vikingvssamuraisized

You wanted my opinion on reenactment, here it is.
Sometimes when I read Facebook (mistake #1, I know) I see things that make me want to go live in a cave or just audio record truisms, strap people to a chair and put the player on “repeat.” I covered pretty extensively What Renfaires are and are not, so if you want to catch up, I’ll wait.
I recently saw a comment that said
“Renfaire performers give reenactors a bad name.”

that’s like saying “The Legends Football League makes The Patriots look bad.” Yes, it is both football, yes they both play hard but the end analysis is the audience and the outfits. Now some people might not mind seeing The Gronk in cute shorts (rule 34) and all that) but it’s not my job to make that happen, it’s my job to put on a good show.

I have biases, I *absolutely* have biases. There is one act I deeply resented for making a 60-second swordfight into a 25 minute show. And that to prep for our show, I generally had to sit through 15 minutes of it and bite my tongue. But you know what? They were another act paid to be there, they kept to their time slot, their fans were there to see them and even if it didn’t thrill me, it thrilled someone and I could be respectful of them. There are so many pieces of advice in life that boil down to “don’t be that guy.” But people clearly don’t get it.

We have reenactors in Phoenix Swords, we have LARPers, we have sword collectors, we have gamers and we have people with physical limitations-and everyone has something to give. But I focus on the reenactors for this blog. One of our guys to this day teases me that he would “never join a renfaire group” and makes mouth-breathing noises. He was at one point a full-time reenactor and he is paid to do presentations. Much as some faire stuff will go up my nose, the stories I hear from the other side of that fence make me blanch. And I have a considerable amount of reenactor friends. I am friends with them because they embody some of the following traits.

Education-this is their love. And since all of them have experienced public schools they know very well how history is made bland, tasteless and functionally useless without human context. They work every time to make sure that the people with whom they come in contact go home with some useful or enlightening piece of information. These people track down facts like sea lions eat fish-relentlessly. And they read and gather and if new facts come to light, they change accordingly. They understand where people start from and they try to connect. Some of them are fairly stern about costuming and first-person presentation but they do it with an uplift mentality-that is they will loan out kit (costuming) train people, work with them and bring them into it with help. Sometimes they forget and I am *delighted* to poke holes in that, which is why I think they put up with me. I’ve gone to some events and I enjoyed it quite a bit but owning a troupe is expensive outlay and I would disappoint any reenactment group I joined because I have other commitments and priorities. Although I have pinky-sworn with a number of friends that when I am retired, they have dibs.

Commitment-My reenactor friends are not dabblers. They make my five-tote, closet-full costume collection look like a tug boat next to the Queen Mary. They have developed skills to support their personas-outdoor cooking, raising tents and camps, building fires, using traditional weapons, authentic hand-stitched items with accurate materials and colors. Some of them are professionals in their art and they have sunk in, feet-first with no regrets. I honestly think most people could not live for periods so roughly and live half as well. They almost had me after feeding me fire-baked food all day. But that is commitment in storage, materials and the ability to haul these items. And it requires a level of physical ability to move that stuff along. Sad to say, I haven’t seen many wheelchairs at reenactor encampments . (That’s another blog post)

Graciousness-Some say this is a lost art in our modern society. That a veneer of civility has been planed off in an effort to make all things to all people. The people with whom I am friends carry this graciousness less as an article of clothing and more as a part of themselves. They have a kindness and genteel manner that carries through the ages effortlessly. Sometimes it can look a bit silly to some people but it always makes me smile. It’s the offer to share food, to make guests comfortable, to offer what they have and to be aware that people can be comrades without the need to walk around with hands in one another’s pockets. And often it is made most obvious when dealing with an uncouth visitor or patron. They are kind and informative and try to see past any unintended brusque behavior, honey rather than vinegar.

And then there are the others. Bad reenactors give reenactors a bad name.
The pissy, elitist or disrespectful yahoos with no respect for history, other people and basic social standards. Like any hobby it is often the loud, stupid ones who get the attention. (Ask any Metalhead or Cosplayer) I know these people too, and I am not friends with them. The people who use “history” to perpetuate shitty things. A friend who is deeply involved with Viking/Icelandic history was *appalled* with the number of white supremacists who tried to haul him aboard the hate train. Those who just want to use guns or cannons to be bullies or ‘the cool kid.’ Or people who start their own reenactment group to snare and oversee others in a misguided power play. And the Farb Squad people. I have no problem with wanting to be all that, but if you are making fun of others that’s not a productive use of your time-as a friend likes to say “Stitching, not Bitching” Being snarky is not improving your authenticity game, it just alerts others you are an arse. (And thanks for that  douchecanoe semaphore BTW)

And why this really went up my proverbial nose is that reenacting is not necessarily entertaining. This is something many reenactors forget-that just because YOU think it’s cool, others don’t. You are at an advantage at a reenactment event because people are there to see that. But if you are at a town celebration or a renaissance faire, you’d better get that groove on or you are just weird people talking funny about boring stuff. And then my friends, you have now strayed onto MY turf and we have spent years tinkering with how to hold a crowd or make connections. So if you decide to cast aspersions onto renfaire entertainers, please remember, we don’t (or shouldn’t) go to your events and take a crap on your welcome mat.

Now a sampling of sites and friends who reenact (not a complete listing!)
Wachusett Mountain Men 
(http://www.telegram.com/article/20080908/NEWS/809080342/1008/NEWS02)
Romantically Bent -clothier
Salem Zouaves
Guild of Saint Moritz
Saugus Iron Works
Andy Volpe
Normans of the Southern Sun
Musee de venoge

And you could google this but for the sake of completeness
http://www.reenactor.net/
https://www.facebook.com/groups/2209101458/

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