Friday, April 13, 2007

How Much Is Slander Worth?

Or does email fall under libel laws? Not that I'm planning to sue; it's more satisfying to watch things explode from a distance. And I don't know how entertaining this will be with how much background info I have to put in.

May 17, 2005: Vacation From RenFaire My posting on quitting Louisiana Renaissance Festival. Notice I never said anything bad about anyone, choosing to say it was my burnout. Burnout caused by becoming increasing demoralized by working for LRF and most of it I put on not being supported as management by the owners because I'm female. There was bickering and clicks and high turnover among the cast that never seemed to stop. It had stopped being fun long before I quit, but I stayed out a sense of obligation and I enjoy reenacting. Though by May, that joy wasn't enough to keep me going.

Chad's final straw was when there was a masturbation/flashing incident on one of the School Days, and at least one of the owners refused to have any of the rennies ("rennies" are people who travel from festival to festival to be hired on for whatever jobs are available) checked out by the witnesses or the police. And tried to put the blame on the chaperone because she didn't find a cop and it had to be someone from the outside. General public isn't allowed in on school days.

That was 2004. And it was what prompted Chad to start his own faire--an idea he's always had in the back of his mind. School Days was Chad's invention and the public would eventually hold him responsible should something worse happen. Katrina at the end of August 2005 started the ball rolling for what became Acadiana Medieval Faire. Population shifted across the state of Louisiana; Chad moved to Lafayette. Chad finished the 2005 season for them, including two School Days, because it was the professional thing to do. Chad quit very diplomatically, and was upfront about his plans, so we could all work together in the future.

Renaissance Living History Center was a group Chad help found with other LRF cast members who wanted to preserve LRF when it had looked like year 2002 was going to be its last and to promote a more historically accurate reenacting. They didn't want to start a new faire in a medieval period, so Chad resigned from the group, too, so there would be no legal questions over the ownership of Acadiana, hoping they would come play too.

I'm still annoyed they cheated Chad out of his paycheck for 2005. I think I'm supposed to drop it, since Chad is happy with the used desktop computer system and software compensation--but there should have been cash to make up the difference. Yet, I should have remembered this is the same group who said they were not paying me to write LRF's 2005 Educators' Guide because the deal was between Chad and me. That's fine now because Chad put a down payment on it out of his pocket, and they have no legal rights to use it. And I will litigate over that if it ever is used without my permission.

So the six months sped by with the Acadiana posters I and the others on cast put up at SLU torn down, and some complaints from our Yahoo group members of getting spam from LRF. It was rather low on our priority list with everything else we had to do, but odd. Even more odd when everyone in Acadiana was spammed for the independent film shoot at LRF's site April 1st--our opening day. We didn't miss them with 1700 people to worry about.

They showed up in mass Sunday to scope it out. And yes, it was a spying mission because if you are supporting a new Faire, you ask for permission to come play--i.e. work on the street cast--and you show up in garb. Everyone in one travel group, including ones we thought were our friends in RHLC and just didn't like the medieval period showed up in LRF T-shirts. Only five people showed up in either garb or street clothes.

Since the lawyer didn't name names, I guess I won't either. A representative of LRF came back on Monday, our school day and wondered around the parking lot. I think he told the schools we had complaint issues with exactly what to say about our Faire because it was the same stuff that he brought up Sunday to all our merchants--like calling the board of health because we didn't have enough port-a-johns, Chad over booked the space, there was no way we'd have over 2000 kids in this site, there was false advertising claiming rides that we're there. When a stranger from Lake Charles (on the Texas side of the state) starts spouting off the same stuff, you have to wonder. Yes, I know who the representative is. I'm the one who alerted the cops that he was trespassing. Not that they did any good; Hannah (Chad's mother) threw him off that day, and told him to grow up and end it.

Here's the post I made publicly about our first year: April 6, 2006: Acadiana Medieval Faire Year One. I didn't bring any of that up at the time because I figured they showed their colors and there was no point in pointing out depressing human behavior.

