Renaissance Fair Magic

Discuss your favorite platform magic and illusions.

Postby Guest » 10/11/06 11:38 AM

I have been asked to audition for a Renaissance Fair that will run next summer.
While I have been to one Renaissance Fair, and seen two magicians there, it was some time ago and I cannot remember the tricks or types of tricks they did. Nor can I remember how the presentations went.
I was hoping that some of you who have had experience in that area could point me in the right direction toward some resources that might help me out. As well, if you could give me some idea as to what tricks you did and an idea of how you presented the tricks (Did you say "Yeay" and "Prithee" a lot. That sort of thing.) I would greatly appreciate it.

Thanks

Gord
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Postby Guest » 10/11/06 12:39 PM

Bill Palmer is a member of this forum and is an well versed on the subject. I know he worked Renaissance Fairs for many years. I have some lecture notes that I bought from him about a year ago that were very good. I would recommend them to anyone who is interested in performing in that type of venue.

Jordan
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Postby Guest » 10/11/06 01:12 PM

Renaissance Fair magic! Bill Palmer has published a booklet on the subject that is a must have for any beginner in the field.

To help you flesh out a character and what a Renaissance period magician might perform I offer this:

During the peak of the Renaissance period and when it was in full flourish throughout Europe itinerant performers were plentiful throughout the various countries, Kingdoms, Dukedoms, and Papal holdings. Magicians were amongst them. Market Fairs were well established and the center of entertainment and it was a poor market fair that didn't have at least one magician.

Today's Renaissance Fairs are poor shadows of some of the large fairs held during the period.

Tricks that are well recorded for this period include a lot of blood and gore. Decapitation effects were very popular. Cutting off a head or piercing an arm or neck with a knife of skewer was performed regularly. Swallowing and regurgitating was very prominent for some reason. Human fountains had been popular acts since the late 1500's.

Every woodcut or painting from that era depicting a magician shows him performing the cups and balls. Dice tricks were also popular, yes Dice as we know them were around then!

Card tricks were also very popular. Cards as we know them, four suits, and the Page, Knight (Knave), Queen, King (making a deck 56) were actually available. They did not have indexes nor did they have back designs. They were plain white cards and usually printed via a woodcut technique. These were fairly common.

The linking rings (YES THE LINKING RINGS) were being performed during this period. Damautus, a Spanish Knight performed the linking rings before Charles V, King of Spain in the mid 1500's. He showed several solid, separate metal rings, and then tossed them into the air. When He caught them, they were linked into a chain! So much for the Chinese origin of this trick!

In 1599 King James of England wrote about Hieronymus Scotto's skill at conjuring with cards. He could produce any card named! He could also visibly change one card for another (color change move). He also performed for Elizabeth I of England. Then he performed the David Blaine trick. One card held tightly by Elizabeth changed places with the card that Scotto held!

Tarot decks were NOT widely used or printed. Some fortunetellers (gypsies) did exploit the deck. But by the late 1500's the hand painted tarot deck was a rarity and only for the very wealthy.

Other tricks that were regularly featured included the production of livestock, usually birds, sometimes a small pig or dog. The production of coins and eggs (eggs were valuable during the time) was a standard routine. Note, while the Misers Dream gained popularity with Downs at the turn of the 20th Century, it had been performed in some form since Roman times (and probably earlier!). Everyone likes the magical appearance of money!

By the end of the 1600's the “Egg Bag” had been invented and was being used by several top magical names of the era.

So what can you do that is historically correct. Any card trick (there are woodcut decks without back designs available), The Linking Rings, Any decapitation (French arm chopper, Disecto, sword through neck, dagger head chest, etc.), the egg bag, most coin tricks, including the Misers Dream, most rope magic especially those tricks using the “grandma's necklace principal, and any livestock production.

Costume is simple. Knickers and tights with period shoes or boots, a white blousy shirt without buttons (ties), and a waistcoat is all that is needed. Toss on a floppy beret or some soft fez looking hat or no hat at all, and you are set!

OK, this was long, but hopefully helpful
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Postby Guest » 10/11/06 02:28 PM

Call ladies 'maidens' and keep saying 'ye' and 'thou', that usually will get you in.
Steve V
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Postby Guest » 10/11/06 02:49 PM

See if you can't obtain a copy of Master Payne's lecture notes Sometimes the jokes are just for me which contains many of his stand up performace scripts for such a venue.

