by Kirby Lindsay Laney, posted 16 March 2017
Moisture Festival 2017 begins today, and Isak Moon is ready.
Moon has attended each one of the 14 years of this unique varieté showcase, from the first, in 2004, held under the big top tent, to the spectacular shows in store over the next four-weeks at Hale’s Palladium. His first year, Moon only watched the amazing acts; every year since he’s performed, as the largely unknown sidekick to a local legend.
Moon started performing at age 4, wheeled on-stage in a Radio Flyer at Oregon Country Fair. According to his mom, Shannon Moon, “when Isak could hold up the costume,” he became ‘Little’ Godfrey Daniels, at Moisture Festival and elsewhere. Today he more often takes the stage as the ‘Other’ Godfrey – that is, after he does his school work. For Moon has a future to plan for, and a ‘day job’ as a high school sophomore to attend too.
Being Present, In The Moment
“I’m totally sure I want to do this,” Moon answered when asked about his work at Moisture Festival, and his other appearances during the year, “I am Little Godfrey.” Of course, he’s outgrown the moniker, as he now towers over the ‘real’ Godfrey Daniels, Randy Minkler.
“He manages to balance his time,” Shannon Moon explained, “He keeps his grades up.” And the adults do what they can to accommodate all his ambitions. Moon mentioned how he and Minkler discuss the act. “He usually picks me up from school to go to crew,” Moon observed, “We talk. I’m not the little kid. It feels like it’s not just his. It’s both of ours.” Moon also manages to keep up with his friendships, and other interactions with kids his age – even as his mom limits the use of electronics (and phones) in the green room. “Vaudeville and theater is about being present, and in the moment,” she explained. “Being a part of something this immediate, rather than communicating through a screen,” she observed, “it’s been a really critical element in his development.”
Mom does stay near, and at times she’s even taken part in the act. For a few years now Shannon Moon has stepped in, on occasion, as Mrs. Godfrey (or Female Godfrey.) At the Moisture Fest New Year’s Extravaganza, she played ‘The Pants’ during a particularly outrageous, improvisational bit. “Trying to teach him that teenage swagger was hilarious,” Shannon Moon recalled about when ‘Little’ Godrey became ‘Teen’ Godfrey, “that was harder than trying to teach him how to be drunk,” for New Year’s.
Shannon Moon supports her son, and letting him do what he wants. “Randy is so sincere in what he does,” Shannon Moon explained, “He really wants to entertain. I never felt we were putting Isak out there to be a trophy.” When he came out in the wagon, all those years ago, “he was cute, adorable and sweet,” she recalled, and audiences loved him. Now he contributes much more than ‘cute’, giving his own ideas, as he learns how to reach audiences while working behind a cumbersome mask.
As long as his grades stay up (which hasn’t been a problem,) Shannon Moon says she will encourage his involvement in Moisture Fest, and Godfrey, although she does regularly ask herself, ‘is he enjoying it?’ As long as the question continues to get a big affirmative, “It doesn’t hurt him,” Shannon Moon said, “it’s going to be fun, as long as it is a positive experience.”
“I like performing,” Moon acknowledged, “without having to have my face show.” Shannon Moon has also noticed how her son’s natural rapport with children comes through, even with the costume. “In Juneau,” for a show before 1,500 people, she reported, “he brought a child up on-stage. His ability to work with the kids is beautiful.” Minkler doesn’t bring people into the act, but Moon took his own initiative. When asked why he would diverge from the set plan for the act, Moon answered simply, “I thought it would be funny.”
Moon does have one strong reservation about this work: “It’s hot,” he complained, a few times. “The costume is a little uncomfortable,” he allowed, “I’m not quick to get in it.” Perhaps worse still, he said, “I have to miss acts to get in it,” when at Moisture Festival (plus Country Fair, and the du Caniveau chautauqua shows,) “you don’t know what’s going to happen!”
