Casa Firenzi Story – Episode 1

The Casa Firenzi Story and origin of i Firenzi, the Commedia dell’ Arte Troupe – Episode 1 – A letter to my sister

London, England, March 3, 1590

My dearest sister Lucia,
Today is my final day in London. Tomorrow I begin my journey to meet you in Florence. I cannot believe my good fortune! I hope this letter reaches you before I do!

Please express to your dear friend, the Marchesa Firenzi, my eternal gratitude for bringing me into her household. You have spoken so well of her and the family Firenzi for so long that I feel blessed to be included by her. After our parents went to God, I never dreamed we would be part of a large family again.

And how large! The Marchesa’s ten children simply must be overwhelming to keep up with. No wonder you need help with tutoring them. I promise I will provide them focused lessons in dance and music. I will naturally focus on the popular Caroso style, but I hope the Marchesa doesn’t mind some English style dance from the Inns of Court to ensure her children are well rounded. Don’t worry, I won’t mention that man, Arbeau. And your secret fencing lessons for the girls are our precious secret. Maybe you could teach me some fencing when I arrive?

To be part of one of the most powerful families in Florence is a little intimidating. Everyone knows the Medici, Sforzas, Gonzagas, Firenzi, and other powerful Italian families are always at each other’s throats. I pray we don’t get pulled into any political adventures. It’s far too easy to find oneself dead or missing in a country full of assassins. Of course Elizabeth’s England is not much better. At least in Florence I will live with the protection of a powerful household.

Speaking of protection, please send thanks to the Marquess Firenzi for sending the kind gentleman to escort me all the way to Florence. I never thought such an act of chivalry would focus on me, but I am grateful for the company. Traveling on my own terrified me.

My escort is an enchanting and well educated man. He was apparently meeting academic colleagues at the University of Leiden when he got orders from the Marchese to travel through London on his way home. He has collected me and we will travel together home to Casa Firenzi in Florence. I’m certain the conversation will continue to be interesting. He is a brilliant naturalist with a deep facination with roses. He worked with the Master Clusius on building that famous garden in Vienna a few years ago for the Holy Roman Emperor, Maxamillian II. But I’m sure you know that already since he’s been part of the Firenzi household for 5 years by now, and he’s a talkative fellow. He’s extremely proud of the garden he’s built for the Marchesa. I just hope the travel conversation may cover more topics than the many varieties of roses he’s grown. Roses all look the same to me, but the differences between rose varieties is extremely important to him. I wonder if he knows anything about tulips? At least he’s handsome, so if the conversation gets boring, the scenery is pleasant.

Once I get to Florence, the first thing I want to do is see the Italian comic actors! It’s been very hard for me to see them when they occasionally come to a London house. I never seem to be invited to the right dinners. I’ve heard wonderful stories of their high energy comedy. And they include women in their troupes! I would just die of joy if I were ever allowed to perform with a troupe of men and women who get paid to enchant their patrons with humor! I have heard that these troupes of actors actually earn a living. Just like The Queen Elizabeth’s Men, but with women and high energy comedy!

You know I love that incredible new writer, William Shakespeare, but there is no possibility I would be allowed to perform his works being a woman in Elizabeth’s England. At least not anywhere respectable.

Dear sister, my new life in Florence will have everything I’ve ever wanted! I will live under the same roof with you again. I will see comedy in the streets. I will teach young people the beauty of music and dance. I will be part of a large family with reliable protection. And I might even catch the eye of the handsome rose master. Don’t tell him I said that.

