Set #4: Travis Wiley McGuire

When I finally glanced at my watch and realized it was after 4pm, I couldn’t believe Travis and I had been talking for over an hour. Time seemed to pass by effortlessly. Travis recites an old theatre axiom for me, “If people look at their watches, don’t worry, people look at their watches. However, if people check to see if their watches are working… then you have a problem.” I could have easily kept up our conversation for another hour without noticing, without looking at my watch. Hell, I could talk to Travis all day. In fact on one occasion, we closed down the Bottle Shop at midnight and moved our conversation over to the Single Wide to continue discussing the philosophy and methodology of each individual Star Trek captain. His charisma and vocal presentation make him an extremely captivating speaker. This doesn’t come as a surprise from a guy who knew he wanted to be a preacher from an early age. Travis eventually went on to double major in music and the study of biblical texts. Though he didn’t pursue work as a preacher, he stayed involved in the church as a music coordinator, eventually settling in Dallas to pursue a career in the Dallas Opera. However, Travis’s talents lie far beyond the operatic tradition; he is an extremely fine craftsman and is also the founder of the North Texas Society for Traditional Performance, which consists of a group of fellow poets and musicians interested in celebrating traditional performance art. Travis holds events following the annual cycle of seasonal festivals, the last event being Beltane in which Travis constructed an urban maypole that he set up outside of the Libertine (pictured below) that unfortunately fell prey to an exceptionally windy day.

Up until the end of January this year, Travis was performing on the street every Sunday at the Bottle Shop on the corner of Lower Greenville and Bell. When the Bottle Shop closed, he moved across the street to the patio at the Libertine where he now plays the accordion most Sundays from noon to two. After playing at the Libertine over the past few months, he notes the change from moving across the street; the feeling from one corner to the next is a bit different. Playing at the Libertine feels a little more like playing a gig primarily because the Libertine functions as a restaurant in opposition to being, singularly, a bar as the Bottle Shop was. When asked about performing on the street Travis told me, “I love Dallas. The thing about performing here is people are happy that you’re doing it…with the education programs I do, with the street performing I do, people are like – ‘Oh cool, that’s happening!’ People usually pay attention because the art scene in Dallas is growing as opposed to it having been long established.” Travis plays songs in the Scottish tradition, and is one of the most knowledgeable people I know regarding Scottish/English folklore and mythology. Travis has taught me more on the street in conversation than I ever learned in a classroom. His erudite nature is precisely what makes him a natural teacher. In one particular instance, I had just finished detailing to him a dream I had where I was wandering through the forest in fall with a group of hunters and managed to kill a wildcat. Just as I did, the season turned to winter in my dream and I was forced to skin the cat to use the fur for warmth. Then I floated down the river to an unknown destination. Travis looked at me and said, “Ah yes, the Wild Hunt,” and began to teach me about the European folk myth of Woden and the Wild Hunt, also known as the Ride of Asgard in other regions. The archetypes were continuous and unified – the hunt, the seasonal change, the forest, and the river. Travis’s love for folklore stems back from reading Tolkien’s, The History of Middle Earth, at a very young age, and recalls that it was that text in particular which fueled his interest in studying primary sources because the book had almost as many footnotes as the original text. His passion becomes evident when he begins discussing Gaelic tradition, and that passion makes learning from him so easy.

- Brittany Griffiths