One of the first experiences I had at a faire nearly put me off them completely. But I’m a born mistake maker-you know the person who has to do it twice to make sure of it. And in many cases that has saved me from making a hasty decision I may have regretted. Last entry I talked about non-renfaire entertainments with a “medieval” flavor. They are varied and wide just as being in a renaissance faire can be a buffet of what we take in for ourselves. So it really torques me when people explain how it is that I am expected to enjoy and or participate in a renaissance faire. It really goes right up my proverbial…nose.

Going as a patron-anything goes because one PAID  TO BE THERE.

When you are part of the ambiance,  having fun is not the number one priority-it can be a high one but you are paid to do a job (even if it is comp tickets) So I have been thinking about the experiences that I  personally enjoy.

I am a strange person who enjoys the setup as much as the show-fortunately we have others like that as well. Our group basically travels like a field trip-they get dressed, pack a lunch and expect a tour guide with written directions. If that’s what you want, that’s what you get- it leaves more head space for a performance, but I can’t go on comfortably without lists, discussion and touching everything.

Doing a good job-when we engage and it goes well that really warms me up inside. It means weeks and years of hard work have dragged our sorry butts here and we have earned a laurel crown that we get to wear until the next show. And it’s an accomplishment, it looks easy to be an entertainer but especially here in the Northeast, there is a certain cynical element that one needs to cannon-blast through to reach the audience.  We have to tone some things down when we travel to other parts of the country (that’s another blog entry) but when you have built a show brick by brick and it stands, there is nothing like it.

Being in the moment.  It’s funny to see how different this is for each different performer. For me it’s getting on-site and sitting down after setting up the tent, the moment before I have to start practicing our first bit for the day. It is especially satisfying if I get to sit in my own chair, but barring that, sometimes it’s just sitting on the grass or a cloak and taking in everything around me. And then it is listening to how a sword sounds or getting a sense of the performance space.  A habit I have is “walking the plot” or getting a sense of how big the stage is, how weapons fall in a disarm, where there may be holes in the ground or red ants, or a loose rope stanchion. Knowing it helps work in or with it. The performance itself passes in a blur so I rely on cameras, friends or other performers to tell me how it went. I don’t have a lot of mental capacity onstage and so it’s my game face and the task at hand. And being in the space is part of the greater faire as well. My eyesight isn’t the best at distance and I can’t wear contacts  so I rely on some of these same things to procure water, find a bathroom or just chat with visitors to the faire. I have what we jokingly call “retail face”  because no matter where I go, people expect me to know where items live, the location of first aid and the bathrooms.

There is the bonding element that is important. My devoted percentage to this seems to be smaller than that of most people. I’m fairly binary-can I get through this with you or not?  Sometimes the answer is “just through the performance.”  This is something of a lifesaver because I don’t generally need the approval, desire to be liked or friendship of another performer, this allows me to work with the ‘tough cases.’   Often we’ll have that “bee in a bonnet” at a job and it’s my duty to close my fist around it and take the sting for the team. My partner does this as well, we tag-team often. When it’s positive I really enjoy it. I may not need it to be as salacious, raucous or epic as everyone else, but I still enjoy it. And I like hearing how it went from my fellow performers-the retelling is part of the experience as well.

Faire hangover-I think this a different experience for everyone. My “day job” is at a conservative workplace with high politeness standards and indoor voices. I enjoy it very much. But when the time comes for doing performance I have to turn up the decibels,  be more outgoing and put on my arse-kicking boots. (I fact have to do this at practice every weekend so *shrug*) But without the filters, profanity limiters and hijinks ensuing, it can be hard to squeeze that genie back into the box. Fortunately for me, one of the bigger shows falls at a time where I have some transition. When I don’t have that, I’ve seen the reaction by my other set of employees and it’s like getting a face full of megaphone. But the two worlds are very different experiences and sometimes it’s hard not to laugh when placed back-to-back to one another.  I feel blessed to have both available.

If you asked many other performers it’s another set of the quiet and loud moments in different amounts, like a recipe or a sound check-tweaked to your personal needs and outputs. It’s not one thing to all people. So while I tell faire participants to get their friends involved, I do so with this caution-let their experience be their own and compliment yours, not clone it.