When my family attended TRF for the first time in 1999, we made a lot of great memories. One of the greatest memories, though, was seeing the Mud Show. My husband even got the big muddy kiss plant that happens once each show. With Festival season approaching, I find myself getting excited about all the great entertainment TRF has to offer. So I asked the Mud Show guys a few questions, and they answered in their inimitable style.
1) What is your style of entertainment?
The Mud Show®’s style of entertainment is difficult to label. Well, we can immediately strike off the list: a musical act, or an act with any discernible talent. We seem to make people laugh, so I would call us a comedic act.
2) Do you have a mission?
Our mission is the impossible, to make everyone have a good time. We often look out into the audience and see a grandmother, a 4 year old, and a biker all laughing at the same time. I suppose they are laughing at different things, but all laughing nevertheless. We always aim for that.
(Left to right) Paul Barrosse, Casey Fox, Rush Pearson, Dan Deuel, Al Leinonen at the Texas Renaissance Festival in 1981.
3) If you’re a group, how did you come to be an ensemble?
A group of my college pals happened to see an advertisement for auditions at the King Richards Faire in Wisconsin in 1978. They auditioned and were hired and the faire requested they play a roving gaggle of street beggars. The next year I (Rush) joined, and it was in that year we created the Mud Show® during an extended piece of improvisation on the street involving mud. Over the years we have had over 40 men and women perform under our Mud Show® banner. Today there are 8 active members, with 6 of us having been with the Mud Show® since at least 1980.
4) How did you learn your art/craft?
When we started, the bulk of us were doing improv comedy shows at university. And after university, the bulk of us started a Theatre Company in Evanston, IL performing comedy revues, new plays, and seldom performed plays. However, most of our training came from doing our show all over the country for different demographics, and finding the common denominator. Basically, we just pay attention to what is going on. There was/is a trial and error on jokes, techniques to make people laugh, and attitudes we imbue to create our show characters. The attitude is most important, for that character has to be able to maneuver all day on the streets and in the show within the confines of that character. And these characters must be developed enough to change, just as we all change with time and experience. After 36 years performing the show we are still learning. The audience indicates to us what works and what does not work. Not that we pander per se. We enjoy taking a new audience member to somewhere other than where they think they want to go, as we play against their expectations. This is basically our show. I have asked lots of people who have not seen the Mud Show® what they think the Mud Show® is and I have yet to receive an answer that comes close to describing our show. I like to tell the uninitiated that our Mud Show® is simply beyond their imagination.
5) What is its tie-in to the Renaissance period?
At a fair during this period you would not find the royal court or the King or Queen. There was no jousting either. Heck, you would not even come across the word “Renaissance,” that word being coined in the 19th century to describe this period. These fairs were mostly for trading. Two types of entertainment prevailed. Perhaps a puppet show or a presentation of a play reenacted by “actors” who had seen it in London, and some traveling musicians and acrobats. The other type would be along the lines of bear baiting, wrestling matches, or some kind of geek show where the crowd would get riled up. The money at these shows was made from the cut purses and pick pockets fleecing the riled and rapt crowd. The more emotionally involved the audience was with the “show,” the more distracted they were about being jostled and having their valuables taken. Now when we started doing this, we did not know this, we just were guys in rags messing around in mud allowing the audience to guide us as we fine tuned our antics. Then after a few years of being called anachronistic by “purists” I began reading about actual fairs in England during this time and found we were closer to being an accurate entertainment of the time, than what the “purists” adored. Kooky, really.
6) Where else do you perform?
Over the past 36 years we have performed at 16 different Renaissance Festivals and Faires. We currently perform at TRF, The Bristol Renaissance Faire, and King Richard’s Faire.
7) What’s an interesting bit of trivia about you, unrelated to what you do at TRF?
I had a cousin who was a gorilla in the Seattle Zoo. His name was Bobo. He is now stuffed at the Museum of History and Science in Seattle, where I suppose my sibling and my other cousins will end up when we shuffle off our mortal coils.
Though the Study Beggars are now found at the Tower Stage, they still bring the funny! Do you have any memories of Sparta (who make the earth shake), Trojans (who never break), or good clean fun?
Get to know the guys a little better at the following links!