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I was having a discussion his weekend with a friend who vends and attends renaissance faires and appreciate her insight. Because of some of the places I’ve worked, my interest is often more about the inner workings than the end product. So I appreciate her outside view when mine is so heavily subjective that I miss basic points about being part of a festival. We discussed a number of things;

Using popular media to introduce concepts of history to people-I know many, many reenactors  and scholars who want to run screaming whenever media uses an anachronistic, horrible and completely wrong premise as “information.” Let’s face it, history is like your BFF, you want the best for them, you love them and it kills you when people start terrible rumors-but remember not everyone knows them like you do, you need to do a low-key introduction. Don’t build them up too much or there will be unreasonable expectations. Just let the good stuff flow-take a flawed premise and gently correct it and make the truth even MORE interesting.  Nothing turns people off than a red-faced snooty history lover rebuking them for not using “correct terminology.” And frankly, some of these “purists” had best review their own facts, because more than once, I’ve had to pull out a reproduction, facsimile or illustration to cite that yes, I was not feeding anyone a falsehood.   Lord of the Rings? Éowyn, the shield maiden, that made an introduction to I.33 that much easier. Game of Thrones? You bet I’m going to watch that and know what their production used so that I can –oh-so subtly introduce the cool things my troupe does and maybe recruit some new members. And Brave? (and to some degree Braveheart) I am happy to be part of that Celtic Pride parade and we’ve purchased some bronze swords to use at shows. I would never look the popular movie gift horse in the mouth. Just as my friend and troupe member, Andy,  loved it when Gladiator was released and The Vikings have helped our friend Bill Short and his organization.  So I’m a big believer that as much as we may cringe at the way historical items are introduced, it’s really up to us to follow-up and make it meaningful.

Remember Faires are made-up and the points don’t matter. One of my earliest experiences working a faire was both wonderful and awful.  Working my first faire I saw a woman dressed as a wench do something violent to someone and I went to an organizer to report it. What actually happened was that the person to whom I reported  it made the experience so confusing and awful that I instantly regretted my decision to be helpful. I was interrogated about which wench number, which Wench Guild, did I tell anyone else and that I shouldn’t go making accusations. What was probably going on was the woman in question was concerned about her co-hobbyist’s reputation(when it simply could have been a patron), what it meant to me was a confusion of buzzwords and crazy-making and that I’d stuck my hand in a hornet’s nest unwittingly. (And not my first, nor I suspect my last encounter of this type)  I’m a big believer that when bad things happen we need to slow down and rely on time honored ways of dealing with crisis-be calm, ask the person to tell us what happened LISTEN and then make an assessment. We shouldn’t assume people know what a Wenches Guild is or “the privy”  or any of a number of in-house faire words mean when dealing with people. If it’s an emergency, break character and no regrets. And be willing to drop a persona of class if it means you have to communicate effectively. I have watched so many faire performers and volunteers cause people to turn away because they were not willing to view the situation through new and unjaded eyes.  And that makes my job twice as hard and makes me reluctant to share details of my business with new people because of the damage done previously. Another layer of this-another time another post- is “faire authenticity.”  I liken this to being a connoisseur of corn dogs. I’m sure there is a sub-society that appreciates the complexity, variety and joy of corndogs, but you don’t generally bump into them every day  and they won’t want to hear you wax rhapsodically about grit texture and case stuffing. And that’s where I’ll leave that.

Handling touching and inappropriate questions.
It would be wonderful if every parent had taught children
“No grabbyhands!”
And I’m guessing that most parents at least tried. But something about the renaissance faire seems to knock that common sense filter right out as people enter the gate. (I have friends who have worked at Disney and ride parks and they tell me this is a common phenomenon) Perhaps it is the excitement of “Swords!” or “Bewbs!” or one too many foods on a stick, I can’t hazard a guess. So sometimes although our first instinct of response is “No! Bad patron!” (and that’s healthy) but I try to use “Stop, let’s do this thing together!” usually with humor and a reassertion what I call “the reality rules”, you know, that this isn’t actually a tournament, and you wouldn’t grab some guy’s sidearm, or someone’s personal parts. I’m not saying we are there to be the rennie police, (that is security’s job) but we are the first line many people encounter and if we can have a conversation rather than a confrontation, we might make some new friends and renfaire affectionados.

