I appreciate the time that Tim has taken in relating this information to me, and I hope to get the chance to meet him in person in future.
After all, next year is the Fiftieth Anniversary of Renaissance Pleasure Faire, and I know Tim likes a good excuse to get in costume.
The Southern Faire Landsknecht (Tim Finkas)
Growing up with a mother who was a costume-maker, Tim Finkas discovered the love of dressing-up at an early age. He became involved with Civil War reenactments in 1975 at the age of 16, and had launched a group portraying a unit of the First U.S. Sharpshooters by the age of 20. As was the case with many other Landsknecht founders, his roots were in living history and the portrayal of historical characters.
This love for reenactment was only expanded when he began attending the Agoura Renaissance Pleasure Faire (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
By 1980, Tim had found himself inspired by the images in first ‘The Landsknechts’ title of the Osprey Men-At-Arms series (pub. 1976, by Douglas Miller). That spring he attended the Agoura faire with a ‘Faire Ever’ pass in his first Landsknecht costume. The outfit was one that he and his mother worked on together and Tim says, “It really wasn’t too amazing, yet you would have recognized it as a landsknecht”. He had never seen anyone else portray a Landsknecht in his visits to faire up until that point, and was himself only “wearing a landsknecht costume to faire as a customer”, not portraying a German persona. Nevertheless, this appears to be the first instance of a Landsknecht strolling through the streets of RPFS that I can locate.
But dressing as a German didn’t last for long the first time out; 1980 was the year that Tim joined his first faire Guild, Clan Mac Colin. Clan was and is Scottish/Irish group and while there was some discussion initially of continuing to play a German in service to the Chief, Tim eventually traded in his slashed German kit for the garb of an Irish mercenary, or gallóglaigh (gallowglass). In this capacity he continued with Clan Mac Colin as a member of the Chief’s body guard for three years; serving first under Stephen Flannagan and then under Steve Gillian – who is still the Chief of Mac Colin to this day.
Tim as Irish gallowglass
It was during Tim’s first official year in Clan that he met and became friends with Conn MacLir. Over the years as they both worked in Clan Mac Colin, these two men evolved their Irish mercenary characters into more-and-more refined costumed personifications, including full maille-armor and axes. Together with other Clan Mac Colin members, they ceremonially escorted the Chief and his family during many functions and parades at the faire. This continued work on better costumes and gear paid off. As Tim recalls, he and Conn, “became something of a popular Photo Stop”.
When the 1984 faire season rolled around, it saw a change in characters for both Tim and Conn. Along with Charles and Cat Taylor and J. Paul Moore; the two former Irish mercenaries traded in their maille for the garb of Elizabethan sailors and help to launch the Sea Dogs under the auspices of St. Helena’s.
Brian McNally and Tim Finkas dressed as Mariners aboard the Golden Hind in Long Beach Harbor, Los Angeles
Tim did not stay with the Sea Dogs long, being drawn to the stage and into the casts of two acting troupes for the 1985 faire season. This year saw him performing with both a ‘Crye of Players’ and the ‘Globe Theater Company’ under a gatepass via St. Boniface. By the end of this season he had met John Hevy and Erin Harvey and this meeting would set in motion the beginnings of the first German Guild at Agoura. John and Erin worked in the arms-and-armor booth owned by Jeff Schroeter ("Antique Arms and Armor"), who had been wearing Landsknecht style clothing in his shop for several years. It didn’t take long for Tim, John and Erin to being discussing the formation of a Landsknecht group at the faire, with Jeff acting as advisory and sponsor.
Despite my initial impressions that the Southern California Landsknechts had sprung from an offshoot for das Schwarz Fahnlein to the North, Tim assures me this was not the case; “I was not in contact with any of the Northern Faire Landsknechts….However, the year before I had seen several visiting Landsknechts from Northern Faire and had marveled at their clothing and presentation. I am pretty sure these included Greg Fors1, Carl Ontis and Gordon Frye. They proved it could be done, and done very well! I have to credit them for giving us major inspiration with their amazing portrayals.“
Contact did come eventually, with both groups cross-hosting members for various events. I love this picture as it shows founders from both Guilds interacting in the same streets.
When North Meets South
Timothy Finkas with Gordon Frye, Greig Fors, Erin Harvey, Francesca von Hesse, Julia Neuneker Adams, James Schooler, Nick Worthington, John Hevy and Tony Swatton
But before that; prior to the 1986 faire season a formal proposal for a new entertainment Guild was given to the Living History Center, Entertainment Department for consideration. Leslie Patterson reviewed and accepted this proposal and St. Barbara was formed under the leadership of Tim Finkas as President/Guildmaster, with Erin Harvey and James Schooler acting as his assistants. By the time the 1986 season started, the Guild had attracted a number of friends and faire acquaintances. This included Tim’s friend from the Sea Dogs, Conn MacLir, who brought a number of friends with him into the new camp. Conn was also placed in charge of the group’s weapons safety.
Bryan Kramer, Francesca von Hesse and Erin Harvey circa 1986 at Agoura in SoCal
As there was no evidence of Landsknechts being employed in-country by the English military forces, it was determined that the Guild would portray the bodyguard of a traveling Dutch nobleman and ambassador. Tim portrayed the noble/ambassador part time, alternating with a Doppelsoldner persona, while Conn portrayed the groups Sergeant in-character. Tim says, “…We consciously tried to aim our clothing to the latter half of the century, but we admittedly ended up with a mix of early and late landsknecht fashion. People were too enchanted, at first with the early styles and there was a general reluctance to forgo them.” This mix of early and later period clothing styles in the same camp can be found in many German groups at Elizabethan events to this day.
