Friday, June 19, 2009

Armoring for Camelot at Exit 7 Players

One of my fondest memories of community theater was doing Camelot, with Exit 7 Players, back in 1985.

Camelot was Exit 7's first musical and first really big show. And WHAT a big show! Our director, Howard, was an ambitious man. He wanted spectacle, he wanted drama, he wanted horses at the knighting scene!

We tried to match his frankly manic vision. Sometimes what we tried worked, sometimes it didn't, but it was huge fun going at it!

If memory serves, the producer was Pam Hebert, a no-nonsense leader who was actually very friendly but also very goal-oriented. My then-wife, Sherri Cole, worked with Pam's husband and I'm sure that's how we made the connection. Sherry & I were very active in the local Society for Creative Anachronism group (the Barony of Bergental), so naturally we were called in to help out with costuming and whatnot. Many Bergentalers lent costumes and banners, and filled in as extras.

I particularly enjoyed making the armor for the show. My personal SCA armor was rusty and clanky, and with the addition of someone else's mail shirt, provided Dick Hamel with a wonderfully decrepit - and noisy - King Pellinore outfit. Everyone else in armor got kydex (plastic), most of which was made at an armoring party featuring myself, Dick, his young son and my brother Eric.

I'd gotten a lot of kydex scrap cheap from some plastic forming company near Springfield. We cut out shapes my Craftsman skilsaw, softened it by warming it in an oven and then curved to fit by pressing it to the body of my brother Eric. Eric was a pretty good sport about the process, although it may have been that he was unwilling to admit that the stuff was hot! It swiftly cooled and we spraypainted it to look shiney-metallic.

When we had all the stuff made, there was some leftover kydex. And there was Dick's son. So we quickly made up a boy-sized set, just for him. Needless to say, he was very happy.

We had only one disaster in this process. The excessively elaborate armor that I'd designed featuring small sliding pieces to cover the gap between the elbow cup and the upper and lower arm protectors (in retrospect, far more than the show really needed but what the heck.) The larger pieces had to be done in the kitchen oven, the small slidy pieces fit neatly in the basement toaster oven (see it coming?)

About 20 minutes after we'd finished the project and we sitting around the kitchen, a smell came up from the basement, then a little smoke. I'd left one extra lame in the toaster oven! I ran downstairs and, through the haze, saw it'd swollen up like an overgrilled hot dog and was spewing God-knows-what like a cheap monster movie hatchling. I held my breath and threw the toaster oven out the basement window, into a side yard where we never went anyway. We'd created our own miniature Superfund site!

Camelot gave me many memories and many good times, but I'll always treasure its most important lesson: Turn Off The Oven!


Jon said...

Cool story. I have so many good memories of Exit 7. Wonder if there is anyone there we would know anymore, or who remember us? As I recall though, this was not your 1st time leaving things on or in a hot stove. Senior moments in your 20s?

Maurie Kirschner said...

What a great story, Randy!