About Sophie

Mission: To create a robust performing arts community so that I, and anyone who wants to, can play in it.

Vision (draft): A performing arts community in the Kingdom of Atlantia  that has enough resources (teachers, organizers, event staff, time, space, online resources) so that any SCA participant (especially me) can participate in performing arts as easily, often, and conveniently as static arts.

  • at any time – without having to wait for weeks for an event/practice/meeting where performing arts are happening.
  • with resources (texts and teachers) available online or in person – as easily available as static arts resources.
  • without judgment or confusion from the rest of the community
  • without delay due to not understanding what’s going on because it’s such a new concept
  • as an equal priority as any other SCA activity

Link to Sophie’s Track Record (SCA “resume”)

Sophie’s SCA History:

I attended my first SCA event in July 1992 in Indianapolis, IN.  It was “Simple Day” run by the Barony of Sternfeld.

I fell in love with SCA dance and devoted every free minute in my undergraduate and post-college hobby time to learning SCA dance.

Little did I know that the SCA was a community where you really had to create your own fun.  If I wanted lots of people to dance with, I’d have to teach them.  If I wanted great dance music, I’d have to play it. If I wanted great dance music recorded on CDs, I’d have to record them.  If I wanted an event to go to where dancing and music was happening, I’d have to create it.  Other people just didn’t seem to already be doing the things I wanted to do, so my superpowers of extroversion and project management got a lot of exercise.

In February 1997, I started Musica Subterranea with some dancer/musician friends of mine. I played the cello and did all the organization and project management. We have now recorded 80 tunes of SCA dance music released on 4 CDs. After our first CD was released in 1999, we were awarded the Midrealm’s Award of the Grove, the arts award for groups. Click the “SCA Dance Music” tab above to learn more about SCA Dance Music.

sub_logo1  sophia with cello circa 2003 225x300

Sophie's SCA Dance Music Ensemble, Musica Subterranea

Sophie’s SCA Dance Music Ensemble, Musica Subterranea

In 1998, I created and Autocratted the Cloved Orange Ball, a dancing and fencing event in Sternfeld. I ran it for 3 years then it kept going for many years after. Click the “SCA Dance” tab above to learn more about Dance in the SCA.

Dagan at Cloved Orange Ball 1997

In 2000, I met members of i Sebastiani at Pennsic and fell in love with Commedia dell’ Arte.  Since there was zero commedia happening in my home kingdom, I had to create my own fun again…

In 2003, my first commedia troupe, i Scandali, performed for the first time in the Barony of Flaming Gryphon.

Sophie's first Commedia dell' Arte troupe, i Scandali circa 2003

Sophie’s first Commedia dell’ Arte troupe, i Scandali circa 2003

On April 17, 2004, I was given the Midrealm’s grant level service award, the Dragon’s Heart, and the grant level arts award, the Evergreen, in the same moment.  I was grateful that the crown recognized that I produce results in both serving the arts and creating great art.

In the Fall of 2005, i Scandali was awarded the Grove. In November 2005, I left the Midrealm and moved to Washington DC for a new job.  I’m proud to say that about a year after I left, i Scandali was awarded the Midrealm’s award for service done by groups, the Purple Fretty, for teaching and bringing commedia to demos and loads of SCA activities.

In June 2007, at Atlantia University, I met the man I would later marry, Manus MacDhai.  It was my first event back in the SCA after taking 2 years off after the death of my fiance, Lord Vitez Sandor.  Meeting Manus gave me a reason to re-engage in life and the fun I used to have performing in the SCA.

I got into teaching dance and Intro to Commedia classes wherever I could. My dream of starting a new commedia troupe depended on adjusting my job so I could quit commuting between Washington DC and Raleigh, NC where my Manus lived.

July 4, 2013, I finally moved down to the Barony of Windmasters’ Hill to live full time with the man I had the joy to marry on October 8, 2011.  I took up the position of Minister of Arts and Sciences for my Barony of Windmasters’ Hill.  Manus and I finally got a new commedia troupe started…

On October 19, 2013, my new commedia troupe, i Firenzi, performed for the first time at War of the Wings IIX.

iFirenzi Sausage Comedy WOW 2014

For Pennsic 2013, I took on the position of Co-Lead for the Track of Commedia, Foolery, and Physical Theater at the Pennsic Performing Arts Department. I’m still serving in that position with my dear friend and first serious student, Lord Niccolo Bartolazzi.

Commedia Expo Pennsic 2013 maybe   anton photobom Pennsic 2013 maybe

Shortly after Pennsic 2013, I took up the position of Atlantia Kingdom Minister of Arts and Sciences Deputy for Performing Arts.

At Spring Coronation 2014, I took up the formal relationship of Apprentice to Mistress Branwen Wallis, at the time serving as the Kingdom Minister of Arts and Sciences. Simultaneously, I also took up the formal relationship of Apprentice and Protege to Mistress Ceridwen ferch Owain. They are Peers of Gryphon Hall, and I hope one day to join them in the ranks of Peerage leaders of the SCA.

