Stealing Material


If you believe the Greeks, there are a limited number of narratives and you’ll see the same themes over and over. Sometimes I feel as though there are a finite number of acts one can see at the renaissance faire. (Of course I think renfaires often have the tied cat problem as well but that is another blog post) So we have our jousters, our lane acts, our cast of royals or characters, musical groups, acts to appeal to children, etc. Each renfaire has its own “recipe” for what makes it the event that someone loves. In many cases this involves liberally mixing and matching traditions from different eras, costuming, mores and modernisms.(Because renfaires are not reenactment-and you will see that line in many, many of my blog posts)

Parallel evolution takes place, items change and emerge in similar ways-it is the nature of entertainment. Heck, the beginnings of our historical show grew out of the Higgins Armory Sword demonstrations and how they present-but we also were part of the team that helped to develop the material. And THAT approach came from how it is/was done at the Leeds Amoury in the UK.  These days, we either read/interpret manuals within or work with other groups to present the works and plays.**

But back to generalities, Jousting-two riders going at one another with weapons, sword acts-swordplay under some pretext to fight, the main “plot” of a faire-usually Man vs. Man (see above) and it takes some practice and guile to hold a modern audience for that key twenty-five minutes and make them love you.  So with that in mind, one of the most offensive actions one may witness at a renfaire is STEALING MATERIAL. I’m not talking about recreating works of Dumas to bring musketeers to life, or liberally retelling the tale of Arthur-those, I feel, are more of an homage and may even cause people to *gasp* read a book.


 Stealing from “Big Business”

It is one thing to use a line or a reference, especially if your show is satirical and parodies something well-known to the audience. What is not cool and possibly life-damaging? Stealing from organizations like “Overlord of the Mouse”  and “Game of Big Bucks Network” and using their characters, lines, songs to make large sums of money. Seriously, change some of it so it’s recognizable but not a whole-sale lifting. This is a good example of walking that line (video)

Stealing of Patter

Quite a few acts have spent YEARS perfecting how they interact with audiences. For every joke that hits it out of the park, there were many, many moments of silence, crickets or offended looks. Each act works hard on what they use for their shows and if they are smart they change it up.  Some folks I’ve worked with (not in my group) have STOLEN another act’s jokes and used them at the same fest. We’ve had it happen to us. It was jaw-dropping when it occurred. We had a little disclaimer we use before our fire show and the act ahead of us at a small fest used the exact lines that we do.  We were so astonished that when Fenix approached and mentioned;
“Sooo, that opening sounded a little familiar to us.” At first the performer laughed it off but then realized that they had been nailed and sort of half-assed apologized. But the act in question had made it such an integral part that the person unwittingly used it AGAIN at the next show. At that point we sort of face/palmed and moved on. This act was not a serious threat and we had a little fun with it when we did our next show. This person is also why we have an informal policy of not training anyone who doesn’t make a year commitment to the troupe.  And we’re not jerks, Normans of the Southern Sun (A reenactment group from the Gulf Coast) asked to use our “pointed stick” patter and being 1200 miles away, we have no issue since 1) they asked nicely 2) it’s not the same show.


Stealing the spotlight
It’s a big pond, it can be competitive. Something we hear over and over
“I could do that, that looks easy.”
And we say “Godspeed.” Especially with the fire. Because you know what, you CAN buy accelerants at the Mart of Walls, get a lighter and say
“Look over here!”
Do we recommend it? No, not at all. Because it is difficult to do WELL and SAFELY. A rival fire act did some gorgeous stuff at a recent fest-they freely admitted they’d seen us do it. But they were terrifying in their lack of concern for the audience. And the next time we did that fest, the fire marshal asked for insurance and a fire plan-which we happily mailed over and offered to meet and discuss before the show.  We still had a show, they did not. And something interesting has to happen for 1-3 minutes per performer, if it isn’t interesting to begin with, it will only be twice as interesting on fire, something many acts forget.

Same is true of swords,  we’ve been doing sword shows for eleven years and any place we’ve been with a certain organization which somewhat rhymes with My Variety of Me-ate of Smacker-prisms, we do something similar and WE have been accused of stealing their thunder, until we get on stage. Entertainers and demonstrators can overlap but if doing a show, you still need to be entertaining. It’s not enough to ape what others do. Or, even if you love something, you have to be able to make connection with the butts in the seats, YOUR love is not sufficient.

My bullet point Public Service Announcement

  • Don’t Steal Copyrighted material, it’s illegal
  • If you mimic only what you see, you are not creating something worthy of you and your audience
  • If you are stealing the basis of someone’s act-remember, they already do it better than you do.

 **These folks translated the sickle manual for us, you should show them love on Facebook 🙂