Monday, July 9, 2012

The beginning of Skumm

I've noticed a few of my fellow newbie Renaissance Faire street cast members have started blogs about their new careers and I found that admirable. I considered it, throughout the course of the weeks of training we went through but never got up the nerve to put pen to paper, or fingers to keys as it were. After the opening weekend I have had, I could no longer stay silent  about the incredible experience this has been. So here I am, a bit late in the game, jumping on the bandwagon. I want to have a place to share my journey so here it is. Bear with me now as I take you quickly over a few highlights of my time at the Bristol Academy of Performance Arts and my first surreal experiences as this strange grungy and sunny woman, Tamora Skumm.

The audition went by like a whirlwind. It took a great deal of courage for me to even try and I promise I wouldn't have gone if I didn't have a friend prodding me along, swearing it was where I needed to be. I was terrified in the greenroom, surrounded by legitimate actors, me being the art nerd who never even made it into a high school play. But I took a breath and before I walked into the doors of the audition room I thought, "Just be big, be campy and MAKE THEM LOVE IT"  and filled with that bravado I strutted in there. Honestly, I can't even really remember what happened next but I must have done well, because here I sit, part of the impossible magic I used to marvel at. I still can't believe it.

Walking into the faire that first night at the potluck to kickoff BAPA was a feeling I will never forget. A place I had only ever seen teeming with life, noise and color was still and silent but the structures and the ground itself seemed to radiate the energy and warmth. I knew no one there and thought for sure I'd be an outcast for whatever reason but I couldn't have been more wrong. Every single person I met then and since has been warm, kind and unbelievably accepting.  BAPA flew by for me then in a blur of freak outs and improv nights,  role playing  and reckoning cards, tent camping and flashlight bonfires, meeting more and more amazing people as the time passed.

I've never had any kind of summer camp experience growing up and after high school, higher education was not something in my budget. This felt a bit like both. I was at a point in my life when I never thought I would get to go back to any kind of schooling, much less something like this. I loved every single minute of it and was genuinely sad to see it end, still not really able to process what was still in store. I worked very hard to build Tamora or at least "fake it till you make it" but in sooth, I didn't have a clue what was going to happen when it was showtime.

Once again, I was terrified. In the time between BAPA ending and opening weekend I suddenly felt like I had nothing for this character to say or do. I was desperately trying to understand her; this odd grubby gal who was to peddle horrid food somehow. The task seemed daunting, her dialect was strange and not sticking, and I was certain I would fail.

photo by Steven  Bourelle
Then something happened. I can't explain it. I put my costume on, dirtied  my face up, took hold of my cart and everything clicked into place. I walked out there, opened my mouth and out fell the words of a country lass, right proud of her Skumm foods that made nobles turn up their noses at her wobbly shabby cart.  Somehow it all seemed to work.

Before the gates opened that day, my wonderfully loony director left me with a few words that I'll carry forever, "I'm giving you my favorite game, selling nonsense to people."

As the day passed, I understood more and more what he meant. This game of offering someone something they clearly have no use for and would never want was more fun than I could have imagined. Before I knew it I had a rhythm and a selection of lines that got a laugh just about every time I uttered them. My cart was flocked by people who wanted to see what kind of old and half eaten produce I had to offer. People would make faces and claim "Oh no thanks, I just ate!" Parents teased children by saying "Hey, you said you were hungry? Here's some nice food for ya!"

And Tamora (and I) lived for every second of it.

I may not have known what I was doing but Tamora Skumm sure did. It's only been one weekend now and I feel like I'll never be the same. I never thought I'd be so excited to go play with apple cores and onion peels.


  1. Well spake! Well spake indeed!
    So much of my experience has mirrored yours -- from auditioning while terrified, to potluck-ing with strangers who were suddenly friends, to alternating between feeling prepared and feeling like I have no blinkin' clue... and then letting the patrons' reactions show that we're not doing so bad after all. (:
    Here's to living like loonies and loving it, fellow Street scum/Skumm!

  2. GIRL! Your character wins the Izzo Six Qualities Match Game. She's identifiable, fascinating, likable, approachable, vulnerable, and extraordinary. She's visible from miles away; you can tell right away what's going on with her; and that gives guests permission to play and take risks. RIGHT ON, MAMA!!!

  3. I love her and can't wait to see her and photographer her again!!