Sophie Ceridwen Branwen at ceremony  That’s Mistress Branwen Madyn Wallis and Mistress Ceridwen ferch Owain about to put a green and yellow belt on me (bordered with bright orange ’cause they love me).  It was a great day bc my husband, Manus MacDhai, also apprenticed to Branwen, and our good friend Thora also squired to Ceridwen’s husband John – so it was a great day for the household of Gryphon Hall!

Manus Sophie Thora at ceremony  Gryphon Hall


In October 2014, I started a new Performing Arts Program at War of the Wings and did some kids activities. I expanded the program in 2015 and passed it on to a mentee, Lord Kazuhiko, in 2016.

DSC07855  Iron Commedia cast WOW 2014

In February 2015, at the Kingdom Arts and Sciences Festival, I was awarded the Atlantian grant level arts award, the Order of the Pearl. At the same event, i Firenzi performed our first major play from a scenario from SCA period, The Fake Magician.

DSC08923  logo from Justin for i Firenzi  ifirenzi Arlechino In Love 12th Night 2015

On May 30, 2015, I ran my dream event, a Cooks and Performers’ Symposium, in my home Barony.

CAPS logo w staves w small s cropped

Over October 16 & 17, 2015, I ran a huge, new and innovative Performing Arts Program at the War of the Wings X event.

5 musicians from WoW Dance Band 2015  Whos Line Doth It Be Anyway actors WOW 2015

On November 14, 2105, Her Majesty Adelhait of Atlantia agreed to allow me to lead the Atlantia Performing Arts Guild while my old friend Master Corun Macandra was serving another Queen and troupe in learning to properly pronounce the queen’s English (Corun letter). On December 20, 2015, we launched the rebirth of the guild with my Atlantia Performing Arts Guild FINAL plan, which got plenty of healthy discussion and support such that I expect the rebirth to grow into a rambunctious toddler and feisty teenager throughout 2016.

2016 was an intense year:

  • Musica Subterranea’s 5th CD of SCA Dance Music was released at the SCA 50 Year event on June 18
  • I wrote the Complete Anachronist #173 on “Bringing Commedia dell’ Arte to Life” published in October 2016
    • The CA #172 on “Early Commedia Characters and Scenarios” was written by my friend Luceta di Cosimo and published in July 2016
  • I created and ran the Performing Arts Program at the SCA 50 Year Celebration event in Indianapolis, June 17-27, 2016
  • I ran the Pennsic Commedia All Stars troupe for the 3rd year and co-led the Commedia and Physical Theater track at Pennsic for the 4th year at Pennsic
  • I created and launched the Atlantia Royal Players program
  • I separated my jobs of Atlantia Performing Arts Guild guildmistress and Kingdom Deputy MOAS for Performing Arts.  I stepped down from DMOAS in October 2016.
  • I mentored the folks who took over the War of the Wings Performing Arts Program from me

The year 2016 was too intense for me. I cracked hard from over-stress in October 2016. Some of the reasons for overcommittment were in my control and some were not. The primary lesson I learned from this tough year was to never again write a blank check on my time. I need to know what the time commitment is for any new job I take on.

In 2017 and 2018, I’ve managed better balance. I continue to run the Atlantia Performing Arts Guild, Royal Players, i Firenzi, and I teach as often as I can. I am running the Pennsic Commedia Track on my own this year as my friend THL Niccolo Bartolazzi sinks his teeth into creating a whole new Theater Track for Pennsic University. This year is my last running commedia at Pennsic, so I’m training a replacement, the amazingly talented Lady Cael O’Conail.

All along, I’ve been teaching a great many classes in Commedia dell’ Arte, SCA dance, and how to organize and run performing arts activities in the SCA.  I’ve been performing and directing commedia with i Firenzi, growing the Commedia track at Pennsic, growing the Commedia community throughout the SCA, and squeezing in periodic musical experiences playing cello and singing with bards. I occasionally get out my puppets or stilts for fun.

sophie dunstan saxi Buckston Demo Spring 2015  phone download 27 SEP 15 407

I continue to work in the SCA to forward my mission and bring to life the vision I dream of for all performers in Atlantia. The root of my inspiration comes from remembering what it was like when I was a twenty-something, extremely excited, performer wanna-be in the SCA with very little support for actually getting to perform in the SCA. My teachers were spread across the USA from Boston to Wisconsin and most of the folks in my home town did not share interests with me. My annual pilgrimage to Pennsic was devoted to learning as much as I could in one week of “vacation” and making friends with as many teachers who would stay in touch with me to teach me more via email after Pennsic was over. I want very much to help make it easier for more folks to join in my kind of fun without having to stretch as far as I had to for as long as I had to. I believe that recreating the pre-1600 world stated by the SCA mission includes Performing Arts as a key piece, and there is a great deal we can do with Performing Arts to enhance our environment, provide artistic opportunities to our members, and enrich the SCA experience for everyone. I am leading the effort to organize support efforts for artists and also I love performing. I love backstage and onstage, the doing and teaching, and I hope I never have to stop.

Written in Spring 2018