Monthly Archives: July 2013

Under New Management

If you haven’t heard by now I guess I get to tell you. After twenty-one years my former Laurels, Master Hirsch and Mistress Aldith, have decided to give up The Golden Stag Players.

Twenty-one years is a very long time, and hardly any time at all. Twenty-one years is a generation. Twenty-one years is how long it took for me to get both my Laurel and Pelican, both of which at least in part came from my work with The Golden Stag Players. And twenty-one years is a life time of leadership and hard work that anyone can be proud of.

As Hirsch has said many times, he never expected the troupe to last this long. He figured it would be a a lark to do a couple of plays and then everyone would move on to other things.

What he didn’t expect was that so many of us would have so much fun that we would want to keep going. Every year it was a surprise to see so many of us getting to the point of saying “so what show are we going to do this year?”

In a very real way The Golden Stag Players has been an anchor point for many of us in the troupe, myself most definitely included. It has been a way in which some of us have defined ourselves. Many of us became known in The West Kingdom by virtue of our participation within the troupe. Over the years members of the troupe received a variety of recognitions at least in part because of our participation.

For myself, I met Rose, the lady who would one day become my wife at the very first rehearsal and years later not only would most of the Golden Stag Players be there when we married, but they were all there when we were awarded our Laurel’s for what we had done in the troupe; research, mask making, acting, teaching and so much more.

Without the support and direction of Hirsch and Aldith I would not have been able to forge the path I did as the first Laurel for Performance Magic in the SCA (to the best of my knowledge). Although I began my apprenticeship with them for something else entirely when I began my new direction and path they supported and helped me as best they could and though I’ve stumbled and tripped from time to time they have never been anything but supportive and encouraging.

When I took an apprentice, Ghislaine, one of the first things that we had to negotiate was her participation within The Golden Stag Players. It never occurred to either of us that she wouldn’t become a part of the whole thing.

I had no idea that this was coming. None of us did. One moment we were getting settled to have what we all thought was to be the standard business meeting to go over options for what show to do and the next we were listening to Hirsch as he tearfully read a letter he had written explaining the decision that he and Aldith had made.

And tears were completely appropriate.

The Golden Stag Players is something he and Aldith have invested twenty-one years of their lives in to. This is a major investment of time, resources, energy and most importantly of all, identity. They are synonymous with The Golden Stag.

I should point out that over the years all of us ‘regulars’ in the cast and crew have taken breaks here and there, passing up a season because we were to burned out. They NEVER did.

There are moments of perfect clarity that happen to each of us. Moments when the choices in front of us are completely illuminated and we can see the future laid out in front of us.

Over the years I have been on the stage, behind the stage, behind the camera, next to the director and actually even been the director.

As frequently as I have been accused of arrogance for various other things I can say in all honesty without any arrogance at all that I am the person most likely to be the one who can carry this legacy forward. Judging by the response of the people who were there, who spoke to me publicly and privately it seems that most of them agree.

I’ve been here since the beginning. I know the players, what they are capable of, how to talk to them, how to move and motivate them. I have been on the inside from day one. I’ve taken up tasks, I’ve taken on responsibilities and I’ve held things together when it seemed like they just might start unraveling.

No, I am not saying that this troupe would fall apart without me. It was never in danger of that. If I had not stepped up I’m sure that someone else would have, or perhaps the troupe would have decided to reform itself to run via committee, or they might have come up with some idea that I can’t even imagine at this point.

But I know absolutely that none of us were going to let it go away.

Twenty-one years and 35 plays worth of legacy just don’t allow for that.

As Hirsch read I saw the future. Or at least the path. I looked to Rose and without a word she knew what I was asking. And quietly she whispered “get out of my head” with a smile. I looked at Ghislaine and without a word she nodded supporting me in the decision she knew I was making. Before Hirsch finished speaking I stood silently announcing to the room that I was ready to take on this huge responsibility.

Hirsch continued to read but I could see what I can only call relief pass over his and Aldith’s faces.

Make no mistake. Being someone who has taken on responsibilities under the leadership of someone else and assuming the leadership role are two VERY different things. I would be lying if I didn’t say that I am utterly terrified.

