Author, A History of the American Renaissance Festival. Where Have all the Hippies gone?
This week, Ira spoke with Al Olson, author of A History of the American Renaissance Festival. Where Have all the Hippies gone? In this costumed episode of “Ira’s Everything Bagel,” Al talks about his history with renaissance festivals, going back decades; why they are popular and how they are totally inclusive; why they have become more corporate; why he wrote the book; and who are the important festival contributors over the decades.
While attending the University of Minnesota, working nights in a parking ramp and pumping iron at the Dove’s bicep gym, Al also performed his original songs in the same coffee houses that Bob Dylan had a few years earlier on the west bank of the Mississippi. The artistic director of the Minnesota Renaissance Festival attended a theatrical presentation of his original works at Theatre in the Round and hired him on the spot.
Al began performing at Renfairs as a member of the group, “Pumpkin,” writing original Renaissance music. After less than a season, he noted the greater crowd impact of groups like Penn and Teller, Avner the Eccentric, the Flying Karamazov Brothers, and Puke and Snot. As a result, Smee and Blogg were formed out of frustration and a desire to present something unique. The tandem comedic vaudeville act performed for 36 years, singing and dancing across the U.S. and Canada at 56 renaissance festivals and medieval faires. After the act stopped performing in 2013, Al continued as the Singing Executioner at renaissance and medieval faires in Texas and Oklahoma to this day.