After all that in April, Chad caught them trying to impersonate him via email accounts in May. After Isaac's drowning accident, we were informed we could only go to the memorial service on LRF's site as long as we were escorted. We didn't go because a) other plans and b) weirded out by having the service at the site of his death.

There's more I'm forgetting, but I had other things to worry about with Chad's health, my grandmother moving in with my parents, my sister having a baby, school work, the Thanksgiving crisis, and building a new Faire site for year 2. Which brings us to the end of March 2007, AMF's second season. With a lawyer's legal input, we drew up a behavior contract for LRF/RLHC management to sign. All it said was a representative on LRF acted like an ass last year and we wanted a signed promise that the signer wouldn't repeat the behavior and would act like they would at any other Faire but ours (translated from the legal-ese). Yes, there was a scene on Sunday caused by those who refused to sign. But by not signing, you only proved you were there to cause trouble for us.

Then the mudslinging through an email group was brought to our attention. Granted they weren't happy about the behavior contract, but no one asked why we had one for them. The one who called us troublemakers and accused us of having "egos, swollen heads, and hurt feelings" has apologized for that outburst, but it hurt to see what my five years of hard work for them was reduced to. And I worked hard. I stage-managed the joust for four years and kept drunken patrons from getting hurt by draft horses. I organized the crew of squired and helped build a new stable for the joust team when everyone else said, "let the knights do it." I did tear down a fence with good intentions for a better one that did not happen and replaced it. I helped build benches and move them around stages. I suggested using King James I for year three and four because they needed a tie-in with Shakespeare. I helped RLHC build on the Inn, and helped build the gypsy vardo and the pirate camp. I never asked for money or recognition beyond the little bit given out on awards night each year.

But I was there at year one for LRF. I signed a contract not to play my character at any other Faire, when the closest competitors were in Texas and Mississippi and nobody had a school day. So that does not match what was said in this email.

Clearing Up the Contract Hoopla Email dated April 6, 2007

Many people have worked years to develop LRF into the quality event it
is today. We spend a lot of time and effort choosing merchants,
entertainers, and training volunteers. We provide professional
training for our cast. We teach many skills such as: character
creation, character development, acting, and how to make garb, etc.
We all volunteer a lot of time, we invest a lot of effort, and we want
to protect our investments.

Since LRF is six weekends long the public can attend any other weekend
event in Louisiana and still attend LRF on a different day. School
fieldtrips are different. Schools can only take one fieldtrip a year
to an event like ours; if a school takes a second fieldtrip it will be
to a different kind of event where students can learn something
"different". In other words schools have to choose between LRF and
AMF. This makes us competitors to each other, and only because of
school days. The Acadiana Medieval Faire is the only event that
prevents students from attending our student days. Therefore, most of
the people we train must refrain from contributing to the competition
for a short period of time. Although we have made quite a few
exceptions for our participants when they have a valid need, or
hardship.


Having the cast play improv at more than one event only improves the improv. Many Faires allowed cast members to play at LRF in 2005 because we lost so many people with Katrina. We are two different eras as well as two different geographical locations.

Course this is only addressing participants here. Vendors and acts come up later.

Clearing Up the Contract Hoopla Email dated April 6, 2007

Apparently this past April AMF made some people entering their faire
sign contracts saying they would not "hurt" their faire. I was not
asked to sign such a contract. I can only speculate as to how or why
they would do this.

IN MY OPINION: it doesn't make sense to make customers sign a contract
limiting their freedom of speech (and yes they can legally do that if
you sign the contract).
I'll break this down:
1. A malicious person doesn't need to visit to say hurtful things.
2. Slander is illegal, a contract doesn't help prevent it.
3. It would only limit one from telling the truth, if "hurtful" to AMF

Of course there could be a completely valid angle I don't see.

"ANY TIME YOU GET ONE SIDE OF THE STORY IT WILL BE ONE-SIDED." (Alvon
Brumfield 2007).
Consider the sources of your information; if a company/politician
makes a Negative claim about a competitor, can you trust it?
Please base your opinions on the evidence you see, not on rumors or
one sided stories.


