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Welcome to 2014.  We have found ourselves with a good working roster for the upcoming year and I am really happy and gratified at how at least two faire organizers have taken the time to ask our opinions and make us feel included in upcoming events. These relationships have taken some years to bloom and they are genuine, satisfying and they make performances, events, communication and plain old people-to-people interaction a real gift.

 This doesn’t  occur spontaneously and like marriages, orchids and small mammals, require work, love and understanding.

You may laugh at the next sentence but it’s true.  We always bring a sense of love and calm to all our interactions. Sometimes it succeeds better than others. Love doesn’t mean “without boundaries”, in fact, by being clear about what is expected from both sides will make life easier.

First, take a cue from a number of prophets and holy figures, leave the ego behind. There will always be someone shinier, better and more sparkly than you or your group. What there may NOT be is someone who helps to keep the wheels moving or can make changes on short notice or be gracious under some trying circumstances. You need to be grounded and remember that your only true competition is yourself and everyone else is running along on tracks divergent and overlapping with yours.  I’m fortunate, my partner and a number of our troupe-mates understand that the race to do a good show and make everyone happy is a baton-pass. We will never be 100% every day but that’s why we are a team.  Someone is always calm, even if they aren’t, we take turns.

Listen, as the truism goes, you have two ears and one mouth, use them accordingly. I try my best to never assume I *know* what is going on at an event. We ask every time because sometimes the answer changes. I know of at least one performer contact at a large faire that visibly smiles and hugs us when we arrive because 1) we are genuinely happy to be there with her, 2) we are accommodating because we understand fecal coliform vs the fan and it happens 3) we only involve her if it’s a serious issue and she knows that if we have an issue, it’s likely to be something that will ripple and cause Unhappiness At The Event. We get our spot, our schedule and do our thing.   When it comes to complaints or contracts, Fenix is the number one guy. When it comes to the patrons or other acts, I am often the number one listener. This can be a gift and a curse but it’s easier to accept and move on if it comes to that. I have worked retail, strange jobs and unusual shifts and am fairly unflappable. Sometimes someone just wants to tell their story and if it’s not during your act (and sometimes if it is) it’s important to be in the moment .  Most of our members have this skill and if they can be patient (or stubborn) then how can I not hold up my end?

And speaking of Being in the Moment, sometimes things go sideways. It was both a blessing and a curse when 15-20-mile an hour winds occurred just before our fire show,  the organizer said
“I’m not worried, I know you’ll find a way to entertain the crowd.” Well, so we did, in the lee of the stage and with more crowd interaction.
And other challenges, changed times, stage shifts, sizes, manner of crowd control, it is important to be calm and have a backup plan. Later, in the car it is okay to gnash teeth and rend clothing but while on the job it is best to find your inner peace and do your best.

But back to that relationship. Faires are their own ecosystem and it’s important to work in balance. Some acts have let us do their dirty work of intervening and we have let others be hoisted by their own petard.  But we are always unfailing polite and reasonable.   It’s not YOUR faire, the money is given by contract and the organizer has certain expectations. If you cannot meet those expectations then perhaps it is best not to do the job again and open up that opportunity for someone who may be a better fit.  This benefits both sides and leaves you open for more suitable contracts in the future. Some people forget that it it’s not “their house” and just like visiting, you don’t leave a mess, be argumentative and clip your toenails at the dinner table. Do you have to put up with anything? No

One of the phrases that immediate gets my guard up is that we owe obedience because we are a “faire family.” It’s a byline that makes me think that personal and professional boundaries are about to be run over and treated like the center of a monster truck rally. Family is a fine word after everyone has had time to get to know one another and frankly I like our organizers with a touch of caution because they are right to not assume that every act is scrupulous and going to behave as expected.  Like the guest,  or a wine, we may need time to be appreciated. I frankly feel uncomfortable too with too much assumed familiarity and grabby-hands of affection and assume it goes both ways.

Summary:

Deliver what you are contracted for-more if you can.

Do so in a calm and professional manner, in all things, even off-stage

Do not presume upon your employer and the reverse is true

Do recognize that it is a relationship and too much speed at either end could be disastrous

You are your most important competitor.

Be open to the moment, every one can teach you something

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