A big part of performing, especially in something as unrehearsed as Moisture Fest, is improvisation. Moon still struggles to make peace with this. “Sometimes it is hard to know what to do,” he acknowledged, “I like it when it is planned; when the ball doesn’t fly away,” referencing a few very notable occasions when the big red ball Godfrey Daniels ‘juggles’ took off, and failed to return.
A Training Ground
Many Moisture Fest performers (and volunteers) praise the way the month-long showcase gives them a chance to hone skills, and learn new ones. For Moon, MF has given him access to teachers he’d never meet otherwise. He’s worked with Stefan Haves, and he’s learned to juggle. A few years ago Moon and a friend asked for (and got) lessons in mime from Cirque du Soleil performer Benedikt Negro. Moon then had the privilege of performing with Negro as Godfrey, “and I mocked him,” Moon admitted with restrained glee. He still marks it as a highlight – to be able to work with someone at such an exalted level in his world, and to be taken seriously as a performer as well.
“There is so much,” Shannon Moon said about the Festival, “it’s a fun, creative atmosphere. It’s titillating. You don’t know what is going to happen, who is going to show up. It’s a playful mess. You don’t know what to expect.” She mentioned how much Moon’s Dad’s family love to attend the show each year, arriving early to get the best seats. “They love the humor, they love the creativity,” Shannon Moon reported. “You are not actually engaged with anyone, yet people feel personally engaged. They are in the moment, and no one knows what to expect. It’s so powerful; the bizarreness of it. There is something for everyone.”
As for Moon, he loves the variety of performers – the jugglers, dancers, singers, magicians – that come together to put on a show. “People are so caught up in phones and T.V.,” he observed, “this gives them an escape. You can laugh and enjoy stupid things without a screen.”
Where It Takes A Village To Raise A Kid Performer
Moon got the gig as Godfrey through family connections. “My mom and him are very good friends,” Moon explained. Minkler is close with the whole family, and kept Moon in the act as he grew, converting ‘Little’ to a ‘Teen’ Godfrey, tortured by adolescent clown angst.
“When he was younger,” Shannon Moon observed about the community, “backstage was always warm and friendly and upbeat. Whenever he put the costume on, he got so much approval and praise. When the ‘Godfrey Fan Club’ showed up, they really focused on Isak.”
As his role in the act has evolved, Shannon Moon has seen the professionals he works with speak to her son as a colleague and a peer. “Most of the time they know what they are talking about,” she said, “there’s not a lot of ego.” Moon has had a couple of experiences, being talked down to or criticized, but the majority of performers respect his contributions and willingly share tips and tricks that make the work better and easier. “He’ll spend most of the month there,” Shannon Moon explained.
For The Future
With Moisture Festival going strong, the balance of school, friends and Festival becomes more difficult, but Moon explained, “I’ve been taught not to quit things.” He expanded, “I don’t want to quit this. I don’t want to not do it. It seems weird not to do it.”
“This is my decision,” Moon observed, although he also acknowledged, “I haven’t really thought about it that much.” With customary adolescent simplicity he stated, “I don’t see me stopping.”
For the foreseeable future, Godfrey Daniels can continue to be a group act – and Moisture Festival’s legacy will continue to grow into the next generation.
Come see Godfrey, and all the practiced and professional performers like Moon, who make this showcase a special and magical event built by a community. Purchase your tickets while they last! Visit the Moisture Festival.org website to find tickets – and visit the performers’ index to find out when Godfrey (and ‘Little’ Godfrey) are next scheduled to attend!
- Welcome A Second Generation Of Moisture Festival (Isak Moon & Ruby Joyce)
- by Kirby Lindsay, March 23, 2012
- Randy Minkler Answers Questions On Godfrey Daniels
- by Kirby Lindsay, March 18, 2011
- Smooth Operations At Moisture Festival
- by Kirby Lindsay Laney, March 24, 2015
©2017 Kirby Laney. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.