Popularity of Archery still on the increase after theatrical release of Robin Hood.

Newbie archers at the SF Archers Public Outreach program, June 6, 2010

It was decided yesterday that the San Francisco Archers Public Outreach program needs new equipment.  This topic has been cussed and discussed before, but yesterday was the clincher as we had to turn a dozen people away because we ran out of loaner equipment and arrows.  The photograph shows about 1/3 of the crowd that showed up, even on a cool foggy morning.  Fortunately, is was a crowd of mostly adults who listened to instructions well, because the four of us instructors would have gone running away screaming if it had been an equal number of kids.

I mentioned in a previous post the reasons I think  a poor economy is good for archery.  Basically, it’s a lot cheaper than golf.  We have also noticed a trend in the popularity of the sport which follows the release of any popular movie which features archers.  The recent release of  Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood, starring Russell Crowe, is an excellent example.  This is a very adult version of Hood, and so we got a lot of adults at outreach.  But you should have seen all the kids who showed up after the release of The Lord of the Rings.

Of course, it’s relatively easy to get a group of strangers to show up to try archery once.  We measure the success of our efforts by the number of people who continue to show up after the novelty of it wears off, and they realize that they can’t become expert archers in a single morning’s practice.  We know we have them hooked when they ask, “So, how much does it cost for a good bow?”  We get as excited as any drug dealer.

There are easily half a dozen very good archery ranges in the San Francisco Bay Area, and I explained to two women from San José that they could probably find one closer to where they live.  They don’t have to drive all the way to Pacifica to enjoy the sport.  They responded, “But you guys take care of us.”  That had me walking on air for several hours.

There tend to be two kinds of potential archers who show up: The technophiles who start drooling at the sight of the latest Matthews hunting compound, and those who are attracted to the sexy lines of the recurve or the earthy simplicity of the longbow.   The second group takes more attention because, quite frankly, it’s easier to become competent with a modern compound than a recurve or longbow.  For the second group, who are probably getting frustrated with their lack of accuracy, we make an effort to complement their form and point out their improvements.  There is very little in the way of instant gratification in traditional archery.

At the end of three hours, we did a thorough search for lost arrows, put the equipment away, and sat down to discuss our successes and failures.  We gotta get more equipment!

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Asylum Improv – Pacifica Spindrift Players

Review: Asylum Improv
Pacifica Spindrift Players
Pacifica, California

I cannot imagine a more challenging social situation than trying to be improvisationally funny. Telling memorized jokes is easy. Reading a comedic script is a snap. Doing a stand-up routine that has been rehearsed and choreographed is a piece of cake compared to what the Asylum Improv does several times a year at the Spindrift Players in Pacifica, California.

It’s because of this that we don’t expect the actors of Asylum, lead by the very brave Roger Genereux, to be as funny as Ryan Stiles and Colin Mochrie, who are comedic geniuses, but they’re already funnier than Drew Carey.

It’s perhaps fortunate for the cast of Asylum that the audience consists primarily of the family and friends, and some die-hard community members, so we aren’t as critical as we could be. Asylum really does try hard to be funny, and one often gets the feeling that they are trying too hard. Sometimes desperately hard, which is evident when the look on an actor’s face plainly says, “Will somebody Please end this scene?” Which is echoed by Roger’s expression which says just as plainly, “Will somebody Please say something funny?”

There are, however, gems which make waiting through the embarrassing moments worthwhile.  We especially liked the efforts of Steve MattesKevin Myer and Lourie (whose last name I couldn’t find, but he’s the bloke with the almost-Irish brogue, softened, I think, by his years in the States).  Lourie can always be counted on for a funny routine involving the alphabet and/or the English language.  Tricia Callero once again wow’d us with her superb vocal skills.  We can’t help but think that if the entertainment industry really was a meritocracy, she’d already be head-lining.

The presentation could be improved if Roger could just relax a little.  We think he’s very smart and talented, but he often comes across as if he believes his entire worth as a human being is riding on the success or failure of the show.  And considering the amount of work he invests at Spindrift, we can’t blame him for feeling that.   But Roger:  We are going to like you anyway.  You have already proven yourself.  So relax.  Also, if you can’t read one of those audience suggestion slips, you should just toss it.  There is no entertainment value in watching you try to decipher somebody’s scribble.  And we know that it’s supposed to be improv, but perhaps a little more structure would help lubricate the show.

And we will be there when you return in March!

Anno Societatis D (Year of the Society 500)

We attended the Dickens’ Faire yesterday and had a great time!  They took a large warehouse and decorated the inside to resemble Christmas time Victorian era London, and a large number of actors and reenactors played characters out of the numerous works of Charles Dickens, and other 19th Century English authors.  For instance, we also met Mr. Phileas Fogg.  

To answer your first question, yes — there was no sign of tuberculosis or air pollution, and there was only oratorical mention of 16 hour work days for the working class.  This was a “feel good” experience, ‘k?

