The day-in-day-out can be tiresome, driving many of us to seek escape. Possibly you binge-watch Netflix, golf, garden or paint. Or maybe you don the persona and garb of a pirate or Silk Road merchant.
At least, that’s what Caruth Meadows neighbors Stephen and Kathryn Poe do. Both toil in the corporate world by day, but many an evening or weekend finds them planning for or participating in a Renaissance faire or Steampunk event. “It’s R&R and stress relief for me,” says Stephen. “Spending a day in Medieval England is a total change from working in software in the current day.”
Stephen was an A&M student in 1974 when his fencing club helped out with a game at a new event: Texas Renaissance Festival near Houston. Stephen was hooked and has attended festivals throughout the United States ever since, particularly Scarborough Renaissance Festival in Waxahachie. When Stephen and Kathryn began dating in the late ’80s, Kathryn discovered she shared his passion. In fact, their engagement was celebrated not with a ring but with a sword. “Anyone can get a ring, but true love deserves edged weapons,” insists Kathryn.
On any given Saturday in April and May, you can find the Poes in Waxahachie at the faire, a dusty field transformed into a 16th century village. Amid jousting knights, jugglers and the ever-present music of dulcimers and bagpipes, you’ll find Stephen in the lane near the chain mail armour shoppe, hawking his wares and chatting up patrons. Dressed in an ornately feathered hat and Chinese silks, sword and chain mail upon his belt, Stephen might “bellow out across the meadow” to draw customers. And apparently he’s quite good: A few years ago, he was awarded “Hawker of the Year.” He also banters with other crafters and cast, and is sure to call out “Long live the King!” as royalty parades by.
Kathryn varies her role at the faire, sometimes portraying a merchant’s wife, sometimes a pirate or a wench. She laughs that her attire grows “smaller and smaller” as the temperature climbs, and she usually ends the faire as a belly dancer. Kathryn and other costumed volunteers provide “King Henry” and “Queen Margaret” with a military escort and protect them from “overzealous patrons” during the daily parade. She also helps “carry off dead knights from the field of valor at the joust.”
About five years ago, Kathryn researched an intriguing new movement known as Steampunk, a world in which science fiction meets turn-of-the-century fashion and customs. “Once I found that Steampunk was based on a Victorian world that never was, I was hooked … bustles, lace and trains, oh my!”
Stephen has joined Kathryn in the Victorian sci-fi world, adopting an Airship Mogul persona, looking dapper at Steampunk conventions in his British military tropical uniform and Pith helmet. Kathryn often wears a skirt of brocade patches to play Mary Jane Kelly, a lady of the evening and the Ripper’s last victim. The Poes are perfecting costumes for the Steampunk Invasion at Dallas Heritage Village in September.
As fun as the costume play is for the Poes, it is not without its perils and sticky situations. At a convention last year, Kathryn was playing an “English tart” when she, ahem, offered services to a “clergyman.” He became flustered and left quickly. Kathryn soon learned he was a minister in real life. “Oops,” she says.
And then there was the time the Poes were traveling to a Minnesota RenFaire, their swords in locked gun cases. A humorless agent insisted they sign forms certifying they were unloaded.
Kathryn, who is a trainer/instructional designer for a software firm, embraces these worlds of make-believe and echoes Stephen’s appreciation for the escapism: “Perhaps it’s because I make my living in a data-driven, fact-based world that I look for ways to escape to another time or place,” she smiles.
“See, I think my corporate attire is the real costume here. Just sayin’.”
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