We are fortunate that we (troupe)  live in a very art-enriched environment with a society that cultivates an air of indifference. (New England, specifically Massachusetts and Connecticut) Most people who live in this area generally don’t need to cruise the internet for strange events on Public Transport or are put out by someone in costume. Because we live near Lexington and Concord, Salem and other historic sites, no one even blinks at a redcoat stepping out of a minivan. We are saturated with renaissance faires and LARPS, and waving mascots. Even Wally, the Green Monster is a fairly common character around Boston.

But sometimes, you don’t live in that area and trying to convey the coolness that is the festival. Even I, the owner of one of the most glacial stares in a tri-state area, have come across some bizarre perceptions of what it is I do with swords and fire.

First, what you do is cool; never doubt that for a moment. You saw that brass ring, you grabbed it and did booty dance of delight, go on with your bad self. There are people even within the ecosystem of faires who will try to denigrate what you do. If you love it, then love it and don’t apologize for it, someone else is watching you right now and is probably thinking “I wish I was that self-confident.” And even if people think you are the biggest fool on the planet , if it makes you happy and doesn’t cause harm to yourself or others (that part is important) then you are already happier than most of the US population.

You will encounter well-meaning resistance from unexpected places and support from strange places as well. When I first started this I had “helpful” people suggest that I really wasn’t very good or that I was trying to recapture my youth or that I was ‘just too old’ for that sort of thing.  This advice needs to be examined under a bright light.  I suggest some verbal self-defense and often I would ask questions like
“How does me dressing in a silly costume threaten these person/persons?” “Why is it making them so angry?” Or “Why am I engaged in an argument over how I spend my weekends?”

And often the answer to that question does not sit with you but with the person who is arguing with you. To be fair, if someone is asking “How do you plan to care for yourself/pay bills/feed children?” Those are valid points that should be put on the table. But if the answer is “that’s stupid!” “Or “It just is!” then perhaps it is up to you to dig deeper and find the base reason for the hostility. I won my Mother over by bringing her on a long-distance job and she finally had a chance to see what it was I did in person.  She didn’t come to any other shows but after that she understood a bit better why I spent less time with her and why it was important not only for me, but for the people who worked for us. Sometimes it is just that simple-that you have begun a journey and haven’t taken the ones who love you along.  To be balanced, sometimes they aren’t meant to come with you, but it really is important to invite them and share.

“It costs too much money!
I have an easy set of answers for this. I always hum the Bobby Brown song “My Prerogative” and to sum up, “I made this money, you didn’t.”   And even though being part of a faire can be expensive, it is less expensive than out-of-wedlock children, a drug habit, gambling or a boat and generally when presented with these comparisons, MOST people will back down.

What you do has no value-this one slays me every time. Because it points out how little the person making the accusation has NO IDEA who I am as a person. I do give away my money, often and with no need for recompense. I give away my time for love and art and the paycheck (sadly) is necessary to command respect. What we do is a theater centuries old and is in most cultures in one way or another. It is insulting, short-sighted and frankly, base that someone needs to justify art in any form. You don’t have to like it, but it should engender respect to create something to share with others.

Sometimes you just aren’t going to get through, that obstacle is not one that you made but one that exists in someone else’s mind. Our friend JT who runs his own theater company once told me (after I’d been *extremely* upset at some personal attacks)
Dogs bark, the caravan moves on.”
There is so much comfort in this for me since I have left a lot of dust and barking behind in my time performing. When I run out of ideas and places to go, then it will be time to pack it up.

Everyone I have encountered who has done performance for a long period of time has a tremendous peace within themselves about their identity and self-worth. I’m not saying we all agree or get along but we don’t generally feel the need to justify ourselves to one another.

To sum up

  • Stay positive, if it makes you happy and doesn’t impact the health and welfare of people who rely upon you, it’s all good.
  • Be willing to share what you do in a personal way. Not everyone wants to go to the prom but it’s still nice to be asked.
  • Art does not need to be justified or universally loved. We may not be painting the Sistine Chapel but we are still creating something, and that in itself is important.
  • Sometimes you just have to move on and not engage. “You are not the Jackass Whisperer” has become one of my favorite new mantas.

For me, I still have doubts and bad days, that’s normal. But some friends came up to me after I gave a performance at our own Anniversary party.
“Watching you do all that, you just get healthier, younger and happier.” I smiled and thanked them because that was a statement, unsolicited, from someone’s heart, and it meant a lot to me. If that is what performing at faires does for people, then we should all drink deeply and well.