Lastly, be authentic, and by that I mean, let your love of what you do shine through.  I know some organizers, vendors, attendees  and performers who think that by using exclusive language and being critical of patrons makes them look “cool.” It’s one thing to do it on a specialized forum it’s another to do it in a public “space.” I can’t tell you how many vendors instantly lost my sales (I was in jeans and a tee at the time) when they preferred to have a  tête–à–tête with a  fellow rennie over asking customers questions or acknowledging them. Equally off-putting is someone realizing that I’m a fellow faire person and suddenly I get “street cred” and then I have value to them. I just want to be treated well like anyone else and I make it a point to remember that whenever I pop on my ass-kicking leather boots (or ghillies if it’s hot)  And as my grandmother oft-quoted “love and kindness are never wasted.”

The Shakespearean insult tee featured above is available here

performer

 

This past Sunday I was chatting with other troupe members and one reminded me that he had been with the troupe for ten years and my jaw dropped. Soon after I asked, “So does that mean we should have a “survivors award” for anyone over five years? “  I can’t speak to what keeps people doing this year after year, I can only share what it is that keeps me coming back.

First, I’m half owner of the business  and my partner and I joke that sometimes it’s like a game of chicken as to who will give it up first. Or that we are victims of the Sunk Cost Fallacy but the truth of it is that we wouldn’t do it if we didn’t enjoy it. Fortunately for us, and the troupe we have interlocking personalities  that allow us to be pretty successful at getting and keeping things going-and that we are gifted with members who genuinely care that it gets done and looks good.

Show up!. Although winter isn’t my favorite, I slog in and do my bit. I have three goals at practice 1) move 2) plan 3) improve. That’s it and none of that happens if I don’t show up. In fact, I have found when I take time off, I feel off, it  shows up in my physical and mental abilities. I recently took a Sunday off and my glutes noticeably hurt from sitting too long. So even on non-practice Sundays, I will find errands to get me up and going. (To be clear, you should be active at more than practice and if you aren’t, no one wants to hear the whining)

The little details-I desperately need to update the website, check the expiration on our med kit items and make sure costuming is repaired, unstained and replaced. Some of these tasks are clearly sexier than others.  I like to do this with others because then it becomes more fun, less dull and we can make ibuprofen jokes (If you work at faires, you make these as well.)  My “treat” for doing this  a new costume piece or something for…the tent.  Slowly but surely we have been getting accessories for the troupe. After our last tent was unceremoniously smashed against the side of a building by a Gulf Coast wind I finally bit the bullet and paid for a fairly historical tent.  And some nice chairs, and we added a side panel, and are costing out a recycled rug and…well it is only limited by our imagination, our budget and the size of our traveling vehicle.

As Gloria Gaynor famously sang “I love the nightlife, I love to boogie” but I would paraphrase to say I like the stage. I can eat up compliments as well as the next guy.  I must prefer kudos for my work than for my costume or ability to take fruit to the head (long story) And you do have to be prepared to take some damage  and time o do what we do in order to receive the applause.

Each fire act takes a year to come to the stage, each performance fight a minimum of six weeks (that’s after it is created) and the historical stuff often longer. Once had a subcontractor (sort of) come by and ask if we ever did anything new in our shows. And after several troupe members had duct-taped my cranium in place so my head didn’t explode, I calmly explained that we *always* add something new, every single performance. It can be as simple as tweaked lines or substituting a crab puppet for a dagger (true story, even we don’t know about if beforehand sometimes) It can be premiering a weapons form that no one else in North America is doing because we took the time to pay for a translation and then interpret. It can be a new kids act that can only be seen at one show once a year. We definitely have a niche and change up within that format-but we DO change it up and not just for the audience’s benefit.

