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Time Travel in the Twin Cities

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I spent a week of my summer with a monk, knight, and assorted vagabonds. While I’m not really a gypsy, no more than Elizabeth is a shaman or Lucas is an alchemist, Medieval Minnesota campers at Augsburg College are immersed in medieval life. During the one week camp, we left our modern homes, spanning from Canada to Delaware, for medieval Europe.

To prepare for time-traveling, we each wrote an essay describing our character- what she did, what he wanted to learn, what she wore, and other useful details. These essays helped our counselors and the camp director, ‘King Phil’ Adamo, tailor the camp to us.

Every morning started with research in the library, perfecting our character and soaking up information like dress, speech, and work, as well as figuring out how our characters interlocked. Most days, we then went to a ‘class’ based on the camp’s theme- this year’s was King Arthur. We learned all about his life and the mysteries surrounding him.

Other days, we learned about castles, which I expected to be boring. Instead, we had an animated class on the many different purposes of castles- defensive, political, show-off, residential, or combinations of them. At the end of the class, groups drew their own castles.

I’m sure this sounds very studious and difficult, but I can’t write down all the little jokes, giggles, and quirks that popped up all over. You’ll have to come to the camp to find out!

Another day, we had a class on calligraphy, in which we learned how to hold our pens and draw letters. Some of us were writing flawless pages within the hour, while others still practiced strokes, but we all enjoyed it and promised to write one another letters in our newfound, beautiful penmanship.

Afterwards, we headed to music! For campers who didn’t play an instrument, or who played a non-period instrument (such as a saxophone or clarinet), Merilee Klemp had percussion and singing parts set aside. First, we had an overview of medieval music, then the melody-players were given sheet music, and the improvising began. By the end of the week, we had a beautiful, haunting story-song of King Arthur’s life, written by one of the campers.

After lunch, we headed to a dialect and movement class, where we played some games to learn how our characters would move and speak. A King would never carry himself the same way as a beggar, just as Draco Malfoy always drawled while Professor Quirrel stuttered. We also worked on writing a short comedic play showing part of King Arthur’s life. As Jessica proclaimed, “I’m the first sassy-girl King Arthur!”

Costuming turned out to be loads of fun and surprisingly easy- once we learned how to sew! By the end of the week, thanks to the tireless seamstresses, every one of us had a beautiful costume, true to period clothing.

My favorite class of all was dance. This wasn’t ballet or hip hop- no; this was Renaissance Dance, taught by members of Terpsichore Dance Troupe. We stumbled and laughed our way through more difficult dances such as the Italian Prendente after gaining some level of competency at easier dances such as Jenny Pluck Pears and Hole in the Wall. After a few classes, we were graced with the privilege of poaching. This is where, whenever a pair is about to join hands, another person slides into the midst and steals someone’s partner. This got extremely confusing, but was insanely fun.

And, what would a medieval camp be without swordsmanship? We learned the basic guards and cuts with longswords, crossed blades a few times in half-speed matches, and tried out some of the movie cuts- most of which don’t work. At the end, to remind us that while we may be able to hold our own against other amateurs but we shouldn’t challenge masters, our instructor Craig Johnson ‘royally owned’ the local monk. We all watched in half-awe, half-hilarity as ‘Brother Ronan McTavvish’ had each of his limbs ‘severed,’ including his head; took a pommel to the face, and was thrown to the ground. Of course, Ronan had not one grass stain on his new habit.

Every night, we finished with a movie. Each movie was linked to King Arthur, including Excalibur, Mists of Avalon, Monty Python‘s The Quest for the Holy Grail, and Court Jester. At the end of the day, despite being exhausted, most roommates spent long hours talking.

On the last day, we all packed up our stuff, dressed in medieval garb, and trooped off to the Minnesota Renaissance Festival, where we performed our play and song, then roamed the fest in search of yet more fun with our new friends before our real parents took us away.

Overall, Medieval Minnesota was an incredibly varied, fun, and intense camp. It sounds like a lot of work, but it’s like a lab in chemistry that seems hard reading the report, but getting up and doing it with your partner is a piece of cake- usually with a bright flare or bubbles as a result.




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