd-- disaster struck. The Glitz Show was cancelled. Too ambitious a vision, too much nudity, too many bunches of plastic grapes? Or was it the fact that a particularly fascist safety inspector nixed most of the colored smoke and fire effects? Efforts were made to reshape the extravaganza along more modest lines. And here Mother Bombey displayed the foresight that demonstrated her natural abilities as a guildmaster. (And no, she didn't write this.) With visions of that fifteen-dollars-a-day stipend winging away into sad history, she went to then-Entertainment Director Dennis Day and cut a deal: if her group could only be paid something, anything, they'd pull the damn floats all over Faire so Phyllis would get her money's worth for them. Guild Show parade, Noon parade, anywhere!

And a legend was born. Members of that very first crew included Kage and Jenny Baker, Kimberly Bartholomew, Scott Scrymgeour, Ken and Kevin McGraw, Anne Zuccaro and Samantha Gayley, as well as a girl jester whose name has vanished in the mists of time.

The following year, Mother Bombey approached Dennis and Ernie with a proposal: what if her stalwart crew were to form a second guild at Faire? One whose specialty would be handling the larger parade equipment, like Vulcan and Chronos, but also the Hop Cart for the King and Queen of the May at Noon Show? Our proposed name would be St. Alban's Guild, to commemorate our Bacchanalian origins (Alban was the patron saint of classical learning) and our frequent brushes with death (St. Alban was also the first English martyr). All this for only three food tickets a day, Dennis! Can you really refuse this offer?

And so St. Alban's Guild began a long and glorious tradition of backbreaking service.

THE GREEN MAN INN


Nothing lasts forever, especially when it's made of wood and polystyrene and works Faire. By the early '80s the parade floats, though still beautiful, were falling to pieces and had been mended with everything from skewers borrowed from Steak-on-a-Stake to Mother Bombey's bodice cord. They were retired, with many regrets, and though St. Alban's still worked the parades, they needed a new gig to justify their continued existence. Moreover, they needed a new Guild hangout, having expanded beyond the capacity of their previous lair under the left front corner of Main Stage.

Some years earlier, at Northern Faire in Novato, Geraldine Duncan had made over the old Mother Goose's Petting Zoo set into a village tavern called the Dun Cow. It was a closed stage, only open to invited acts, and was provided with a party keg to be adminstered at Geraldine's discretion. When Geraldine moved on, the role of innkeeper went first to Kevin Brown and then to David Springhorn, under whom it was renamed the Jolly Tun. The first proposal for a similar venue at Southern Faire was put forward by, if memory serves, Athene Mihalakis (Later of Queen fame) and Angela Grimes. For one reason or another, the Hart and Hounds never went forward. The ladies declined to pursue the matter, but the following year St. Alban's put forward a unique proposal for a Southern inn to be called the Green Man.

What was unique about the Green Man? It would be built, paid for and staffed by members of St. Alban's Guild; it would be open, not to guild members or invited guests alone, but to all members of the Faire cast; and it would provide free lemonade, tea and water for the actors at Faire, as well as maintaining a party keg on subscription, in strict accordance with the rules of the Alcoholic Beverage Commission.

Legend has it that a certain entertainment director looked over the proposal and decided to turn it down, but Phyllis herself happened to see the proposal and okayed it. However it happened-- the Green Man Inn went up, stayed up and was successful. When the Dun Cow/ Jolly Tun came up for reassignment after David Springhorn's departure, St. Alban's guild put in a proposal to run the Northern inn also, and was accepted. The Mother Goose Dun Cow Jolly Tun John Barleycorn Inn survived Northern winters until the sad demise of the Novato site in 1998.

THE PAGEANT WAGON

In addition to its other activities, St. Alban's has for some years now performed a number of street plays on a wooden pageant wagon, continuing its tradition of trundling immense heavy objects through the streets. Plays over the years have included "John Barleycorn" a brief rhymed play on the god of beer; "Hercules His Story", an excursion into classical mythology; "The Play of Choice", St. Alban's answer to "The Comedy of Errors", occasioned by our good fortune in recruiting identical twins Ron and Bob Sturdevant; "Faustus His Damnation", an exercise in hubris; and most recently "The Birth of Merlin", based on a play doubtfully attributed to Shakespeare. Performances have fallen off in recent years, due to lack of a suitable venue, but better things are hoped for at the Santa Barbara Faire.

QUO VADIS, ST. ALBAN'S?


With the revival of Theme Events Limited, St. Alban's looks forward to a new era of not only restoring our present traditions but expanding into new venues. Look for news of a Victorian incarnation of Mother Bombey as Mrs. Bombay!

And, as we stand on the threshold of the future, a tip of the hat to past and present Albanites: Mary Bushnell, Bob Mueller, Ron Sturdevant, Mr. & Mrs. Bob and Joanna Sturdevant, Brian Becker,Cynthia and Deidre and Jennifer and Bronwyn Olson, Ann Strong, Jeannine Westcott, James Baker, George Baker, Mike Carlat, John Perry, Dave ?????, John Innis, Thomas Tuerke, Karen Soronow, Nichole & Stephanie Gorsuch, Mike Machado, Amber Machado, Russell and Simon Machado, Heather Flannery, John Brandt, Tom Crull, Kathy Magner, Whitney Preston, Mike Roberts, Bob Mosely, Dan Sabbath, Kira Baumgarten, Patrick ???????, Edward Hansen, Kathleen Brass, Maureen McKay, Dave Easter, Dave Sparks, Gary Gandara, Ray Miller, Michael Miller, Tom Westlake, Becky Miller, Rose Kahn, Dennis Birosel, Matthew "Mongo" Kelty, Liz Prynne, Katherine Prynne, Mr. & Mrs. Mike and Diana Clark, Alex Clark, Mr. & Mrs. Tom and Elizabeth Newman, Katie Newman, Mr. & Mrs. Wayne and Cher Fisher, Skye Fisher, Shannon White, Mr. & Mrs. Joe Gally, Amber, Tara and Kurt Gally, Mark and Tami Moore, Doug Ipock, Stacey Weinberger, Mr. & Mrs. Jerry and Linda True, Gary Loomer, Scott and Dawn Fairfield, Steve and Shannon, Lincoln, Sean and Alexis ...

And a deep bow/curtsey to our beloved occasional subset, the Italians of Santa Maria's Guild: Geoffrey Dunne, Stuart Rogers, Mr. & Mrs. Giovanni and Dawn Paladini, Pax Smith, Cathe, Anne, Janet, Anne again, Christina, Bret, Michael Z., Paul,




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