With deep love and great excitement,
Your eternally loving sister,
Sophia

 

Atlantia Twelfth Night Event 2021

Atlantia Twelfth Night Event, January 9, 2021 in 4 parts:

  1. The Apprenticing Ceremony of Mistress Teleri Barod and Lady Sonya Flicker
  2. The new Award of the Narwal
  3. Shakespeare at the Spanish Twelfth Night
  4. Atlantia’s Royal Bard competition

The Apprenticing Ceremony of Mistress Teleri and Lady Sonya

1) The Apprenticing Ceremony of Mistress Teleri Barod and Lady Sonya Flicker

I had the true joy of helping two dear friends, Mistress Teleri Barod and Lady Sonya Flicker, to create and livestream a beautiful ceremony marking their choice to begin a formal relationship as Laurel and Apprentice. They both spent a great deal of time discussing how to begin and structure their relationship as well as how to express it to our larger SCA community.

I helped them translate their vision into an online public ceremony including social time in private on Zoom afterwards with their chosen family. Here is the recording of their ceremony which I believe is an excellent example to share with others. They have granted permission for this video to be published publicly for all to see.  https://youtu.be/Jv3DLok2Y5k

 

If any folks out there would like assistance in creating and livestreaming their ceremony, of any kind, please let me know if you would like my help. I am enjoying this opportunity to use my theater and technical skills to help our community stay connected through these joyous ceremonies.

Much like our beloved Baron Bardolf, Baroness Machteld and others who serve with photography in the SCA, I charge no fee but would ask for the permission to edit and publish publicly the final recording I help create.

 

2) The new Award of the Narwal

A new award in the Kingdom of Atlantia for special, innovative service during the time of COVID.

Their most noble Majesties of Atlantia created a new award yesterday with an Augmentation of Arms called The Narwal (a swordfish type whale). This award is for recognizing the special service many SCAdians have devoted during the time of COVID to keep their SCA communities running.

I sincerely appreciate this action from our Crowns because the life changing of 2020 required creative problem solving to keep the SCA alive. The people included in this first round of recognition included 50 Atlantians, of which I am one. <3

 

My deepest gratitude is sent to Their Majesties for including me in this very special group of people. I am thrilled and humbled to be included in this group of innovators. I have seen the work of most of these folks as innovative, creative, groundbreaking, and dedicated to keeping our community alive. I am grateful Their Majesties noted that much of this work was very different from what these folks would be doing at in-person events. A special, separate recognition is a heartwarming way to say thank you.

 

No one knew we needed the things this group created when COVID hit in March 2020.  Their contributions to the new playbook of “How to SCA Online” is nothing short of magic.  It’s very different work to create new stuff when there is no manual, no Peer in “COVID LIFE” to ask for advice, and we’re all improvising during a global crisis. 

 

That walk in the dark is a challenge these folks all stepped up to.

I am thrilled to be included in this group of out-of-the-box thinkers and creators.

Link to Court’s recording (Narwhal portion starts at minute 9) https://youtu.be/YLScYP7-l9w

 

Atlantia's Twelfth Night Shakespeare Players

A troupe of Shakespeare players travels from London every year to wherever the Atlantian Royalty celebrates the holidays. Many great performances are done, money is made, and shenanigans abound!

3) Shakespeare at the Spanish Twelfth Night

Shakespeare appeared again at this year’s Atlantia Twelfth Night event! This year the theme was Spanish as the location of our virtual event was the Castell de Cordona. Our daring troupe of Shakepearian actors from London again braved the risks of international travel to bring the works of Shakespeare to new locations!

 

Unfortunately, one of our members gave away all our travel money in a fit of Christmas spirit, and now we have to busk in the street or find a new gig to make money to travel home to London!    (We usually pass the hat for our favorite organization, The Trevor Project which supports LGBTQ Youth, but this year we’re just asking folks to donate on their own at this link:  https://give.thetrevorproject.org/campaign/fundraise-for-trevor/c24399 )

 

Thankfully, our business contacts, Capitano Spavento and his wife Katarina, know many rich and noble patrons of the arts and will certainly help us find a well paying gig. Here is the link to the raw footage https://youtu.be/nnWb3sQ7saI  I will tweak it to include written credits later…

My deepest gratitude to the troupe of talented players from many Kingdoms for their inspiring performances:

