This past Sunday I was chatting with other troupe members and one reminded me that he had been with the troupe for ten years and my jaw dropped. Soon after I asked, “So does that mean we should have a “survivors award” for anyone over five years? “  I can’t speak to what keeps people doing this year after year, I can only share what it is that keeps me coming back.

First, I’m half owner of the business  and my partner and I joke that sometimes it’s like a game of chicken as to who will give it up first. Or that we are victims of the Sunk Cost Fallacy but the truth of it is that we wouldn’t do it if we didn’t enjoy it. Fortunately for us, and the troupe we have interlocking personalities  that allow us to be pretty successful at getting and keeping things going-and that we are gifted with members who genuinely care that it gets done and looks good.

Show up!. Although winter isn’t my favorite, I slog in and do my bit. I have three goals at practice 1) move 2) plan 3) improve. That’s it and none of that happens if I don’t show up. In fact, I have found when I take time off, I feel off, it  shows up in my physical and mental abilities. I recently took a Sunday off and my glutes noticeably hurt from sitting too long. So even on non-practice Sundays, I will find errands to get me up and going. (To be clear, you should be active at more than practice and if you aren’t, no one wants to hear the whining)

The little details-I desperately need to update the website, check the expiration on our med kit items and make sure costuming is repaired, unstained and replaced. Some of these tasks are clearly sexier than others.  I like to do this with others because then it becomes more fun, less dull and we can make ibuprofen jokes (If you work at faires, you make these as well.)  My “treat” for doing this  a new costume piece or something for…the tent.  Slowly but surely we have been getting accessories for the troupe. After our last tent was unceremoniously smashed against the side of a building by a Gulf Coast wind I finally bit the bullet and paid for a fairly historical tent.  And some nice chairs, and we added a side panel, and are costing out a recycled rug and…well it is only limited by our imagination, our budget and the size of our traveling vehicle.

As Gloria Gaynor famously sang “I love the nightlife, I love to boogie” but I would paraphrase to say I like the stage. I can eat up compliments as well as the next guy.  I must prefer kudos for my work than for my costume or ability to take fruit to the head (long story) And you do have to be prepared to take some damage  and time o do what we do in order to receive the applause.

Each fire act takes a year to come to the stage, each performance fight a minimum of six weeks (that’s after it is created) and the historical stuff often longer. Once had a subcontractor (sort of) come by and ask if we ever did anything new in our shows. And after several troupe members had duct-taped my cranium in place so my head didn’t explode, I calmly explained that we *always* add something new, every single performance. It can be as simple as tweaked lines or substituting a crab puppet for a dagger (true story, even we don’t know about if beforehand sometimes) It can be premiering a weapons form that no one else in North America is doing because we took the time to pay for a translation and then interpret. It can be a new kids act that can only be seen at one show once a year. We definitely have a niche and change up within that format-but we DO change it up and not just for the audience’s benefit.

Longevity lives in the heart. If anyone came up to me and showed me that they do what we do, better and with more gusto, with a brief  consult with my partner we would gladly turn over the reins  and just be troupe members (it’s even in our rules)  But our members have freely admitted that it is a long, tough job to be the boss and it’s more fun to show up, do the job and then slip away back to home.

I can’t say what your motivator is; my partner says it is to be a “nostalgia generator” (I’ll make him do a guest post on that)  another says it is the sense of purpose while enjoying the faire. Another that it is all about the little kids and getting to say those things you’d normally be fired for uttering. Whatever it is, it’s that little fire inside and if you can keep that stoked long-term, you might get to be an old hand at it.