The only thing we asked participants to sign is paperwork for the insurance company. And nobody asked why the behavior contract was necessary. I suppose they think we should give out comp tickets to those who want to sabotage us, but I think our piece of paper that says "we know what was said last year and we won't stand for it" works better. But I do admire the attempt to try to say, "oh something must be wrong with AMF look at what they are doing. Let's use "A Few Good Men" quote."

I actually agree with the last line, view the evidence.

However, this is where it is no longer agreeable. Someone expressed regret over the state of things in the first part of the following email. It is marked with the standard more-than signs. My responses to the emailed response are highlighted in blue.


Festival Rivalry April 7 and 8, 2007

> I just want to say it's so sad to hear all this dissention between two
> faires that are a good distance away from each other (around 3
> hours?), and in a state still crippled by the devastating effects of
> two hurricanes, almost 2 years ago. Lots of people are still hurting
> and I wish we could all just work together to iron our our
> differences. Many of us trained together at one faire and have become
> friends and are now branching out into other realms. Most of us need
> money, and more of it (who's insurance didn't go up since the
> hurricanes??) Anyway, I wish all faire vendors, entertainers,
> merchants and volunteer (unpaid) cast were free to do ALL faires they
> want to, to contribute to as many or as little as they desire, and not
> be restricted by a 'contract.' I don't understand the whole school
> days problem--how many schools are involved? It can't be more than a
> few as these faires are in different geo. areas.
> Like I said before, this whole situation is SAD.
> :(
>
Before AMF everything we did went into providing more education, more demonstrations,
and better facilities; everyone volunteered.

I wish greed would not have caused a second faire and all this animosity. I wish they
would have talked to us before the split, or after.

GREED? We're greedy bitches? Oh nothing about the fight every year for being more historical and us being told that "you're trying to turn LRF into a museum and nobody likes museums." I pretty sure Chad emailed LRF owner 1 and I was present at the meeting with owner 2 and Chad. We had it at the Green Leaf and Chad hoped we could all work together again.

But yes, for a paycheck. We're greedy because my writing time is precious and Chad is trying to make this his freelance career. We're greedy and we want to eat and have a house together someday.

I have tried dozens of times to communicate with AMF, I have yet to get a single phone
call. I agree its sad: Its sad they broke away to compete. Its sad they refuse to work with
LRF.

I really don't want to cuss, but that is a sad attempt to call it forth. Chad has told me he has talked to you on the phone; maybe not recently but certainly since we started last year. And gee, we're supposed to work together after a representative from your Faire spent his entire Sunday trash talking us to our merchants? Yeah, our time and expertise is really valued and desired by you. Well, it probably is as long as it is free and we don't try anything like financially breaking even.

Its sad their greed got in the way of doing good. Its sad we have no choice but to
protect our school program. Its sad that this even has to be explained. And, It's a tragedy
that our students are being deprived of educational opportunities.

If a faire is providing ADEQUATE entertainment, demonstrations, and facilities to students
there is a very narrow margin to cover expenses. Adding more faires limits the variety of
educational information each one can provide. Example: If students were evenly divided
between fifty faires, it would make each school program very weak. As a merchant you
would have to work fifty faires to reach the same number of customers.

Most companies do not allow you work for their company store and one of their
franchises, at the same time. They don't let you work for the competition either! This is
common practice and common sense.

Oh BULLSHIT! Louisiana is a right-to-work state. NOBODY can tell you who you can and cannot work for. But if you are working full-time, you usually don't have any more time available for a second job for a competitor or not.

As for the students argument, schools have to make field trip choices all the time. Just by providing a school day, you are stealing education time away from the zoo. Many schools pick something different every year to deal with that issue. The problem is I don't believe you have the students' best interest at heart. See the pedophile issue at the beginning of this post.

