Today I present part 10 of the blog tour featuring Tallis Steelyard's adventures. If you've missed reading one or more of the other parts you can catch up by visiting these links.
Part 1: A significant gesture
Part 2: An eye to the future
Part 3: Butterfly net
Part 4: Getting rich moderately rapidly
Part 5: In tune with the Zeitgeist
Part 6: Learning a role
Part 7: Love letters
Part 8: Matchmaker
Part 9: Mother mine
Now on to, today's part: No strutting or fretting.
I’ve known and respected old Tallan Wynfeather for many years. He is, in my humble opinion, one of the great actor-managers. Admittedly you’ll rarely see him or his troupe grace a Port Naain stage. But over the last forty years he has kept on the move. By his own account he’s performed in every keep, town and village in Partann, and in every community north of Port Naain as well. They’ve performed before brigands, nobles more bloodthirsty than brigands, and burghers more avaricious and hypocritical than nobles. Yet he has brought his people through it all and has not lost one to the manifold dangers of the area.
There are times when I find that it is advisable not to be in Port Naain. I’m not talking about the occasions when it’s necessary to disappear for months, but sometimes it helps if you’re not available for a week or two. I’ve discovered over the years that if you’re too available, nobody appreciates you. So in the early years I got into the habit of disappearing off for a fortnight, and travelling with Tallan did at least mean that I still ate.
Now one of the strengths of Tallan’s troupe is that he has never written the plays. Far too many actor-managers do, to ensure they get the good parts. With Tallan, on those occasions where he hadn’t got a writer, the troupe wrote them. Mind you, such was their repertoire; it was possible for them to survive without a writer for many months.
Indeed they performed a very wide variety of works. Depending on just who they had travelling with them at the time, they could put on some of the old standards such as ‘Darkshore Revealed’, Cleethbart Ingratstone’s famous ‘Silent Monologue’, and ‘Three Shorecombers and the Lost Dinket’. But the company’s real strength is its ability to put on a score of different tales of ‘Forfulum the Buffoon.’ You must have seen some of them; they are based on a series of comic tales about the sordid, debauched and incompetent individual after who they were named.
Sometimes Tallan and his thespians have to cross the city to get from the villages in the North back to Partann, or vice versa. Tallan will always book a hall or even a theatre if the price is right. So on perhaps two nights a year, in some years, you can see a performance in Port Naain. He’ll send out children pasting up fliers and handbills to bring in an audience. At the start of the evening, the audience will take their seats, as strait-laced and po-faced as you could hope for. By the time you get to the interval they’re clinging to each other and hooting with laughter. The reviewer will write an utterly damning review, and next time Tallan passes through the city, the theatre will be packed again.
Nowadays, Tallan’s daughter, Tessi, writes for the company. To be entirely accurate, she doesn’t merely produce new plays for them; she pays suppliers and generally acts as Tallan’s factotum. She even pays occasional walk-on parts and helps with the catering.
To give you a feel for the life, I can do no better than describe what it was like the last time I was with them, north of Partann. We had just finished the evening performance in Lannan Crossroads. The performance had been held in the great barn that was part of the Crossroads Hotel. The performers were relaxing with a meal Tessi and I had prepared whilst the play was being performed.
Tallan had spent that day in Muckleport. We were going to move there next. He had arranged with the Dullard’s Lament, the largest Inn in the village, that next day the Landlord would erect an awning outside the inn. Then that evening the company would put on a play. The whole thing was cleverly arranged. To get under the awning you had to pass through the bar, so the landlord was happy, he’d sell more food and drink. At the same time it made it easier to make sure nobody attended without a ticket. Tallan had already been spotted by people who asked when the performance would be, so he reckoned that they’d get a good crowd.
Once this was arranged Tallan then loafed about the bar for an hour or so, chatting and listening to gossip. Then he rode back in time for the performance, played the part of Ruff Tumble, the unfortunate pimp who has inadvertently purchased the indenture of Forfulum the Buffoon. The play is the tale of how he tries a series of increasingly desperate expedients to get his money back.
The play over, their meal eaten, Tallan and Tessi retired to the wagon which serves Tessi as office, writer’s studio and home. Tessi sat down, picked up her pen and asked, “So what do we perform tomorrow?”
Tallan had been contemplating this, “Forfulum the Buffoon and the Magistrate. Make the magistrate female and let her be thin, venal and severe, with a fat, self-important husband. That way they’ll recognise her as Lady Vestan, who sits here in Lannan Crossroads.”
Tessi makes a brief note. “What about the arrest scene? Gallan has been working on his pratfalls and it would be nice to give him a chance to use them.”
Tallan nodded. “Yes, and Treggor and Mifelt can do their clothes washing scene. Have them washing the magistrate’s formal regalia before the trial.”
Thus and so, the next evening’s play is decided. Tessi will hand out a synopsis to the cast with their breakfast so everybody knows their role, and if anybody does need to learn their lines, during one of the stops, they can copy them from one of the script books kept in the wagon.