It's also the most entertaining set of lecture notes I've ready in twenty years...
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Postby Guest » 10/11/06 02:53 PM

Originally posted by Murphy:
The linking rings (YES THE LINKING RINGS) were being performed during this period. Damautus, a Spanish Knight performed the linking rings before Charles V, King of Spain in the mid 1500s. He showed several solid, separate metal rings, and then tossed them into the air. When He caught them, they were linked into a chain! So much for the Chinese origin of this trick!
Huh? I'm pretty sure the Chinese Rings pre-dates the sixteenth century.
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Postby Guest » 10/11/06 05:13 PM

Yes the rings may predate the period in general but the point is that they were being performed in Renaissance Europe.

I would (and have) patter about the amazing ritual that young Marco Polo witnessed in the temples of China as I introduced the rings and began the routine.

While the rings are attributed to the Chinese, it seems that belief comes from fairly contemporary performances of Chinese performers in Europe in the late 1800s. Very old documents of Chinese magicians and jugglers dont show the trick. A version of the Cups and Balls (using flat bowls) are depicted often.

Who really knows the origin of the trick? I dont. Frankly, it is as likely to have been developed in India and spread throughout the world by the Indian wanders.
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Postby Pete Biro » 10/12/06 09:37 AM

My guess is Egypt for the origin of the rings. I have photos of what MAY be linking rings in the Prague National Museum from 200 BC.
Stay tooned.
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Postby Guest » 10/12/06 10:27 AM

There are generally two approaches to performing at a Renaissance faire. The most common one that I have seen myself is to don on the most minimal of costume, usually a poofy shirt and a pair of borrowed breeches and then perform their standard show with a couple of thees and thous thrown in for food measure.
The second is to spend a little time doing research and try to create a specific show that evokes the period which you are trying to replicate. Yes, it takes a little more work but in the end it is worth the effort.
What we call magicians today they called Jugglers in the Renaissance and Joungleurs in the Middle Ages. Tricks were either very simple, coin and ball vanishes or transpositions or extremely gory as has been mentioned before. People of the period were just as intelligent as we are today but a lot less sophisticated. Thus the simple feats of legerdemain that they would find entertaining would be viewed as rather childish feats by todays audiences. The trick is to find modern effects that evoke a period feel.
The tricks in my repertoire are Cut and restored Rope, Egg Bag, Linking Rings, Sword Through Neck Colour Changing Handkerchief and the Cups and Balls. Ive also created period appropriate routines for such modern effects as Whatts Next? The Die Box (now a reliquary) Chinese Sticks and the Card Stab (all of which are outlined in my lecture notes).
I try to avoid tricks that look or feel too modern staying away from props such as Feather Flowers, Dove Pans and Square Circles.
The biggest hurdle I see with the novice Ren Faire magus is the language. Trying to convert ones regular patter to Ren Speak on the fly leads to disastrous results. Thus it is imperative to carefully script out every detail of your presentation and set it firmly to memory.
Ive been performing my Mediaeval\Renaissance act for over a quarter century now and I have had a great deal of fun performing it for audiences all over the world.
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Postby Guest » 10/12/06 10:38 AM

Originally posted by Murphy:


Card tricks were also very popular. Cards as we know them, four suits, and the Page, Knight (Knave), Queen, King (making a deck 56) were actually available. They did not have indexes nor did they have back designs. They were plain white cards and usually printed via a woodcut technique. These were fairly common.

This is true for some cards but not all. Not all decks came with four court cards, many had the three, Knave, Queen, King that we are familiar with today. Spanish cards had no Queen having a Knight instead.
Many Decks too sported back designs either an all over pattern or more commonly a cross hatched pattern of lines.



Tarot decks were NOT widely used or printed. Some fortunetellers (gypsies) did exploit the deck. But by the late 1500's the hand painted tarot deck was a rarity and only for the very wealthy.