Now let's talk about the vendors and acts. You refuse to let your vendors or acts work at AMF (despite that I'm pretty sure this is illegal in Louisiana). To quote a letter Chad sent out:

I wasn't sure that I should forward this to you guys, but it is pretty indicative of the problems that we have been having with the faire in Hammond. If you know of any craftsmen who may be interested in joining on us I would appreciate it if you would pass the word on to them and that we would never do something this unsavory to them.
>Chad,
>Some how or another someone told Rick and Alvon we were discussing me coming >over there also, and they sent me a copy of my contract and a nice little letter >about the "other fair clause" that you had mentioned. So until I can find a way >around that, I think I will have to wait. I will discuss it with them, but it will not be >until after the new year.
>Sorry for the trouble.


I'm not entirely positive but I think the "other fair clause" threatens not coming back to LRF and losing any permanent booth a vendor has built with their own money. These vendors travel from faire to faire, pretty much on what they make at each one. I'm glad AMF will not exploit them that way ever.

Performers fall under this too. Not that we can use many of the acts LRF hires--Renaissance theme doesn't work with a medieval theme--but you threatened the one act we did share despite the fact he wrote a completely medieval show for us totally different from what he performs at LRF. But again hurting people's livelihood so you can maintain an exclusive status; this is a good thing how?

We're three hours away from you. So is Ocean Springs, Mississippi. Are these games played with them despite the state line?


Thank you for slogging through all that patiently. I wish I had a funny payoff at the end. I wish I hadn't seeded to write all that out. I was raised with the principle: "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." But I'm also not a victim and I refuse to take abuse any longer. If demanding that children have a safe environment to play in while learning hands-on history and everyone makes a little money and has fun during it makes me a greedy bitch, I'm PROUD to be a greedy bitch. But I'm also not taking any of this personally. The writers of the emails--especially the hurtful ones--have to answer for that just as I must answer for my actions. Karma is slow but fair, and the wheel of fortune acts on us all in turn. Yet the truth shall set you free.

Read Free!
The BookWorm

There is a new renaissance festival in Louisiana! Check out the Acadiana Medieval Faire at: http://www.acadianafaire.org/

1 comment:

jeni gardner said...

Kendra,

i am very disappointed with the fact that you are saying you wouldve needed escorts to come to MY sons funeral. everyone that loved that child was welcome to come. i was NEVER informed that you would need escorts, and seeing as how you are not prisoners, it seems quite silly that anyone would have said that. not to mention i had hoped that we knew eachother well enough that you would have told me if there were issues. you were that little boys "aunt coat". you were as welcome as anyone else to come.

we had a very good reason to have his wake where he died. because he was happy there. he grew up there, and everyone that was here loved him. i wanted his goodbyes to be in a place that made him happy. i wanted the good memories to override the bad ones. in my eyes it wouldnt have been right or fair to put that sweet, wonderful little boy in an oppressive place like a funeral home. he knew nothing other than happiness at that site.

it was hard for me to have it there. its still hard for me to go there. i lost a very large piece of myself there, but i force myself to remember the little boy that walked up to you held his arms out to get you to pick him up stick his thumb in his mouth and lay his head on our shoulder, or give you little pats on the back.

i have no ill feelings toward you, and i hope you have none toward me. i certainly wish you guys would have been able to come and say goodbye to him, but i know that in your hearts, you did say your own goodbyes. i thank you for geting to know him when he was here, for laughing at the silly things he did, and hugging him and holding him when you did. you were part of his happiness out there.

i miss seeing you guys out there. we still giggle about yu and i having to be rescued from the geese.

i dont want to be a part of this rift that seems to have happened. i wish you guys well in your faire, in fact i heard you guys had a really nice set up and it was a lot of fun.

i would really like to talk to you privately... if you want to please email me at jenigardner@hotmail.com, tho i will not be offended if you dont feel like you want to.

to me, especially after this year, ive learned that friendships are not to be wasted, and i hate to think that a misunderstanding that i had no knowledge of is why i hadnt heard anything about your feelings until now.

jeni