Yet the beautiful thing about the way this acting troupe has grown and evolved tells me that we’ve got this. This troupe has always worked as a team. Yes, we’ve all had a temper tantrum or two over the years, but we’ve also always gotten over them very quickly and we’ve always pulled together to make the best show possible.

This troupe has always acted remarkably selfless in the quest to bring the best entertainment to our audience we possibly can. We have raised the bar on ourselves year after year, demanding more and more from ourselves and in the end producing shows that I would put up against professional troupes.

We collaborate. We elaborate. We keep each other on track and we teach each other new skills.

We all believe in the most important theatrical tradition of all; The Show Must Go On.

The Golden Stag Players is under new management. But we have a legacy to live up to. The legacy of ourselves. The one we built together under the direction of our mentors Hirsch & Aldith.

There is, perhaps, a metaphor here of spreading our wings and leaving the nest, but since stags don’t fly it’s a silly metaphor.

I guess you will just have to…….


New Lamps for Old!


© Laurie Tavan 2013

In the story of Aladdin the evil magician tricks the princess into giving up the magic lamp by posing as a merchant offering a seemingly ridiculous bargain, that of exchanging a brand new lamp for any old ones the princess had just laying around.

This, of course, was so that he could get his hands on the magic lamp and it’s genii.

The implied lesson is that just because it’s old doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable. Also, you should always know what you have in your hands first before you give it up for something new and shiny.

I have, of late, had cause to consider this notion in light of my magic. The other night I was at a party and I and brought along my “commando bag”, the small bag of effects I can do anywhere, anytime so that I will always be ready to perform. Of course an opportunity arose and I entertained for a pretty decent amount of time.

The problem I ran in to was that I ended up going through all my material. Twice.

Now I suppose in some ways that’s not a big deal. After all, I got to perform and it made some people very happy. And I got in more “flight time” (more than just practice time).

But the material in my “commando bag” is getting old in the sense that I think I need to find some new things to rotate in just so that people aren’t seeing to much of the same stuff over and over again. My first instinct was to look around and see what might be new in the magic world that I might be interested in doing.

That is the wrong instinct.

Sure, it’s good to be paying attention and looking at what is new and different because there might be something worth your attention, but I have a huge library of magic books and boxes of old magic props. It makes more sense to go delving into what I already have in order to fit this particular need.

I don’t need a new lamp. I’ve got plenty of old ones that need some love and attention.

There are many things I could be playing with, even just some old card tricks that I used to do all the time that I could be brushing up. The magic dealers don’t get as much from me as they once did. Not because they don’t produce some good stuff but simply because I should be taking advantage of what I already have and setting myself some hard line limits to what I’m willing to buy.

Individual props can be fun but their value relative to a good book of magic is not nearly the same. And all those unused props I have sitting in boxes? Time to put them to use before I go and buy something different.

I’m not an evil magician looking to swap new lamps for old. I’m an evil magician who is reexamining the value of the old lamps he’s already got.

A Slideshow of Magic Lantern Slides

magiclanternToday I spent my time going through the slides which came with my new Magic Lantern.

By cataloging them I hope to be able to do some image searches and maybe find the stories that are being told or even find replacements for the slides which are missing.

Many people came by my table where I had the lantern disassembled and the slides set out to see what it was I was playing with.  It was fun to share the wonders of what I had in front of me with an appreciative group of people.  And at least one was inspired to spend time researching and developing their own photography skills further in the hopes being able to produce slides for my use.

All I did was place the slides on white paper and yet that was enough to bring the images out in brilliant colors.  It is amazing to see how well these slides have lasted considering how old they are.  I am looking forward to when I can actually fire up the lantern itself and test it out.  I won’t be doing that for a bit as the oil lamp which is the source of light for the lantern needs some care before I risk putting any fuel in it.  Either that or I will need to simply replace it.

Below is a slideshow of the images I took.  There are a few missing slides from the sets which are clearly sequenced stories but otherwise everything I have is present.  If you get any ideas about what the stories might be I’d appreciate a comment letting me know.


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