Leaping right in today with some suggestions on sharing the performer-spherekindness-clipart-good-neighbour-3

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Know where the bathroom, security, and first aid are BEFORE the gate opens.  Have you ever been mistaken for the employee of a supermarket? Did it confuse you and the person who asked? This happens all the time at the renaissance faire. Costumed people are employees to visitors. Don’t expect the people coming through the gate to know the difference, and reacting badly will not do anyone any favors. If you don’t know, politely excuse yourself or direct them to someone you know will have the answer. I find it’s easier just to know this information

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Chidi Peeps Chili

I guess this counts as the disclaimer paragraph when I say that our performance group is its own animal. We use both HEMA (Historical European Martial Arts) techniques and SAFD (Society of American Fight Directors) with caution and mix them as best we can for stage acts. When I speak about some bad things it will be about some specific incidents and I don’t want to invoke #NotAllSwordfighters. So if we can all keep our righteous indignation on low flame, you’ll get through this opinion piece.  I’m going to talk about the sword users that work well and work poorly with having a performance sword fighting troupe.

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touching

For years the troupe has teased me about my “freak magnet” to be fair, playing with swords and fire isn’t going to generally attract the median of American society.  I’ve worked retail, foodservice and in non-profits and it’s safe to say, I’ve dealt with a lot of people.  For those of you entering Renfaire world, or just want to laugh along at home-here are my thoughts on patron interaction.

 

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The_Lady_and_the_unicorn_Touch

So many of my posts are rants or commentary I’m going to try something new. A positive post-so hang onto your toques and let’s go!

 

 

Personnel: We lost SO MANY troupe members to babies but some of the older ones are coming back and some of the newer ones made it a family affair.  We have two teenagers who are doing active fights, one of which is doing historical in addition.  It’s been nice to have calm, settled people who can learn routines, understand how you offer to help and been graciously received extra hands. It’s been a while since we’ve had multiple folks who can set up a fire show or who can just set up and stake down the tenet with minimal instruction-even our “guest stars.” And it’s nice to have the same faces come again and again so when the troupe leaders have to deal with emergencies, stuff still makes it to the site and to the car.

Which leads me to

Teamwork: I hadn’t realized how much we took for granted until last March when our area had a tornado and storm come roaring through.  When a faire organizer says “Pack up, we’ve got a tornado.” No-one stopped to ask about that in the green skies-we just MOVED.  In the words of Ian (one of our members)
“You guys were like cockroaches when someone turned on the light, it was movement everywhere!” (Pic courtesy of Wynne Clark)

storm
When we slid the last troupe item into the van (and several members went out to help vendors) then, the torrential rain came. It was so hard and heavy that it trapped people at the faire and it was us, a belly dance troupe and the jousters left behind. We still put on a show for the equally trapped patrons. We slid under the one open building, took out only the BIG fire toys and we did our thing.  To paraphrase Lin-Manuel Miranda in Hamilton, “PS gets things done.”

Energy:  As my energy wanes and we all get older, a big proponent of work smarter, not harder.  We set the challenge to the troupe that if they wanted new material-they had to develop it.  One member had created a new Giganti demonstration (short but growing.)  While on vacation we came across a Dutch fighting manual that had some funny bits (also now in the show) and we are bringing back a halberd section that we haven’t been able to sustain for a few years.  And we have the kids, one of whom has gotten tall enough in two years that part of a fight sequence had to change as he is too tall to “dangle” any more.

Wabi-sabi:  Not all of us can do all things at all times. Members and guest stars of the troupe have limitations and so, we strive to make use of their best skills.  A founding member, Valkyrie, came back with some new faces for a one-off in NH this year. She isn’t up to fights but took photos, organized things and help act as an extra set of eyes. Another member has had enough issues that we call her “Woman of Glass.”   She is working on another set of fire skills.  She made an impact when we did a recent event as her bits were small, showy and gave us transition between acts-giving the illusion of seamlessness in a fire show.  She will talk to anyone which, in a troupe of introverts and ambiverts is handy! I move a lot slower than I used to so now, it’s important to streamline the things I have the energy to do and let people help.

