Real Name: Cas Zemba
SCA Name & title: Lord Cassiano da Castello
Years in the SCA: 3 years
How did you find out about the SCA? I first heard about the SCA through friends, Lady Magdalena de Txoperena, and THL Fede di Fiore. They introduced me to the local shire, Nithgaard, and it went from there.
Where did you start, what was your first event? The Shire of Nithgaard is home, and my first event was Beer Bacon Bash in….2018? Yes. That sounds right!
What is your persona? My persona and registered name began as 16th Century Italian because it was what my girlfriend (now wife) wore, and I wanted to match her as a couple. It was also what she offered to make for me for my first event, and I believed that beggars should not be choosers when handed free garb made by hand. I have since gravitated more towards Late Period Polish out of a preference for long coats and the silhouette, as well as needing some more cold-weather appropriate garb. I still wear Italian occasionally, but it is secondary.
Why did you pick this persona? I admit, I was given a very strong sell on Late Period clothing in general by Fede and Co. as that is their preferences. I was also drawn to the richness of the colors in brocades, which match my preferences for modern men’s fashion as well. Italian is fine, but I admit fully to being thoroughly intimidated by wearing codpieces. Another close friend, Lord Keistutus Prus-Andrzejewski, has worn Polish for most of his decades-long SCA career and slowly drew me towards the non-codpiece menswear. I found it aligned more with my personal comfort in garb, and also gave me a bunch of big ol’ coats of pretty brocade and velvet to be flashy in.
Do you have any group or household affiliations? Only my local shire at the time, Nithgaard.
Tell us a little bit about your life outside the SCA. Outside of the SCA, I work for Penn State as a research administrator, a new change in job from being a archaeologist for public contract. I am the proud farmer of a mess of Silver Fox rabbits, two house panthers, and two kitchen wolves.
What SCA activities do you or have you participated in? A little bit of everything, but in particular I fence, and am active as an archer; I occasionally do scribal / calligraphy arts, fur sewing, and am a routine retainer for various reigns. I am perhaps best known for recreating a Polish honey liquor called Krupnik, and for researching topics for SCA A&S. I have recently begun inkle weaving and am enjoying it.
Tell us a little bit about your SCA experience (jobs, offices, duties, etc.) As mentioned above, I have been a routine retainer for several reigns. I served as a Queen’s Guard during the Long Reign of Maynard and Liadain and am currently Deputy Seneschal for the Shire of Nithgaard.
When you started in the SCA what goals did you have? To not be overwhelmed or let the garb wear me! I was very intimidated at my first events and found that to be less anxious, I needed to be doing something. By my third event I was entering my first A&S competitions and restarting my interest in archery (I had shot competitively as a kid) out of sheerly needing something to talk about other than to tell folks that I was not recently moved from another kingdom (Fede’s garb will make anyone look like an SCA veteran).
What are your goals now? I am working to be more active in the behind-the-scenes running of the SCA, and truth be told, just keeping the dream alive. The pandemic has been all sticks and no carrots for even the most dedicated of us and maintaining consistent participation in the eSCA has been a real push of mine. I am lucky that the eSCA allows me to teach more easily, but alas has sincerely affected my ability to offer tastings. I have been looking for new projects and starting a few, trying to diversify my passions to keep my own interest sparking.
What was the most intimidating thing you encountered in the SCA? Oh man, y’all are so pretty when done up to the nines in courts or Twelfth Night. I don’t think I’ve ever been so starstruck or tongue-tied than my first few events just trying to say something other than complimentary gibberish. I think I had a drink in hand every event just to get my nerve up to talk to people.
After the unexpected shutdown ends, what is one thing you would like to accomplish in the SCA? Now that I have a new job that doesn’t require as much travel, I would like to be more active in consistent archery and fencing. One of my first fencing competitions was QRC in 2019, and I’ve improved since. I would like to keep fighting people and getting better.
What advice would you give to a new person in the SCA, or if new yourself what question would you ask and who would you ask it of? Jump in two feet first. This is one of the most immersion-friendly hobbies I’ve ever been a part of, and while it can be daunting to pick something to start with, it really is the best way to start meeting people and start talking. This hobby allowed me to restart hobbies and passions that I had to set aside in my teens to focus on sports and college. It has been a joy to rediscover them, and I do believe that there is a wonder in every SCA activity that make’s everyone’s inner child fill with glee. And just like that inner kid, don’t be afraid to learn something new and not be good at it. You will get good. Promise.
If you magically woke up with an SCA talent you do not already have, what would it be? Bardic, song. I have a modest voice at best, and stage fright with the worst of them. I am constantly thrilled by our bardic community.
If you had to join the SCA in another “era” (1970, 1980, etc.), what “era” would you pick and why? Gotta go with Norman Sicily under Roger II. Intersection learning from the Arabic, Byzantine and Western spheres, plus a luscious and thriving Southern Italian / Norman-Sicilian culture. The architecture?!? *chef’s kiss*
Don’t be modest, what award or honor would you like to receive above all else and why? I am trying to steadily work towards my Fleur. In an odd way, the Grant level arts awards feel like working towards my master’s. I was never able to complete that degree, but achieving a Fleur feels like it would lay some of the ghosts of that messy time to rest. Also, I love the heraldry of the Fleur award. Good Job Æthelmearc, that’s a sexy GOA.
If you could pick one thing you would like to see more of in the SCA, what would it be? Right now? More people. But failing that, I would be happy to see more social events in the future. I know that times make it so that events sometimes have to pull double / triple duty, but I have yet to get to Nithgaard’s Evening of Fine Dining and Dance, and it’s on my bucket list.
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