Longevity lives in the heart. If anyone came up to me and showed me that they do what we do, better and with more gusto, with a brief  consult with my partner we would gladly turn over the reins  and just be troupe members (it’s even in our rules)  But our members have freely admitted that it is a long, tough job to be the boss and it’s more fun to show up, do the job and then slip away back to home.

I can’t say what your motivator is; my partner says it is to be a “nostalgia generator” (I’ll make him do a guest post on that)  another says it is the sense of purpose while enjoying the faire. Another that it is all about the little kids and getting to say those things you’d normally be fired for uttering. Whatever it is, it’s that little fire inside and if you can keep that stoked long-term, you might get to be an old hand at it.

 

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Today we’re going to discuss dilettantes,  I do my best not to point fingers because I am as guilty as the next person. I attended school for art and no, I am currently not being paid to do art. I did a stint for two years as a freelancer and then said “You know, I need health insurance and a roof over my head.” And so I have moved from a participant to a supporter and admirer. This is true of many things in my life. I can’t give you a hard line of what separates the professional from the dedicated enthusiast because that line is as wide and muddy as the Amazon. But even a river that size has sides,  and if you are standing on the bank, you’ve made a choice. To be extra clear, don’t claim to be a thing if you are not.

Most of the professionals I know have endured some serious hardships to be where they are. And since we’ve been around over a decade, we’ve seen plenty of folks swimming beside us who have come past us, given us a ‘high-five’ and then gone to the bank and pulled themselves up. We’ve firmly settled on a rock somewhere near dead center and one of these passing performers kindly referred to us as “dedicated part-time professionals.” So from our mossy, wet stone, I share these observations.

Investment in tools and equipment
Whenever I start something I often invoke my inner miser-I will save up and buy the best I can of “one thing” First this was a pair of boots, then a costume. This making sure that I have spent so much that NOT using it makes me feel hideously guilty and I have to justify the cost. This isn’t the method for everyone. With our group you are welcome to use loaner swords and costumes for about a year, then, the other members will start giving dirty looks because by that time, you should have your own sword and unique costuming. I’m told this is a generous amount of time. Other groups do it differently-they own your equipment but if you don’t produce, no equipment for you and OUT! But frankly, if you claim to be a juggler, pirate, lion tamer, what have you and haven’t bought a single item to support this claim-no one will believe that you have commitment.

Patience
Recently a western martial arts group posted a cartoon that made me chuckle. It showed someone watching a film, taking one class in martial arts, being disappointed and going back to playing video games.  As I commented on the thread, we see this pretty often.  This last weekend we did a workshop using dowels and at the end we let the participants handle the weapons and one commented “This is heavy!” (It was a rapier, if you were curious) We are about incremental changes over time-and that is why we will take anyone with the heart to try-some of our best people come from humble beginnings. A friend with Das Geld Fähnlein  and I have a similar attitude about members which we call the “pasta theory.”  The idea is to toss them in hot water, then throw them at something and see if they stick (thus, ready for consumption/finished)  Our requirement is six weeks of practice for one show a year. If you can’t make that level of commitment, I can’t be bothered to learn your surname.

Focus and Goals
Focus can a be a problem with performers. My partner laughs every time when I react to people with a bad attention span. Studies have proven that people cannot multitask  and so we work to make practice a place where we can self and group evaluate, where the only point is to learn/improve skills and think about what the future holds. We ask our members every year what they want to be able to do next year. Some people treat our segments and plays like merit badges-collect and move on to the next one. Sadly, it doesn’t work this way.  If someone doesn’t have a  basic understanding of why cuts or phrases are done a certain way, it’s like trying to eat a sandwich without any bread-messy and it looks unappetizing. We also do our best to discourage drama, because when someone wastes time at practice –they aren’t just wasting their time, they are wasting EVERYONE’S time.  It’s small ship, we all need to row together and know where we are going.

