Sometimes when I write these things people ask
“Are you making this up?”
No, sadly I am not. So let’s “go there,” shall we?
Organizers-When you do performance you owe the organizer what you contracted (and that falls back on the organizer as well) You should show up on time, do the shows in a slot, do your best job and then collect your pay. What you do not owe the organizer is 1) your personal life 2) access to your circle of friends 3) use of your equipment 4) security 5) more than what you are contracted for in black and white. 6) favors. From past entries we all know what a hot button the term “faire family” is for me. Often we are happy to do more than expected but only on a volunteer basis. We’ve been known to hold snakes, watch kids, pull a shuttlebus out of the mud, set up tents and chairs, load trucks and move wheelchairs over terrain-all because we were either asked nicely or offered to do so. The good thing about my blog is now I will dispense some practicalities.
When organizers start “fudging” terms, you need to be polite, use computer voice and point to your contract. If this does not shut down this behavior feel free to bandy about words like “contract dispute,” small claims court, local violation, police intervention and lawyer. We designate my partner to do these things because he is large, eloquent and can hide his temper better than I can. (Let me be clear, we are equally pissed off but he is less likely to act impulsively) You may well not get paid and that’s when you bring in others that are an authority on the matter.
True Story: Organizer tried to make us be friends by threatening our paycheck
Fellow performers-whether it is the water cooler at the office or the middle of a field, you owe your coworkers at least basic civility. This means keep your stage times, be non-obtrusive while waiting to come on, announce them if they follow you, warn them of any hazards (ex: there is a problem with the stage, a certain patron may be an issue, and look out you are about to get drafted for the Royal Parade) If you are nice you’ll share water, shade, stories, etc. DO NOT join in drama (feel free to see my post “Drama”) Some performers are scoping for after-hours fun, if you are game, fine. If not, a polite “no thanks” should be sufficient. All things equal, working at the fest means we swim in a location full of sexual innuendo, scatological jokes and more. And if you aren’t ready for that, well, not sure what to say. For me, the line is crossed when I’ve said “don’t like it.” Have removed myself and then it’s as though the words never left my mouth, or invited worse personal boundary violation. And some people play the “Rennier-than Thou” game. I always let them win. Because at the end of the day, I have a full, solid, life that I enjoy and the only person I have to one-up is me and my personal standards. If you are experiencing personal bullying then it’s a step too far.
I admit our troupe gives one another verbal shots to the arm, but if someone has a grievance we do our best to address it. And if you have issue with others but it’s not enough to try to rectify, well that’s when we have what is referred to as “Car Conversations.” It’s often a long ride back to sleeping arrangements and you can blow off steam with your fellows there. Otherwise, keep your trap shut.
True Story(s): Fellow performer managed to insult every member of the troupe within less than two hours. Had to isolate person to prevent murder.
Patrons and volunteers.
Volunteers (long sigh) sometimes they are great. I love it when they are helpful and fresh and happy. Not so much when they become tin gods and decide to be a mouthpiece for the organizer. If a volunteer has not been specifically appointed my contact, we will be that annoying act that verifies everything. It’s the sign of bad organizer if they have not pointed out who can and cannot speak for them. I can put three-year-olds to shame if someone points and states
“Because I told you to.”
Then, stubborn becomes a mission.
I will do as security requests –if possible. We had one festival that every year we would be told we could not bring out equipment through the back gate or the front gate and when we inquired how, we were told to follow orders. So we handed everything over the fence and when stopped, pointed out our parameters (while continuing our fire line) and asked for an alternative plan. EVERY YEAR we encountered this until finally they decided that letting us into a gate was easier than dealing with our loopholes. (And to be clear, we weren’t driving onto the site, just carrying our gear)
Patrons, you owe them a good show, a friendly face, knowledgeable input and a smile. After that, it’s a bourrée offstage or to your next act. Like retail, it’s okay to do what we lovingly call “scrape off” someone onto your manager. Sadly, two of us are the managers. I’m pretty good at the polite nondescript face, my partner is the master of Irish diplomacy. And we’ve both been known to sucker in other members if we just aren’t in the mood to hear about the sharpened katana in the attic for the mailman. (Little joke there, it’s a line from our “Fox and Cat” skit) But we don’t engage if it is about sex, gender roles, body parts or “Duel me!” Here are some gems I recommend
On bewbs and other bits: “Yes, I did grow them myself” and “No they are my balls, I wear them on my chest so they don’t chafe.” “Nope ya can’t touch!” and “and they chime when I walk, too” and “Your Mom’s lipstick.”
On Badassery: “Sorry you aren’t on my insurance.” “Sorry I don’t have my sparring gear. What school did you say you were with?”
Ideally, you don’t engage at all. But if someone says something inappropriate, often I’ll just walk away. Let them explain to the organizer why you didn’t answer a question that included a reference to naughty bits.
True Story: I don’t mind friendly people but you’d be surprised at how fast a smile and kind word can morph into your fellow troupe members physically pulling you into a van in motion, to get away.
Finally, sometimes it is the whole festival (or seems like it) I’ve worn those uncomfortable, nail-filled, three-inch heeled shoes. If the “personality” of a faireground endorses bad behavior there isn’t much you can do about it. Especially if it happens with the blessing (and participation) of the organizer. It’s awful and uncomfortable and often people will turn on those who point out the bad behaviors. I am not sure what to tell people about this. I have a friend who loves her home faire and bends over backwards to support it. But some of the stories I’ve heard would make me bail and hope for better elsewhere-and sometimes there isn’t an elsewhere for being in a festival. In these cases, your community theater, the local help organizations and others would love to have you. Or you can be bull-headed like we were and start your own thing. (Hard road, be warned!)
So many true stories that need to be blog entries. To give you an idea of the scope, I turned to Fenix and asked
“So would you want to write up a ‘when it goes bad’ entry for me?”
“How could I narrow it down?
And I didn’t have an answer.
But the good does outweigh the bad, otherwise, why do it at all? I have noted that many people who have been successful, for reasons not clear to me, DO NOT warn others of the pitfalls. And sometimes if the person does speak up they are accused of crying wolf. There isn’t a one-solution-fits-all and no one can warn you of *everything.* I am a big proponent of going in with both eyes open and somewhat prepared. And even being in this business for twelve years, we still have situations over which there is little to no control and we have to fake it until we make it. So these blog entries, some cheery, some not are primarily to pass on what I wish someone had passed on to me. As always, if you want to chat, just go to our website (phoenixswords.com) and drop a line.