Saturday, September 4, 2010

Entertainment in Medieval America

In times of peace, warlords will keep their skills sharpened with tournaments held in most major cities. Jousting is the largely the most popular, although melee will take a variety of forms. Around the Great Lakes, a common melee fight is is to try to grapple one's opponent with a guisarme, although these can get pretty rough and result in fisticuffs. The emphasis from melee to jousting gradients from east to west, as the flatter and more open lands give warlords plenty of practice with the horses. Although the port cities of the Northeast do not usually engage in mounted combat, as centers of trade they cannot pass up the opportunity to host events with such market potential. Their pool of nobles may often compete in fencing tournaments, and such homegrown heroes can be the crux of bitter rivalries. Suspected foul play in the battle between Michael Boniface of New York and Fred Connolly of Boston in 2823 was rumored to be the catalyst in a bloody war, and onlookers get nervous whenever fighters from those two cities compete with one another

The bluntness of technique also moves from north to south. In the more Northern regions, there's more of an emphasis on padding up and jumping straight in. Tournament fighting in the South is more about speed, since heavy armors can be uncomfortable in the hotter climate. It's for this reason the Southern nations will hold most of their major tournaments after the harvest season is over, in December and January. Although most of the competing knights are from below the Mason Dixon, everyone from Non-Denominational world is invited. Well-off knights from the north will gladly take a leave from their snow-ridden homes to test their skill in January's Super Bowl Tournament. (The at the behest of the Church, nobody performs on Sunday) The event is not only a big deal for competitors, but for merchants who can sample consumers from all over the continent. The tournament will even present theatrical shows.

The demands of labor, lack of wealth by most citizens, and religious concerns can often limit the performance arts in medieval society. However, the 20th and 21st centuries left people used to a steady diet of television and music, so performers were able to eke out livings here and there. In California, the major cities will have long-established theaters, paid for out of the government's coffers, as well as schools to train. Playwrights and actors even compete at bi-annual festivals in Hollywood. Because of this, the arts are more sophisticated, but also much more rigid. Playwrights often have to stick to long-established conventions, women are barred from acting, and only the most underground productions do not endorse current religious mores and established rulers.

In the forest zones of the east, performing is a much more amorphous, even sloppy trade. Only one out of two thousand people can make a living this way, and a single person is unable to create an entire retinue by oneself. The peasant class also rarely has the time, never mind the wealth, to be steady customers. Therefore, minstrels and theatrical troupes in medieval times often travel from place to place, which may contain a wide variety of jugglers, singers, dancer, actors and comedians--and very often these performers are jacks of all trades and masters of none. Because half the troupe may consist of people who aren't even very good actors, show have more of a broad and "variety" feel, and popular roles are familiar, cartoonish characters like Spiderman, Casper the Ghost or Mickey Mouse, so pratfalls and acrobatics can take the place of more heady, dramatic pieces. It also ensures they can have a paying audience. Larger cities can boast more specialized casts and bigger productions, but they still often have that caravan flavor.

Out on the plains, the cowboys are not one for dramatic representations. They find it a wasteful display of idolatry that breeds thievery and promiscuity. They also do not engage in the jousting style tournaments, as there is no noble class. What the herdsmen have rather, are rodeos. Here, cowboys can test their practical skills at herding, which include steer-wrestling, roping, bronc-riding and horse racing. Here, competing means more than just for riches or glory, but a very deep honor. Feats of being an excellent cowboy essentially mean one has the essential qualities of being a man. Leadership, livestock and women are awarded to rodeo champions. It can also be a somewhat less fatal means of issuing challenges for a slight. It's also sometimes tradition to have a prisoner of war dressed up in clownish outfits and facing the wrath or one or more angry bulls. For all the stakes and gruesomeness, however, rodeos are a festive affair, full of feasting, dancing and music.

Music is actually still an important part of cowboy culture, and the only art form one can portray religious and historical figures. Musicians are considered the guardians of history by the tribe, passing down lore and playing at wedding and funeral services. Because many instruments are made of wood and metal, they are invaluable family heirlooms