Routine
This is so important-as a friend says “The first part is showing up.” No one is 100% every day but even the days when it is a lower percentage, it can be a learning opportunity.  I still go to practice when I’m under the weather (but not contagious)  because sometimes there are questions, or just moving slowly still is moving. Everything adds to our routine-stairs rather than elevator, water rather than soda, slow movements through sword strikes and being in the head space that the next moments in time are focused on learning, listening, observing and doing.  Every small step gets ups closer to the end goal.

Practice
I’ve written a whole post on this so if you want to know my feelings on the subject just click on the link. Summary: Important.

And you will encounter people who think they can do what you do (A cracked podcast about this phenomena) But don’t be discouraged, you know that in a week, a year, two years, you’ll be better and better and they won’t be there at all.

Won’t lie, the rather self-deluded dabblers make me upset when they feel the need to share opinions with me. Even professionals will do this but you need to file these things away in your own time and importance. I like to use them as spikes in my ascent to being better and better. I remember one individual saying to me “well if (member of defunct well-known comedy sword duo) was here and saw you do that, she’d ream you a new one.” To which I replied
“I guess we can all be happy she’s not, then.”
And that pretty much sums up my feelings on the subject

packing-list

Someone asked (we are question driven!) me about some of the small details of gear and I wanted to share.

After a recent long-distance trip we had to make a fairly lengthy list of what to bring and not bring. Certain things we know that we can buy locally (cases of water, toiletries, basic first aid, melons[no really we use them for the show])  but other items we have to consider local culture and how to get from point to point with everything we need.

The basic list: Weapons, tent, water, fire kits, seating, tapestries, sundries and costuming.

It sounds simple but isn’t sometimes we have to make hard choices about items like poll arms or seating. Historically accurate seating takes up some space-more than a telescoping lawn chair but it sure does look nicer against a tent. It’s times like these I’m a bit jealous of musicians-1-2 bodies, instruments. But they tell me they have their own issues with space, onsite storage and weather conditions.  And there is environmental concern-I feel guilty about using water bottles but they transport well and cut down on transmitted viruses-and look terrible on a site.  But having them in the trunk once saved us when we did a fire show and the employer had no access to water-so we were dumping the most expensive water source into buckets for safety. Always it is about juggling space, site and need.

When we prep for a fire show we treat it as its own separate entity,  some folks don’t understand why it makes me crazy if we don’t line everything up at once so I can look it over-this nearly led to a bag of fuel being left behind.  We used to buy fuel at the performance location but since its use in methamphetamine making has blossomed we have to buy it locally with ID.  And for some reason it is difficult to buy lighter fluid in the winter in New England…

Weapons, we don’t call them that (and they are not edged so don’t technically count) they are stage props. Which is important to remember when Georgia State troopers in Macon County, GA  pull over your overladen,  out-of-state car full of swords and accelerants. We use gun cases for our high-end swords-which actually works out very well. We have only had someone freak out once and that was at the airport, once they realized it was swords and NOT guns. (???) After a number of incidents we have a “gear car” that travels with the essentials  even if members take a flight.

And people,  we have a pick-and choose roster so it’s key for commitment with our show to know who is and is not going and how much training/review  is needed and how many bodies to stuff in a car.  We have determined that five bodies in a Forester is too many, no matter how short the trip. Nothing is worse than arriving at a site with a car full of people who are as angry as a beehive struck with a rock.

And we have forgotten some important items-the two most memorable were 1) both sets of boots for the troupe leaders 2) the center pole for the tent.  The first was a MUCH more expensive lesson and the good that came from it is  that we have bags with visual makers to make things easier. An example is that I have a super-cheap bag that is tapestry on the outside  and lined on the inside-it holds all our leather items –boots, gloves, belts, frogs and sunscreen (it’s a product for skin, don’t think too hard about it)  And each of the troupe members has “a bag” that is distinctive to them and what goes into it. We have “the bag of dag.” That specifically holds daggers. We have a green duffle that specifically holds “light” weapons. And some folks ask why we prefer bags instead of hard cases and the answer is simple-it packs down easier!

