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 FAME AND FORTUNE (not)

As countless articles cited many times before,  if someone has decided to don those leather shoes and put on that jaunty cap, it is  not for a segment on E! or like many British actors in Hollywood, a stupidly huge paycheck.  It is because there is some aspect of personality that scratches the performing or personal itch. I can’t pretend I’ll cover them here but can share at least some of the reasons  given to me when asked.

Making the magic:
This is old and powerful, almost everyone has a pinch of this. Somewhere, sometime someone saw a performer, vendor, visitor  get up do a show or a talk or a tete-a-tete and the moment transcended dusty lanes and shiny clothes. In that moment, everyone in it was transported out of time, out of a place with cares and there was a gorgeous piece of intimacy that made everyone better for participating in it. We’ve witnessed these,  received these and in some cases we’ve made these.   These don’t just happen at renfaires  but because of the lack of technological distraction and the natural closeness of people, sights and smells I think they have a chance of staying with people longer. In most of the cases of our performers these happened at faires of all sizes but that bug bit badly because of this magic-making.

Reinvention of the Self:
Hopefully you’ve read my last blog entry, if not I’ll wait.
In many cases  a shy, introverted or simply a not fully realized person has the opportunity to go and expand, learn and enjoy some self-discovery. Or in the rather long end of the spectrum, chase some tail. (If you are too young to understand that, you probably should stop reading this blog.) In her book,  Wake Up I’m Fat, Camryn Manheim cites renfaires as a place where she blossomed. Penn and Teller began at faires  and Doctor Kaboom still does renfaires but generally not as a mud beggar any more.  I’m certain there are other examples but this is a blog not a research paper so let’s move on.

This is not to say that the “big time” or that the pinnacle of achievement is to leave off doing faires or other events. In fact, quite a few people do very well and genuinely enjoy the circuit because of its intimacy and atmosphere. And I’d rather watch a well-done live show any day of the week before sitting in a movie theater or turning on the television. In fact, working at faires has really spoiled me in many ways and it’s not uncommon for us to experience what a friend calls “faire hangover” when coming back from a job. When a performer spends a weekend expending energy like a Coast Guard Spotlight on a rescue mission, the day after with the dirty laundry, cleaning gear and getting up to do day-to-day things can be a bit adjustment. And sometimes the world seems a little less sparkly and innovative after seeing so much high-end talent and graciousness.

Finding like-minded people:
Much as the so-called “normal” world would like us to think that acceptance is the median state, it absolutely is not the case. With media bombarding people with “the new normal” of body types,  manscaping and ‘right kind of people’ as well as terrible stereotypes played for laughs, some of us find it wearying. I am not saying that renaissance faires are paragons of acceptance (and I see a future blog post coming on that subject) but they do tend to be more accepting of folks who do not march to the American Media goose-step.   For my own personality, I am, according to a common personality test given by employers, a type that is embraced by less than 1% of the population.  And at one point we had three of us in the troupe.  In day-to-day encounters most of us in Phoenix Swords have to rachet down our base personalities to get along and blend in with others.  This is not necessarily unhealthy, but it does mean that when the costume goes on,  the limiters come off and we can be out our loud, proud inner selves and get paid for it.  And  another nice thing about renaissance festivals-you may have nosy neighbors but everyone understands that there are fewer fences and closed blinds. The capitalist competition to be a cookie-cutter American falls flat when everyone is  relying on whatever is brought and shared for food and resources, and generally given without reservation.  Alternate lifestyles are also not generally under scrutiny (and working at renfaires falls under that VERY broad brush)  We still are not big after-hours participants but it’s nice to be part of a social group that isn’t discussing their latest coupe at the country club or celebrity misstep.

Creating:
First and foremost-participants at a festival are artists. Everyone from the “squire” picking up trash, the rat-on-a-stick guy to the royalty wearing outfits that cost as much as my first car. They are all doing their part in creating a work of art. This is part of the magic, but is the backbone of the magic. Everyone’s good time is spoiled if we can’t take a pee in a clean toilet, eat food we know is generally safe or sit comfortably in a semi-shaded spot so we can focus on having fun.  Sure there is an element of danger but it’s not directed at the audience, they get to live vicariously through those of us kooky enough to entertain them in such a manner.   And that guy/gal who laughs at all your jokes and guffaws at your idiocy, they are the ones who open the floodgates for everyone to enjoy the work of art. Even the hecklers keep us on our game and *surprise* may end up in the act. This is my addiction-to create a piece, set it up and let it go. We approximate our shows to firing a cannon-we can clean it, load it, prime it and fire it but hopefully the targeting is good, once fired it’s in the air.  And still in the ‘creation’ aspect we are re-creating a tradition that goes back as far as when three people gathered and someone said “hold my beer.”

Final wrap-up last reasons with some quick statements of other reasons cited for working at the renfaire:
“What else would I do with my liberal arts degree?”
“No one asks if I’ve been convicted of a felony.” (Joking, kind of)
“I love making things look easy and bringing people along for that.”
“I love the camaraderie.”
“To meet chicks” (given that vernacular, I don’t think it’s a location issue.)
“To perform and be admired.”

But if you want to work at the festival you have to, in the words of Spamalot  you should ‘Find your Grail’ and work from there. Hopefully this gave you some insights.

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