We were given the opportunity to purchase period wares at incredibly inflated prices, but mostly we walked from venue to venue to see the free shows.  (Free if you don’t count the tip jar.)  We especially enjoyed the dancing.

We don’t own any period garb from the 1850’s, and we felt that we missed out on quite a bit because of this.  There was a huge percentage of non-theatricals who were dressed in appropriate garb.  It was a clear instance of participatory theatre.

I have often wondered how historical recreationists of the future, say the year 2500 of the Current Era, will portray our own society.  How will they dress?  How will they act?  What events will they celebrate?  How will they talk?

I suspect that they will use 20th Century literature as a source.  This is, after all, what recreationists do today.  Perhaps they’ll use Jack Kerouac, John SteinbeckErnest Hemingway, perhaps even Mickey Spillane.  And, just as recreationists do today, there will be a mixture of eras and characters who would normally never meet.  For instance, I foresee Beatniks hanging out with flappers, rock stars, migrant farmers, old sailors, hippies, gumshoes and astronauts.  Also, there’s no reason to expect them to restrict themselves to American literature, but I’m not familiar enough with the literature of other cultures to list them.

I anticipate that there will be endless discussions of the meaning of the words “Dude,” “cool” and “like”.  There will be vendors who specialize in creating period garb using denim, zippers and Velcro.  Those who are interested in the martial aspects of our culture will spend a lot of research trying to make M-16’s, Uzi’s and AK-47’s safe for reinactment battles.  I suspect that they won’t reinact My Lai for the same reason we don’t reinact tuberculosis, but maybe they will be a more honest reinactors, so who knows.

What is it about our current society that you think will fascinate the world of 2500 c.e.?  The advent of nuclear power/weapons? The birth of the Space Age?  The rise and fall of Communism?  American Imperialism?  The Century of the Automobile?  Aviation? The wars for oil?  

I would love to hear your thoughts.

Review: Camelot, Presented by the Pacifica Spindrift Players – Part II

This is a follow-up on the review started on October 5th.

One of the impressive aspects of the play is the French accent affected by Greg Frediani in his role as Lancelot.  I turned to my companion who has studied the french language for some years and asked, “Is his accent real?”

“No,” she said. “But it’s very good!”  I’ll have to take her word for it.  The amazing part is that he also sang with a French accent.  Usually, accents disappear in song.  Mr. Frediani sang like a frenchman.

Much of the communication in this play is done with the face.  There were so many times during the action where it was important to pay attention to the face and body language of the actors.  When Arthur, still in the throes of his man-crush on Lancelot, first realizes the extent of the relationship between his wife and his best friend.  There’s a lot going on on the stage at this moment, but Chris Olson made sure you noticed his reaction.  Another example is of Levi Morris as Mordrid, who was positively smarmy, dreadfully loathsome, and reminded me a lot of some politicians I know.  He really nailed the role, showing gleefully evil delight in Arthur’s fall from grace.

Andy Serrano, in his role as Sir Dinadan, also mastered the body language of the role.  First humorously, in his deference to the wizard Merlin, and then far more seriously in his face off with Lancelot, calling him a “sermon on a mount.”   The pun on the word “mount” could have lead to a flippant or farcical treatment of the scene, but one look at Serrano’s face convinced you that the words were no joke but a biting commentary.

Kevin Myer and Nivek Reym played a duel role as Merlin and King Pellinore.  (Get it?  Nivek Reym is Kevin Myer spelled backwards and Merlin lived life backwards?  Sometimes the program at Spindrift is as entertaining as the play.)  Kevin is a delightful comedic distraction, and we wondered if he hadn’t played Don Quixote in a different incarnation.

I hate sounding like someone on a popular reality television show, but we were disappointed in the dancing.  My companion and I both felt that the dancers were capable of much more, but since this is only Pacifica and their relatives came last week, they didn’t give it their best shot.  It made us wish we had been their when the dancers’ relatives were also there.

The group dancing was awkward on such a small stage.  There wasn’t enough room for everybody to get into the swing of it, especially Bradley Bollinger, as Sir Lionel, standing at over six and a half feet.

As I said in Part 1 of this review, we have no complaints about the singing and acting.  The play was, however, visually unappealing.

Arthur – Chris Olson

Guenevere – Michele Choe & Tricia Callero

Lancelot – Greg Frediani

King Pellinore – Kevin Wm. Myer

Mordred – Levi Morris

Sir Dinadan – Andy Serrano
Sir Sagramore –  Mike Fair
Sir Lionel – Bradley Bollinger

Morgan Le Fey – Marti Coyne

Nimue – Robin Hansen

Tom of Warwick – Ted Keil

Also Laurie Wall, Candy Plato, Rita Wolper, Sterling Wolper, Cat Woish, Elizabeth Winfield