  • Lady Meriorie Matheson
  • milord Joshua
  • Mistress Rhonwen glyn Conwy
  • Meister Frydherik Eysenkopf, called Fritz
  • Tiarna Donnchadh mac Eoin
  • Lady Catarina Caravello
  • THL Cael O’Conaill the Leafy Greene
  • Lady Edekyn O Fierhie
  • Lady Celia le Fleur
  • Lord Owyn De Wolfe
  • Baroness Sophia the Orange
  • Baron Manus MacDhai

Viewers may also notice the mentions made of many supportive patrons of the arts found in Atlantia:

  • Their Majesties Anton and Luned and their puppies
  • Their Graces Lynette and Ragnar
  • Mestra Esperanza Susanna Flecha
  • Duchess Seonaid
  • Maistreas Cellach
  • Mistress Ceridwen ferch Owain

We are very sorry that Capitano Spavento could not make connection with you on that very busy day, so we will keep in touch for later! 😉

4) Atlantia’s Royal Bard competition

For the second time ever, I entered the Atlantia Royal Bard competition. I usually don’t enter because so many other amazing performers compete for the job, but this year I felt my additional virtual skills could be useful if I were chosen.

Singing is not my strong suit, although I can carry a tune in a bucket and not embarrass myself if singing is needed. I am beginning to work on Storytelling as an artform. Although my favorite performing styles of improvisation and Commedia dell’Arte just don’t fit in traditional SCA bardic circles, this competition using video submissions inspired me to try. They asked for 1) A piece that inspires 2) A piece new-to-you 3) A period piece.

  1. For me, inspiration flows from my sister, so with her permission I sang one of the few songs I can carry in that bucket we just talked about: “Only.”
  2. My period piece was a speech from Shakespeare, Henry V, Act 3, Scene 1 “Once More Unto The Breach” where Henry is inspiring his troops to take the city of Harfleur.
  3. My new-to-you piece was a story I’ve known about for many years but never thought to put it into a “Storytelling” format: “The Legend of Inanna” This story is very special to me for a thousand reasons: Sisterhood, my work in women’s support groups, the power of empathy to heal, and many more. I expect to keep developing this piece.

I would genuinely appreciate feedback if given gently, privately, and with a focus on helping me improve my performance. 

Out of the 6 competitors, I was not chosen as one of the 4 finalists nor 2 of the Royal Bards for the year.

That is absolutely no problem for me because there is no shame in coming in behind the other great performers who competed. Truly beautiful pieces were created by the other 5 competitors, and I am thrilled our Kingdom has two magnificent new Royal Bards!

 

The 6 competitors were:

  1. Me
  2. Lord Ciaran mac Breandain – an excellent vocalist/guitarist who runs global bardic circles,  teaches music theory, notation, songwriting and recently produced his first CD!
  3. Lord Ishmael Stedfast Reed – an amazing poet and storyteller whose performances were captivating to me.
  4. Lady Kame Gusukuma – a lovely performer who brought to us impressive performances from her newly discovered interests in Japanese music.
  5. and our new Rose Bard in service to the Atlantia Queen: Lady Nezhka Orshinaia who is already well known for her beautiful voice and excellent online bardic production
  6. and our new Crown Bard in service to the Atlantia King: Lord Hákon hábrok who brings together his love of music, poetry, and warfighting like the best of Renaissance Men!

I had a lot of fun producing my submission which you can see here: https://youtu.be/1XarOhEj6M0  

Mountains of thanks to Efenwealt, Pippin, and my amazing husband Manus for their help providing accompaniment music and video recording assistance.  Making this video was a fun project to do with you! <3

 

The Atlantia Twelfth Night event was a wonderful time of connection for me – so much so that I missed out on the lovely virtual ball where my friend Lady Nicolosa organized a TON of great dancers and music to let people connect through dancing in their homes!  And I missed all the bardic.  I just passed out on the sofa.  I am grateful to Duchess Seonaid and her staff for a truly lovely virtual event!