Teamwork: I’m probably jinxing us here but the teamwork has been a lifesaver. It’s been our ideal to have a 360-degree view of what we do and for people to help us shore up weaknesses.  If you’ve been to a show you’ll notice that we kick the hams to the front while the others clear the stage. If we are doing a fight we may notice the younger members dart out and grab finished/discarded weapons.  You might realize there are people near the tent prepping the next weapon for a sequence in our historical show. And for a recent “Silly Pirate Show” which we only do for Mobile and are less-staffed, we let members design their sequence of the performance.  It makes a nice mismatch of acting/engagement styles for the crowd and the troupe and it’s okay that it’s not without flaws but it is personal and funny. And not everyone has to be all things for four shows a day.

 

In General: I could say a million things many ways to all the members. We try to shoot that compliment gun often and early and sometimes we can catch it, sometimes not.   But I’m grateful we are where we are right now and wanted to express it.

 

 

Thank you for what you did for the New England Renaissance Faires

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toilet paper roll

It takes a lot of work to stick around the renaissance faire community and I smile when I see us persevere another year. Now we have new faces we hope will take over our more active work and we still like to perform even if it means more coffee and Advil as we advance forward.

Here’s advice from a doddering old performer:
Don’t be a douchebag to the new acts, other parts of the ren community and new rennies.

You’d think I wouldn’t have to say that but clearly, someone has to keep saying it because it’s like the people who work at events with a nod to history, don’t even read it themselves!

freaked

We are competing with other events, more media, LARPS, Amusement parks, HEMA clubs, reenactors and more so it pays to be a little more understanding when someone visits/works the renfaire.

New Playtrons: Please don’t bite and sit like a frigging horsefly on the new visitors. You are not entitled to their blood and attention and you are not the official renfaire gatekeeper. Let them yell “Huzzah,”  dress in a peasant shirt and jeans and eat their damn turkey leg.  If they want to play, fine but don’t be rooting like an anteater into their personal space and being lewd, JUST DON’T.

New Rennie acts: If they ask for a critique, be gentle. You didn’t spring fully formed from the head of Phyllis Patterson  with a killer act so remember your own struggles. So lift them up, announce their acts, offer what you can and remember-you can still learn something. The new folks have a new perspective and they might help you freshen up YOUR act.

Don’t haunt the vendors like the ghost of renfaires past.  They need to move product and make that sweet cash to come back and help finance the event where you are currently working.  They can spend less on costuming and have considerably more setup.  If you want to, offer a hand. They are an amazing resource if you are overheated, under hydrated or just to chat.  You can direct people to them and make their booth look attractive to patrons.  I’ve been known to saunter over in costume and give a well placed “How wonderful!l”  They are part of your renfaire ecosystem and you, like the brine shrimp, are another part of the biome.  And don’t beg for discounts.

Your competitors. I know, I know, you are looking over one another and it’s like working toward a championship.  Eventually some never come back, that someone could be you. But you owe at least polite civility to one another. We make it a point to have our folks watch other shows, we even often volunteer because hey, we like this stuff too! Save any trash talk for the car or better yet, DON’T. And the faire has no “cone of silence” and you should focus on your own shortfalls

 

And here’s where I reveal my bias. I see you, multi-guild-pinned swaggerer with illicit booze leering at the youngsters.  You are not stealthy and, in fact not winning any friends.   You probably know many of our group as ‘always in the way’ or as we like to call ourselves “The MAssholes” (Short for Massachusetts)  There is one of you at every event and we try not to let you multiply-but like the ubiquitous roach, once you see one, you know you have to call in the professionals.

There is no  “one way” to enjoy renaissance faires and if we love them, we need to keep them healthy, welcoming spaces so we can all enjoy them for years to come.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

darkness

Warning: Adult discussion of harassment, rape and bad humans

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