And more important than the load, unload is the re-load. This is where things end up where they are not supposed to go.  When we found a desiccated six-month old sandwich in my promotions kit, it’s when we began cracking down on repacking at the end of a job.  We can’t afford to have weapons go missing or any other number of items. And no one is bringing home large presents for friends and family after a job-or glass items. And yes, we have troupe members who *always* forget a personal item at a show but we  have measures in place to scoop up after everyone!

So in short, if you are a single performer-you generally know what you do and don’t need. Two and it’s complicated but manageable. But any number of three or more and it has to be a team effort with a checklist. It’s not glamorous but is as much a part of the job as training or getting onto a stage.

How Rude!

 As I’ve written in the past, we’ve seen poachers, hecklers and bad, competitive acts but I am going to let my partner talk about something that is so utterly tacky that I had to hear it twice to make sure I wasn’t just hallucinating:
In his own words:

I like doing the shows we do in Pensacola and Mobile. The main reason is because the people who run the shows are very nice people. One of the reasons I feel this way is they often go out of their way to do the right thing.

The main organizer is a lawyer and we get VERY specific contracts that give minimum number of performers, minimum number of shows per day, minimum number of minutes per show and all sorts of other things.

But, despite all the legal paperwork, when you actually get there he is much more “do a good show and I don’t care” attitude. He doesn’t count how many people I have on stage, how many minutes I run or anything like that.  He just wants the crowd to be happy.

The contract also says we won’t do any other shows within 100 miles. Not normally a problem for us living 1300 miles away, but a couple of years ago we got a call from a mother who wanted some sword fighting at her son’s party there in Pensacola. I called to see if I could be let out of our contract for that.

“A ten year old’s birthday party?” the organizer asked. “OF COURSE you should be there! Don’t disappoint a kid! Stop by here first and I’ll give you a bunch of discount coupons for all of his friends and a free ticket for him and his mom.”

We did the birthday party show. The kids were happy. There are lots of other examples like that over the last 13 years we’ve done shows for those people.

I guess one of the other towns in the local area wanted to have a faire like this one. They contacted the organizer and asked to meet with him to discuss it.

“We can run it for you if you want,” the organizer said. “Pay us a fee to produce it and we can provide you with acts, vendors and anything else you would need.”
The town turned him down and is now having their own faire anyhow.

OK. I understand that happens. They don’t want to pay someone else to run their faire and think they can do it themselves. I’ve got no problem with that.

What I do have a problem with is this:

  • The town sent their person who is going to organize it to the faire we were doing.
  • They dressed as a king with a crown and all.
  • Their tabard was a big sign saying the date, time and place of their faire.
  • And, the guy went from booth to booth, act to act, trying to recruit people to come be at his faire.

It’s one thing not to hire someone to do something for you. It’s another to go to that person’s thing wearing a billboard of what you wouldn’t hire him to do and try and hire what he has away.

That’s just rude.

The faire organizer we work with could have gone to people and waved the contract at them.

Instead he went and talked with people. He explained why they had the clause and why it would hurt his faire if folks he had contracted to be unique started doing other events nearby. But, he ended with “you have to do what you have to do to get your paycheck.” Not “I’ll sue you for breach of contract” or anything like it.

So, I still like and respect the guy we work for. I don’t think highly of the folks at this other faire.

packing

The blog post this week will be a little shorter-while you read it, I’ll be brushing snow aside and finishing up the packing on my beleaguered SUV to hit FL sometime before Saturday. I thought I’d write about some questions I’d received about doing road trips with fellow troupe members.

Road trips can be a real test of your human endurance physically and  emotionally. For introverts like me it can be quite an experience to spend 72+ hours in constant contact with other troupe members. I’ve been known to pay a little extra out of my own pocket to get my own room with my husband.  But the fact is, you have to be ready for intense personal contact over an extended time

What is it like traveling with a car full of performers?-it actually can be a lot of fun-you feed off one another’s energy, you know you can entertain and props just add to the fun. And the laughs are not limited to the appropriate time period and everyone is up for grabs with no age-appropriate limitations.  The flip side is that some folks can’t shut off and I won’t confirm or deny that more than one overtired comedian was threatened with bodily violence and a “tuck and roll stop” as a stop-gap.