Again depends where you are. Tarot cards were completely unheard of in england until the very late Eighteenth century but were very common in other parts of Europe, especially northern Italy where they were used for the game of Tarochi (the pastime for which they were invented) They were mass produced in the same manner as playing cards though Hand Painted and illuminated decks were still being produced and were popular to give as wedding presents.
They were not used for divination until the latter part of the Eighteenth century.
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Postby Guest » 10/12/06 12:33 PM

I just want to thank you all for your tome and sage advice. You have certainly given me a lot to research and to think about.
Right now all I have to concern myself with is the audition (Which will be in November) but I want to be able to show the producers that I have a good idea of what I am doing and the direction the show will go. Thanks to all of you I'll be able to.

I'll let you all know how it goes.

Gord
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Postby Guest » 10/12/06 12:35 PM

Originally posted by payne:
Ive also created period appropriate routines for such modern effects as Whatts Next? The Die Box (now a reliquary) Chinese Sticks and the Card Stab (all of which are outlined in my lecture notes).
Payne

Prithee where may I get a copy of yon lecture notes? (How am I doing so far?)

Gord
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Postby Guest » 10/12/06 02:35 PM

First I must admit the most miserable day of 'entertainment' I ever spent was at a ren faire in San Francisco. Now I see the issues of if this routine was around prior to the 1600's or after etc...does anyone really care that attend those things? I means as long as it looks like it may have passed and the magician dresses the part then it will float.

My dream is to get a bunch of drunks from a gathering of the clans, paint their faces blue, and have them attack a ren faire.
Steve V
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Postby Carl Skenes » 10/12/06 08:13 PM

Originally posted by Steve V':
My dream is to get a bunch of drunks from a gathering of the clans, paint their faces blue, and have them attack a ren faire.
Steve V
;) I know. I know you can fight. But it's our wits that make us men.
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Postby Jeff Haas » 10/12/06 10:59 PM

It's more fun to go to a Ren Faire, pull out a cigarette lighter, and say, "BEHOLD! FIRE!" and watch them try to stay in character.
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Postby Guest » 10/12/06 11:11 PM

That is it! I'm heading for Casa De Fruita!
Steve V
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Postby Guest » 10/12/06 11:17 PM

Originally posted by Jeff Haas:
It's more fun to go to a Ren Faire, pull out a cigarette lighter, and say, "BEHOLD! FIRE!" and watch them try to stay in character.
You laugh, but four hundred years ago they would have made me king


--- with apologies to Mike Close
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Postby Guest » 10/13/06 02:57 AM

Originally posted by payne:
There are generally two approaches to performing at a Renaissance faire. The most common one that I have seen myself is to don on the most minimal of costume, usually a poofy shirt and a pair of borrowed breeches
This is also true of mentalism, for those who want to get started.
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Postby Guest » 10/23/06 10:18 PM

Gord:

Contact me off-list. My notes will help you pass the audition. I was not just a performer at these things for 26 years. I was also one of the fellows who ran the auditions as well as an entertaiment director.

I know what the entertainment directors are looking for and what will give them the impression that you are the right guy for the job.
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Postby Guest » 10/29/06 08:00 AM

Hello Bill,

Renaissance Fair Magic is something I know little about. In 1986 and 1990 I worked a few for political candidates just trying to show a presence there. However, it just didn't look like another day at the office to me.

My wife Lucy came from a ballet background and in her magic stage show uses live unicorns (actually cremello quarter horses) and her costuming is more of a renaissance style. Since she studied ballet in Austria she is also more into that history than I have ventured.

Can you suggest a "Renaissance for Dummies" course that might bring me up to speed on Renaissance Fairs?

Bob Sanders
Magic By Sander

PS: We have moved from Collinwood in Valley Grande to the ranch.

Bob and Lucy Sanders
Magic Valley Ranch
399 County Road 478
Clanton, AL 35046
(205) 755-6882 Ranch
(334) 412-5789 Cell
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Postby Guest » 10/29/06 07:21 PM

Sure. My lecture notes will help a lot. So will Hocus Pocus, Jr., Games and Pastimes, and the Prevost book. I don't know what Payne's notes have in them, but they will certainly give some insight.

Also MarcoM's Lord of Legerdemain which has 3 complete Renaissance festival acts.
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Postby Guest » 04/11/07 06:31 AM

Bill,

I'm surprised this wasn't written in old English.

Bob
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Postby Guest » 04/11/07 07:24 AM

So Gord, how'd the audition go? Did you get the gig? And where is the fair, Ontario?
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