Although I blog primarily about doing renaissance faires, We’d be foolish to turn down opportunities to do other venues –so we don’t! Everything is a learning opportunity.

Our most recent show was at the Springfield Libraries (part of a series)  and the focus was on our historical shows.  It reminded me about our audience types-this not about how we feel about the audience but how they feel about US.

Our breakdown for audience type:

Class 4 – Actively hostile. Someday I may share these stories, but not this day. If you are familiar with this scene from the Blues Brothers, you get the idea.

Class 3-The audience is wandering by in a non-standard venue. It is *difficult* to get this audience to care about what we are doing. This might be a town festival  or farmer’s market. No one came to see sword fighters and we are competing with things like a butter cow, ponies or puppies. (Deadly distractions to this audience)

Class 2 We are an act that fits into a theme or venue. We have been asked to perform by an organization that has an interest in what we do. This could be a renaissance faire, a local event vaguely based on chivalry, movie opening,  or someone’s theme party.

Class 1 The audience is specifically there to see what we do. This is either a venue designed to show off swords or fire,  museum,  a sword expo,  a reenactment event, a historical celebration, or a show where one has fans.

Now back to the starting paragraph, the library was a mix of these and frankly, people with weapons standing at your local library are a bit intimidating. And we had to think fast to makes connections with our varied audience.

Here some ways in which we did that:

Pop Culture: we are often teased for attending or watching kids movies but this pays off-we can make references to Star Wars, popular cartoons, fantasy movies, Manga, comics and more.  Sometimes you have to step into something different to reach across to other people.

Literature and art : Fortunately we are readers-maybe not all the same thing – but enough that we cover a lot of ground.  Because of a recent trip to the art museum, we were on the ball with a discussion about Caravaggio and his brawling habits, about Dumas and how interesting his actual life had been, and never underestimate reading graphic novels!

Hands-on; Although no one is allowed to swing around a sword, they can “bag” our defeated fighter (see our show, it will become clear) and we do a segment we refer to as Gallegher-esque. We let kids of all ages feel the weight of what we use and explain how we use it.

Listen: We invite questions because the best way to engage sometimes is to be quiet and let people tell you what they need and want.

Are there audiences we have not managed to engage? Yes, and everyone gets one of these.  I wish I could say we didn’t take it personally, but we absolutely do. Sometimes the next audience gets it like a double-rainbow fire hose to the face because we are determined to work past it. This is not an ideal reaction but  one can only moderate once you’ve calibrated the settings for your audience-from the ‘I hear you breathing’ to ‘the WOO! people’

It’s important to remember that any environmental factor that effects you, also effects your audience. Days after 9/11 we had fellow entertainers throwing themselves onto the ground in front of patrons because people were so heartsick and needed a laugh. If it’s hot and miserable for you, you aren’t going to hold an audience. It’s a living creation and agreement-you and those watching you. And really that’s what performing is, basically tuning yourself until you are all in synch. Unlike a musician, you can’t really do that extensively before a show, it is on the fly and you hope to hit the right chords as it is a different tune every time.  But if you do, it’s a work of art and everyone goes home humming.