Mind you, to see father and daughter at work, one really had to be there when they decided to play Woodpin. The village sprawls over about four miles of road. There are farms and fields in the middle of it. When you arrive from the west the first building is the Woodpin Grandiloquent Hotel. When you leave heading east the last building is the Woodpin Salutation Hotel. The two hotels are managed by two sisters, termagants who apparently loath each other even more than they dislike the rest of humanity. Yet they both brew decent ale. Given that they were taught by the same mother, there is little to choose between them when it comes to brewing, cooking or general cleanliness. A fair man might comment that the standard is high and all that is lacking is hospitality.
Over the years Tallan had tried to be reasonable. He’d suggested that his troupe alternate between the two inns. He’d even offered to stay two days and play each inn on the same trip. Finally Tessi came up with a plan. Father and daughter went to see old Bulwin. Bulwin farmed exactly in the middle of the village. He brewed his own beer and shunned both inns equally. Bulwin was happy to let Tallan put up a big awning against his barn and brew house. They’d put a stage under the awning and put on the play there. Bulwin even promised to run a temporary bar. The evening was a great success, and judging by the number of drinkers supping old Bulwin’s beer, there couldn’t have been many in the two hotels.
The next morning, Tessi went to see the two termagants. She explained that she was already thinking ahead to the next time they passed through. She and her father had agreed with old Bulwin that they’d have a Woodpin theatrical festival stretching over three days (and more importantly, three nights).
The two older women were not entirely happy at this, but then Tessi pointed out that whilst they could doubtless allow people to camp, she and her father felt it better to help those who became partners in the festival. This they would do by insisting there was no camping and people stayed in one of the two hotels.
Immediately the two ladies were more sanguine about the plan, especially when Tessi suggested that they might both like to have their own temporary bar, one on each side of the theatre, where they could sell drink and food.
By this time they were calling her a wise young woman and came dangerously close to mothering her. In fact they were so caught up in her vision that both paid over twenty alars apiece in cash for her to use on advanced publicity.
The author has a few words to say about Tallis Steelyard's other adventures.
So welcome back to Port Naain. This blog tour is to celebrate the genius of Tallis Steelyard, and to promote two novella length collections of his tales.
So meet Tallis Steelyard, the jobbing poet from the city of Port Naain. This great city is situated on the fringes of the Land of the Three Seas. Tallis makes his living as a poet, living with his wife, Shena, on a barge tied to a wharf in the Paraeba estuary. Tallis scrapes a meagre living giving poetry readings, acting as a master of ceremonies, and helping his patrons run their soirees.
These are his stories, the anecdotes of somebody who knows Port Naain and its denizens like nobody else. With Tallis as a guide you’ll meet petty criminals and criminals so wealthy they’ve become respectable. You’ll meet musicians, dark mages, condottieri and street children. All human life is here, and perhaps even a little more.
Firstly; Tallis Steelyard, Deep waters, and other stories.
You can find in UK Amazon here or US Amazon here.
More of the wit, wisdom and jumbled musings of Tallis Steelyard. Discover the damage done by the Bucolic poets, wonder at the commode of Falan Birling, and read the tales better not told. We have squid wrestling, lady writers, and occasions when it probably wasn't Tallis's fault. He even asks the great question, who are the innocent anyway?
And then there is Tallis Steelyard Playing the game, and other stories. Which you find on Amazon UK here or Amazon US here.
More of the wit, wisdom and jumbled musings of Tallis Steelyard. Marvel at the delicate sensitivities of an assassin, wonder at the unexpected revolt of Callin Dorg. Beware of the dangers of fine dining, and of a Lady in red. Travel with Tallis as his poetical wanderings have him meandering through the pretty villages of the north. Who but Tallis Steelyard could cheat death by changing the rules?
If you want to see more of the stories from the Land of the Three Seas, some of them featuring Tallis Steelyard, go to my Amazon page at UK Amazon or US Amazon.
Tallis even has a blog of his own here.
Want to see what other adventures Tallis Steelyard shares with everyone, visit these links over the next few days.
Part 11: Something of the night?
Part 12: The civilising influence of Betta Thrang.
Part 13: Unfashionably tired
Part 14: Vegetating
Wordsmiths work not only for the kind praises but the sale of wares to put food on the table and a roof over their head. Therefore, if either of these books tickles your fancy, then click on the appropriate link or visit Jim Webster's Amazon page to see what other delights might suit your palate for reading.
Founder of Call Sign Wrecking Crew, LLC
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I'm Lynn Hallbrooks - an author, blogger, cheerleader, founder, proofreader, reader, and reviewer. I have read and reviewed books for Masquerade Crew, NetGalley, and Reading Deals, to name a few. I enjoy reading books by new-to-me authors as well as sharing my love of books with others.
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