I’m not talking about the type of person who made the black rhino place on the extinction list but I am talking about people who put arts communities at risk with half-measures, undercutting others and generally not doing anyone (especially themselves) any favors. Although this can *include* stealing material it certainly encompasses a number of bad behaviors and you may even be inadvertently doing this if you are a new performer or organizer.

Early on, a troupe  I will hereafter  to as Calamitas Fatum or CF for short. (Latin purists feel free to conjugate) they offered up services for free.   This is a piece of advice you will hear over and over NEVER DO THE JOB FOR FREE.  I think it is one thing if you are a lane act or busking with a simple contract but once you offer it for free, you never get to NOT do it for free and you achieve a not-very-good reputation and other performers may well growl in your general direction. The flip side of course is for people who hire the free people-you get what you pay for, long term. We once were at a festival and the police showed up. This was interesting to us but much more interesting to the fair acts and vendors who mysteriously melted away in the flash of blue lights. If your “free” act does damage, you have no recourse.

If you are the free act, you are undervaluing yourself, you have put time and money into your costume, time, materials , lodging and transportation. And if you are throwing that much financial backing in and just giving it away, well you might as well be a reenactor. (Sorry folks, that was a little joke and my friend Dudicus, the Roman Reenactor will probably hit me  with a food item on your behalf) But on a serious note, love doesn’t cut it at the ecosystem of the renaissance faire. There is a long term price to pay even if it is not immediately obvious. Not least of which is decreasing your chance of getting a pay raise. After all you’ve done it for free why should they pay you?

You’ve seen a faire act, you loved them. You laughed, you cried, it became a part of you. And then, they turned out to be perfectly wonderful, kind people and you wanted to do exactly what they did…so you asked for ideas and operating procedures. And get some serious attitude, but don’t know why. OR they are kind but vague and they point, yell “Shiny Squirrel!” and flee. I’m going to tell you why. Because you are their competition and they have no interest in giving you a hand to do it. With Phoenix Swords we stopped teaching  people to do fire and swords without a commitment because several people did just that-took our expertise and then formed a renfaire act. We have encouraged acts –who live 200 miles away from us or more.  And let me be clear, it’s one thing to do what we did with your own study and work but if someone steals material and then does it, *Evil Overlord Voice* you are simply fresh meat and will be devoured accordingly.

There was a faire where suddenly  inexpensive  fire acts proliferated and we were genuinely worried we might not be rehired. But then, the Fire Marshal visited and the act that was insured and had a stage/fire plan, MSDS sheets and copious safety measures-was the victor. (That was us by the way) And I was appalled that it happened to a local act when their own members not only undercut their prices but tried to nudge them out of a contract which leads to;

Stealing contracts.  It’s a free market and you have to offer value, we all understand that. But this will not only earn you a reputation but tells your employers how much they can trust your word. Our group “poached” a contract ONCE with the full knowledge and consent of the contract holder. How? The group CF signed on for a long-distance contract and then the members abandoned their leader to his litigious fate (big penalties)  He subcontracted us and when it became clear that the OTHER contract he’d signed at his groups urging had NO chance of happening, we simply slid in, asked for the contract change and voila!  We were happy, the leader was happy, the organizer was happy!  But if you are sneaking around, defaming others, that is bad stuff and will bite you in the end. The only people who felt it was ‘poaching’ were the people who had left their own leader in the lurch!

And organizers, when you poach acts, (and many do) you do yourself a disservice in several ways; First, that means you won’t have a unique act to the area, even if they have a following and people will go to a cheaper venue to see them. Secondly, if you DO poach them, that increases their value and you may well end up in a bidding war that you will lose (even  if the act is all “Yeah Baby!”) And if you poach them and then don’t live up to those promises, *Evil Overlord Voice* Your name will live in infamy…and lawsuits!

I’m not saying the renaissance faires are pure places with unicorns and rainbows, but there is a certain amount of integrity that will serve you in the end result.   The old adage “Live by the sword, die by the sword” absolutely applies here. If you poach, undercut, steal and generally are an underhanded jerk that comes to haunt you, specifically.  You kill not only high-quality acts but pollute the faire and encourage bad ethics-and yes,  water with a drop of poison is still poisoned water and will draw more poison. I’ll mention the book “Tipping Point” here because it is true that once a certain bad behavior is tolerated, it begins a long slide, thus part of the term, ‘Tipping point.’

But as our fire juggler says, and I’ll probably quote again.
“Don’t be that guy.”