EARLY PERIOD: Frank Weitzel, Bryan Kramer and Bill Rockwood circa 1987 at Agoura in SoCal
LATER PERIOD:Tom Sutton, Tim Finkas and Marcus Charlotte circa 1987/88 at Agoura in SoCal
For equipment, the camp began with one 8’ X 12’ marquis tent purchased by Tim, and an initial influx of arms and armor from Jeff Schroeder’s booth. However a number of the group’s initial members were capable metal- and leather-smiths including Tony Swatton (http://www.swordandstone.com/), Conn MacLir, Bryan Kramer and Tim himself; all able to produce swords or sword ‘furniture’ (hilts, etc.), knives, sheaths, shoes and the other various and sundry bits and pieces of non-fabric costume kit. And when it came to the general costuming, the Guild could turn to Tim2 and his mother– Carol Finkas – for assistance with patterning and the interpretation of woodcuts and portraits into actual clothing. As Tim recalls, “Between my sister, Stefanie, my mom and myself, we costumed perhaps 80 percent of our group! But everybody pitched in one way or another. I remember a crazy hat-making session where a good 7-8 people were at my mom's house making hats---all so that we could show up for Faire workshops with a group presence, in hats and custom printed t-shirts. We were a hit!”
Stitch and Bitch circa 1986 with Tim Finkas, Bryan Kramer, Carol Finkas, Red Armstrong, Wade Shows and Conn MacLir. Most likely location? Finkas Residence.
For inspiration, the group relied on a number of Dover titles including "293 Renaissance Woodcuts for Artists and Illustrators: Jost Amman's Kunstbuchlin" and "The Triumph of Maximilian". They also scoured the libraries of the University of California system, seeking information from volumes such as “Actions of the Low Countries” by Sir Roger Williams.
To the best of Tim’s recollection, the group in 1986 consisted of the following people; Julia Adams, Red Armstrong, Erin Harvey, John Hevy, Stefanie & Brian Kramer, Conn MacLir, Brian MacNaly, James Schooler, Jeff Schroeder, Daniel Wade Shows, Don Smith, Tom Sutton, Tony Swatton, and Mark & Alan Treas.
The group, however, did not last long as a single entity. The following year saw the group divide into two separate entities, each with a different focus. When faire opened in Spring of 1987 it saw the newly formed Guild of St. Martin’s under Tim Finkas (with a new theatrical direction3) as well as die Ritterlich Fechtschule\ Fahnlein4 under Conn MacLir. While these types of splits are almost never without some rancor, both German Guilds coexisted at the faire together and continued to grow and advance their own type of Landsknecht reenactment vision.
Tim Finkas (as Sir John Casmir) and David Finkas circa 1987 at Agoura in SoCal
In 1987, Tim recalls the following members of St. Martins: Maggie Allen, Marcus Charlotte, Bill Daily, Susan Dunmeyer, Kristin Hayes, Stefanie Kramer, Lee Lanningham, Brian MacNaly, Sandy Sampson, Jeff Schroeder, Daniel Wade Shows, Tom Sutton, Mark & Allen Treas and Frank & Janine Weitzel.
"Back in the day when dirt was rocks, and Bill Daily didn't have a beard...
St. Martins had created a camp in the midst of the faire, and there they hosted the Queen and members of her Court for various official and celebratory events. It was during this time that Tim became good friends with Kevin Brown, who would form the English Military Guild of St. Michael’s, South in the following year.
1988 saw a decision by RPF’s Entertainment Department to create a catch-all Guild for the organizations of die Ritterlich Fechtschule\Fahnlein, St. Martin’s, the Queen’s Guard, Stoddard's Company of Foot and the Mariners. Kevin Brown was made Guildmaster, and Tim Finkas Assistant Guildmaster of the newly minted St. Michael’s, South. At this time Tim was also portrayed Sir Walter Raleigh as a themed character for the overall event. This was the last year of Southern Faire at the Agoura site; the venue would change to Devor by the following year. The following year would also see the beginnings of change in St. Martins, with the move to ‘The Gentleman Adventurers’ format. Over time the characterization of members of the Gentleman Adventurers would switch from German to English.
Tim Finkas as Sir Roger Williams of the Gentlemen Adventurers at the first year of Devore
Finally, in 1992 or 1993, Kevin Brown and Tim Finkas would leave St. Michael, South to form ‘The Nonesuche Players’ under the Guild of St. Boniface. This theatrical company would go on performing at the faire until 2000.
1 For more on the reenactment experiences of Greig Fors , please see my entry here -http://hsifeng.livejournal.com/147314.
2 Tim is an accomplished costume-maker; making clothing replicas spanning a range of history from ancient Mycenaean Period to the Victorian era.
3 Of the St. Martins, Tim says, “My group chose the identity of protestant freedom fighters under the command of John Casimir of the Palantine. Casimir was an ally of Queen Elizabeth's and was known to have visited her court in England. We decided to further differentiate our identity from the previous landsknecht group by a more strict adherence to the landsknecht fashions of the last part of the century. Quite a few of us bought matchlock muskets and blank fire volleys and demonstrations became part of our routine.” (
4 More on die Ritterlich Fechtschule\Fahnlein here - http://hsifeng.livejournal.com/146065.