What do you do while you are traveling?-we talk a lot and keep maps and phones handy. I can’t tell you how much cell phones and a GPS have changed how we travel  these days. But because of cell phones we have a prohibition that SOMEONE has to talk to the driver and keep an eye on the maps/lanes/traffic. It is definitely pilot and co-pilot because when someone is behind the wheel for 6+ hours, they need to focus on the road, their temper and their alertness. And we don’t rely on the GPS, we check AAA maps, google and will stop at least every six hours . I’d like to recommend an app I discovered that works with google maps –Waze. If nothing else, it’s fun to see who else is on the road.

Driver gets choice of music-and yeah, death metal isn’t the easiest to sleep through, but if it keeps the vehicle out of a ditch, so be it. We have found that audiobooks are NOT the best choice.  And after six hours, any topic is on the table is up for discussion. I was surprised one trip to discover who in the troupe (and subcontracted with the troupe) had piercings in unexpected places.

What do you do to keep from going crazy?-we swap drivers when we can, pee when we need to do so. We pack our own snacks on the way down and I think that contributes to the overall health of the troupe members. Road and faire food are not healthy.  On the way back we throw that out and do whatever it takes to get home. We should buy stock in energy drinks.

Is there hanky-panky?  My feeling is that if folks want to do that, fine. I trust them to be discreet adults and we try not to have it happen around younger members. For the most part it’s closer to a very tired coed sleepover. Indulging in anything that takes energy away from the performance is probably unwise.  I had a serious talk with the mother of a former member who was sixteen years old at the time, and after my description of what happens on trips made her laugh out loud at what old farts we really are, she felt much better.  I refer to it as less “band trip” and more “cattle drive,” because essentially we are marching like Spartans from point to point and we need to be a unit to make it all happen.

We have rules. One of the unwritten ones is “don’t be that guy” any behavior that your friends and family would throw you out of the car to stop-don’t bring it in with us either.

  • Liquid in/liquid out we try to time this to coincide with gas stops. Do not buy the Big Gulp, there will be consequences.
  • Interact! You MUST keep the driver awake. There are few things worse than driving through a segment we call “the nothing” with only you, white, flashing lines and every other seat is snoring.
  • Whining, everyone is allowed a bit, we are all tired, but when *everyone* is suffering and you won’t let it go, things get ugly in  a small, tight space.
  • No burritos, not on the way down, not on the way back-period.
  • Honor reasonable requests, if a passenger requests a small temperature change or windows or maybe an unscheduled stop to evacuate anything body-related if behooves one to do it.  One driver was unceremoniously pummeled with a half-melted coke bottle after refusing to turn down the heat in the back of a rental. This was followed by experiencing twenty minutes of sitting in the seat of the requester, followed by righteous mocking.

I won’t talk about room arrangements because inevitably, someone is unhappy. One member managed to get his own room on two trips, not purposely, because he was a serial snorer.  But we look forward to this, despite the chaos and it really separates those who respond well to pressure from those who do not.  That level of human intensity isn’t for everyone and in the early years of the troupe we used to have a lot of member drop-off after the experience.  I have quite the rhino-hide even if these trips key me up to new levels of anxiety.  My partner reassures me that although it stresses me, my “worst case scenario”  attitude has saved the day a few times.

And when we leave Thursday it won’t be any different-scrambling to pack early, trying to outrun a storm as we travel, unexpected car repair just before leaving and a piece of my costuming that we are pretty sure went visiting with the pixies.  But it will still be fun.

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We are fortunate that we (troupe)  live in a very art-enriched environment with a society that cultivates an air of indifference. (New England, specifically Massachusetts and Connecticut) Most people who live in this area generally don’t need to cruise the internet for strange events on Public Transport or are put out by someone in costume. Because we live near Lexington and Concord, Salem and other historic sites, no one even blinks at a redcoat stepping out of a minivan. We are saturated with renaissance faires and LARPS, and waving mascots. Even Wally, the Green Monster is a fairly common character around Boston.

But sometimes, you don’t live in that area and trying to convey the coolness that is the festival. Even I, the owner of one of the most glacial stares in a tri-state area, have come across some bizarre perceptions of what it is I do with swords and fire.

First, what you do is cool; never doubt that for a moment. You saw that brass ring, you grabbed it and did booty dance of delight, go on with your bad self. There are people even within the ecosystem of faires who will try to denigrate what you do. If you love it, then love it and don’t apologize for it, someone else is watching you right now and is probably thinking “I wish I was that self-confident.” And even if people think you are the biggest fool on the planet , if it makes you happy and doesn’t cause harm to yourself or others (that part is important) then you are already happier than most of the US population.

You will encounter well-meaning resistance from unexpected places and support from strange places as well. When I first started this I had “helpful” people suggest that I really wasn’t very good or that I was trying to recapture my youth or that I was ‘just too old’ for that sort of thing.  This advice needs to be examined under a bright light.  I suggest some verbal self-defense and often I would ask questions like
“How does me dressing in a silly costume threaten these person/persons?” “Why is it making them so angry?” Or “Why am I engaged in an argument over how I spend my weekends?”

And often the answer to that question does not sit with you but with the person who is arguing with you. To be fair, if someone is asking “How do you plan to care for yourself/pay bills/feed children?” Those are valid points that should be put on the table. But if the answer is “that’s stupid!” “Or “It just is!” then perhaps it is up to you to dig deeper and find the base reason for the hostility. I won my Mother over by bringing her on a long-distance job and she finally had a chance to see what it was I did in person.  She didn’t come to any other shows but after that she understood a bit better why I spent less time with her and why it was important not only for me, but for the people who worked for us. Sometimes it is just that simple-that you have begun a journey and haven’t taken the ones who love you along.  To be balanced, sometimes they aren’t meant to come with you, but it really is important to invite them and share.

“It costs too much money!
I have an easy set of answers for this. I always hum the Bobby Brown song “My Prerogative” and to sum up, “I made this money, you didn’t.”   And even though being part of a faire can be expensive, it is less expensive than out-of-wedlock children, a drug habit, gambling or a boat and generally when presented with these comparisons, MOST people will back down.

What you do has no value-this one slays me every time. Because it points out how little the person making the accusation has NO IDEA who I am as a person. I do give away my money, often and with no need for recompense. I give away my time for love and art and the paycheck (sadly) is necessary to command respect. What we do is a theater centuries old and is in most cultures in one way or another. It is insulting, short-sighted and frankly, base that someone needs to justify art in any form. You don’t have to like it, but it should engender respect to create something to share with others.

Sometimes you just aren’t going to get through, that obstacle is not one that you made but one that exists in someone else’s mind. Our friend JT who runs his own theater company once told me (after I’d been *extremely* upset at some personal attacks)
Dogs bark, the caravan moves on.”
There is so much comfort in this for me since I have left a lot of dust and barking behind in my time performing. When I run out of ideas and places to go, then it will be time to pack it up.

Everyone I have encountered who has done performance for a long period of time has a tremendous peace within themselves about their identity and self-worth. I’m not saying we all agree or get along but we don’t generally feel the need to justify ourselves to one another.

To sum up

  • Stay positive, if it makes you happy and doesn’t impact the health and welfare of people who rely upon you, it’s all good.
  • Be willing to share what you do in a personal way. Not everyone wants to go to the prom but it’s still nice to be asked.
  • Art does not need to be justified or universally loved. We may not be painting the Sistine Chapel but we are still creating something, and that in itself is important.
  • Sometimes you just have to move on and not engage. “You are not the Jackass Whisperer” has become one of my favorite new mantas.

For me, I still have doubts and bad days, that’s normal. But some friends came up to me after I gave a performance at our own Anniversary party.
“Watching you do all that, you just get healthier, younger and happier.” I smiled and thanked them because that was a statement, unsolicited, from someone’s heart, and it meant a lot to me. If that is what performing at faires does for people, then we should all drink deeply and well.

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